We’re trying something different for our latest video review: what if the opinions of two reviewers weren’t framed as a competition? Car reviews have always been almost adversarial – there’s always a ranking or an argument or at the very least, a winner. Don’t get us wrong, it’s entertaining! But when you think about it, the absolute terms of a competitive car review don’t actually map that well to, you know, buying a car. In the real world, figuring out the best car for you is all about compromise. Unless you refuse, in which case you probably enjoy the same frequent customer status at my mechanic’s shop as me. So it’s fitting for our first video with this new format to be about the 2020 Kia Telluride, a car that’s the platonic ideal of a compromise.
One of the genetic markers of every car enthusiast is a visceral hatred of the word “compromise.” It’s a thing that stands in our way of going faster, or farther up the rock trail, or whatever inane thing we’re trying to do with our car this week. Sometimes though, you’ll catch one of us with our guard down. Though never actually captured on film, and only rarely seen in the wild, enthusiasts might allow, when presented with a potential daily driver, “I suppose it’s a good compromise.” That’s what we have here.
Neither as engaging to drive as the Subaru Ascent, or as luxurious as the Volvo XC90, or as cheap as the Dodge Journey (*wrinkles nose, spits on ground*), the Telluride stakes out the interesting middle ground in 7-seater land. It’s good looking enough that it won’t get lost in the sea of boring crossover shapes we’re all currently sailing. But the Kia badge lets people know you’re not stealing from your 401k to cover lease payments. It’s fast enough that you won’t hold up reasonable people, but the awful engine noise will remind you this is still a very big, very under-powered machine.
And in case all this talk of compromise is getting you down, there are some real bright spots. The blind-spot camera, which pops up in between the gauges when you activate the turn signal, is legitimately great. It’s so good that it’s a little annoying – 17 year old me would be very upset for having any opinion at all about it and, yet, here we are. I haven’t stopped thinking about it for weeks. Dave can’t stop talking about the little louvers on the side mirrors. You can tell the seating position was a priority. The wood trim feels like wood. You can actually – and this may come as a shock in our modern age – see out of the damn thing.
And that’s the best thing we can say about this car – it’s genuinely impressive how many things Kia was able to execute very well while still building a compromise. The attention to detail at this level of the segment is what sets it apart more than being the best at any one thing. So with all sincerity, if you’re shopping for a 7 seat SUV, this should at least be on your list to test drive. Though if you really need 7 seats, just buy a minivan. SUVs are too compromised.
Coverage of the 2020 Kia Telluride continues below with an extended conversation in episode 211 of our podcast.