Hot SUV Gets Hotter Off-Road Trims

Want a Kia Telluride? Good luck on your search, which is likely to include some combination of dealer markups, scarce inventory on Kia lots, and perhaps even hand-to-hand combat with other three-row crossover shoppers eager to get their mitts on the hottest family vehicle in years.

Now entering its third model year, the Telluride is about to get easier to find and cheaper to acquire—nah, we’re just messing with you. If anything, the fervor around Kia’s shockingly successful SUV (which won our 2020 MotorTrend SUV of the Year award upon its debut) is only going to worsen, as it is being updated with even better looks and cooler in-cabin tech, possibly leading families to smack each other down WWE-style using strollers and folding chairs to nab one.

More Better

That’s right, Kia has found a way to make the already deeply appealing Telluride even more so for 2023, sharpening up the exterior styling and adding new X-Line and X-Pro trim levels for a little more rugged energy. So, what’s different? The headlight and taillight internals, front and rear bumpers, and lower bodyside cladding are new, incorporating more intricate detailing for a more upscale look. This, in an SUV that already visually punched well above its price point.

A trio of new paint colors join the roster: Midnight Lake Blue, Dawning Red, and Jungle Wood Green. Every trim level wears new wheel designs. The three-row, eight-seat interior takes a medium leap forward, with a freshened dashboard with new air vents, a new steering wheel, new colorways, and a newly available display that stretches from ahead of the driver to the middle of the Telluride.

Actually made up of two 12.3-inch displays, the massive new screen unit resembles those in Mercedes-Benzes—and, closer to home, the futuristic layout in the new Kia EV6 electric crossover. It isn’t yet clear what lesser Tellurides’ displays might look like, but we wouldn’t be surprised to see a traditional gauge cluster and separate central touchscreen—not unlike what the Telluride offers today. Regardless of display choice, the ’23 Telluride adds a standard WiFi hotspot. Like before, buyers can upgrade to a head-up display, only this one’s bigger now, and a digital key that lets you use your smartphone or Apple Watch to enter the vehicle has been introduced as an option.

The updated dashboard and its thinner central vents and edgier detailing pulls off the same effect as the revised exterior: It simply builds on the Telluride’s already handsome setup. Let us remind you that this is a mainstream, sub-$50,000 three-row SUV (well, based on MSRP—who knows what it’ll take to convince a dealer to sell you one these days); that it looks and is built the way it is is a big reason why people are fighting over these things.

Oh, There Are Off-Road Models Now, Too

Two new trim levels join the Telluride family for 2023, the X-Line and X-Pro, both wearing beefier dress-up items to give them an air of adventurousness. Only the X-Pro truly takes a stab at upping the Kia’s off-road chops, adding Continental all-terrain tires to its black-painted 18-inch wheels. The X-Pro also ups the Telluride’s towing limit by 500 pounds to 5,500 total, adds a 110-volt household power outlet in its cargo hold, and gaining snappy X-Pro badging and labels on the front seats. Kia also installs different front and rear bumpers that are said to improve the Telluride’s approach and departure angles for more clearance off-road, recalibrates the traction control setup, installs a beefier roof rack, and lifts the suspension by 0.4-inch.

The X-Line gets the same gear except for the tires and the towing upgrade. It also swaps the Pro’s 18-inch wheels for 20s on normal tires and the X-Pro labeling for—you guessed it—X-Line badging. Both X-trim Tellurides get all-wheel drive standard, though every Telluride is powered by the same 291-hp 3.8-liter V-6 engine and uses the same eight-speed automatic. If you were overly attached to the 2022-and-prior Telluride Nightfall Edition (a blacked-out special-edition trim), we have bad news: The X models effectively replace it, and it won’t rejoin the lineup.

Next to the clever move to cash in on America’s growing obsession with outdoorsy vehicles with the X-Line and X-Pro, Kia has upped the Telluride’s safety ante for even more good vibes with customers. Joining the already standard suite of functions (forward collision warning with pedestrian detection, lane-keep assist, Highway Driving Assist 1.5 adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert), Kia has added traffic sign recognition and a left-turn warning function that can intervene in the event you try and turn left into the path of an oncoming vehicle. A version of that left-turn feature that responds to cross traffic, oncoming traffic during a passing maneuver, and side-swipe events is newly available, as is a Highway Driving Assist 2, a more capable version of the standard HDA 1.5 system that can even handle automated lane changes.

The Kia Telluride didn’t need any updates to keep selling out, so expect that these improvements will only keep buyer interest as piqued—as it’s been for three years. Pricing information and on-sale timing are forthcoming, but either tidbit is likely to be nearly meaningless in today’s car market, where the price could be several thousand bucks over what Kia’s asking, and availability could come down to your family throwing some elbows at the dealership and beating out another family in feats of strength.

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