2020 Kia Telluride vs 2020 Ford Explorer
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2020 Kia Telluride vs 2020 Ford Explorer

By Autolist Staff | August 31 2020

2020 Kia Telluride

2020 Ford Explorer

Our User's Take

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2020 Kia Telluride score: 8/10

Highlights:
  • Excellent interior quality.
  • Refined driving experience.
  • Seating for up to eight.
  • Generous towing capacity.

2020 Ford Explorer score: 7/10

Highlights:
  • A potent lineup of engines that also includes a hybrid powertrain.
  • Generous space inside and the third-row seat can actually hold adults.
  • A healthy roster of technology is squandered by the confusing infotainment system.
  • Prices escalate quickly beyond the competition.

How they stack up:

Safety Features:

Kia Telluride: 8/10

  • The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) awarded the 2020 Telluride its maximum five-star rating in overall crash tests, while the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) awarded the Telluride with its Top Safety Pick (its second-highest rating), topping the charts in areas such as collision avoidance.

  • Every Telluride model comes comprehensively equipped with standard automatic emergency braking with forward-collision warning and pedestrian detection. Kia also includes blind-spot monitoring, lane-departure warning, lane-keep assist, and adaptive cruise control.

  • Features such as automatic high beam assist, highway traffic assist that can adjust speed based on speed limits, and a surround-view camera is optional on some models.

  • Rivals in this class are increasingly upping the game on standard driver assistance technology, and the Telluride is among the best equipped, for now. Still, those looking at premium SUV brands will likely be envious of what the Telluride includes for the base price.

Ford Explorer: 7/10

  • The Explorer comes standard with the prerequisite suite of driver assistance features, which includes features such as automatic emergency braking with forward-collision warning, blind-spot monitoring, lane-keep assist, and rear cross-traffic alert. None of these features are groundbreaking, but not all of the Explorer’s main competitors offer them as standard – yet.

  • As of this publication, neither the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) nor the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) has tested the 2020 Explorer. Other vehicles in this class generally do well.

Value:

Kia Telluride: 7/10

  • The base Telluride LX starts from just over $33,000. The days of Kias being sold primarily on price are long gone, so direct rivals such as the Honda Pilot and Volkswagen Atlas are the same price, and the Subaru Ascent is slightly less expensive because it includes all-wheel-drive in the base price.

  • Still, the Telluride is comprehensively equipped, even in base form. The LX includes smartphone integration, rear air conditioning, 18-inch alloy wheels, push-button start, adaptive cruise control, and rear parking sensors, among other features.

  • All in, a top-level Telluride SX all-wheel-drive just about hits $47,000, which is far less expensive than top-trim versions of the Ascent, Atlas, and Pilot – let alone very expensive versions of vehicles such as the Chevrolet Traverse and Ford Explorer. That also includes the Prestige Package, which adds upgraded leather upholstery and interior materials, heated and cooled second-row seats, and a head-up display, among other features on top of the already comprehensively equipped SX trim. It’s perhaps at the high-end level that the Telluride represents the best value.

Ford Explorer: 5/10

  • High-end versions of the Explorer push past $60,000, which is more than plush variants of its rivals. And even more mainstream trim levels of the Explorer end up costing more than similarly equipped competitors. The best value is a base Explorer with all-wheel-drive that does without some niceties but keeps the price down to Earth.

  • While incentives could bring the price paid down, it makes the Ford look like a poor value in what’s a highly competitive field. And rivals sometimes offer more standard equipment or features that the Explorer lacks. It will take some research and haggling to get a good deal on one.

Efficiency:

Kia Telluride: 7/10

  • The 2020 Kia Telluride FWD is rated by the EPA at 20 mpg city, 26 highway, and 23 mpg combined. On AWD models, the ratings go to 19 mpg city, 24 highway, and 21 mpg combined.

  • Those numbers are only so-so against comparable three-row SUVs, with two-wheel-drive versions of the Ford Explorer and Toyota Highlander posting 24 mpg combined, but also pushing 30 mpg on the highway. The Subaru Ascent gets up to 27 mpg highway with its standard all-wheel-drive, too. The Telluride also lacks a smaller, turbocharged four-cylinder to boost its fuel economy on some versions, like the Ascent, VW Atlas, and Mazda CX-9.

  • The Telluride also does not offer a hybrid variant to improve fuel economy, like the Toyota Highlander or Ford Explorer.

Ford Explorer: 8/10

  • The base turbocharged four-cylinder engine is rated by the EPA as high as 27 mpg highway, making it more fuel-efficient than many three-row rivals, including ones powered by similar small engines. That’s impressive considering its performance.

  • The Explorer is one of the few vehicles in its class to offer a gas-electric hybrid powertrain. It’s also paired to a V6 engine and comes in either rear or all-wheel-drive models (other hybrids in this segment use four-cylinder engines). The hybrid is also one of the more expensive models in the lineup, although it does come comprehensively equipped. While its efficiency remains to be seen, the Explorer lineup may be one of the most economical in this class.

Driving Experience:

Kia Telluride: 7/10

  • The larger-than-normal 3.8-liter V6 engine is right up there in terms of power for the segment. The engine is well-paired with the eight-speed automatic transmission, boosting the Telluride’s refinement. The whole setup lacks the jerkiness of some rivals, especially ones with turbocharged engines or more speeds in their automatic transmissions.

  • Ford’s 2.3-liter turbo four-cylinder in most versions of the Explorer is down on cylinders compared to the Telluride, but ultimately produces 20 more horsepower and feels more urgent. The Explorer also offers an upgraded turbocharged V6, and the Dodge Durango offers a V8 engine option for more performance.

  • On top of this, the Telluride also feels its size on the road, especially on twisty roads. While the ride quality is composed and the interior quiet and solid, it feels every bit of its length and width in tight spaces. A Mazda CX-9 is more fun to drive, while a Volkswagen Atlas is similarly proportioned, yet feels more athletic. And Kia’s own Sorento may be the way to go if you have to have some kind of third-row seat but travel in an urban place where parking a rig as large as a Telluride would be a significant burden.

Ford Explorer: 8/10

  • As powerful as the high-end models are, even base Explorers are potent. The standard turbocharged four-cylinder is more than enough power for daily driving and copes well with pretty much every condition. That said, the 3.0-liter V6 on ST and Platinum versions are even more lively and far exceed what most in the segment offer. Either way, those looking for power should look at the Explorer.

  • All Explorer models handle relatively well given their purpose and heft, but the 400-horsepower ST model is particularly agile and athletic. It can keep up with sports cars on mountain roads and uses its generous power well. Among three-row SUVs, it could be a performance bargain for drivers hesitant to leave their sports car.

Tech Features:

Kia Telluride: 7/10

  • All Telluride models get standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, and five or six USB ports spread around the rows of seats. The LX and S use an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system, while all other models use a 10.25-inch version with built-in navigation. Kia’s UVO telematics system is also included with a subscription. It’s also an easy-to-use system with a good array of physical controls, unlike many rivals. EX and SX models also include built-in navigation, with directions displayed on an optional head-up display.

  • EX and higher models include niceties such as ventilated seats, power tailgate, and power-folding mirrors. Kia Telluride SX models can be equipped with a head-up display and a digital instrument cluster display in between the dials. None of these are revolutionary features, but they contribute to the polished feel of the upper trims of the Telluride.

  • Those looking for a well-reasoned infotainment system and mix of physical controls for audio and climate functions should find a lot to like here, even if Dodge’s UConnect and Chevy’s MyLink might be able to do more with hotspots and telematics than Kia’s systems.

Ford Explorer: 6/10

  • While the Explorer offers a comprehensive list of infotainment technology, the execution suffers. The new Sync 3 system is overly dependent on a touchscreen that’s available in two sizes, but it needs more physical buttons and knobs. Menus are also too complex to navigate on the move. It’s a criticism shared with many rivals, but there are better infotainment systems on the market.

  • But the Explorer does offer various flashes of tech. All models get a wi-fi hotspot, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, and an array of USB ports. Other models get features such as a Bang & Olufsen audio system, wireless phone charging, 360-degree camera, and a configurable digital instrument panel.

Style & Design:

Kia Telluride: 8/10

  • Kia has given the Telluride one of the nicest interiors in this class, and possibly one of the nicest interiors in any mainstream vehicle. Material quality is high, especially on the top SX trim, with nice details throughout. The stitching on the dash and throughout the interior would fool luxury brand loyalists. And storage throughout the cabin, including in the center console, is generous and well-thought-out.

  • Controls are also extremely easy to use. Kia’s infotainment system is one of the clearest to use in the business. The Telluride also benefits from big knobs and buttons, as well as details like a large gearshift selector that’s easy to grab with gloves on, unlike the button-only selector found in the mechanically related Hyundai Palisade, or rivals such as the Honda Pilot.

  • The Telluride’s exterior styling lends little to the current Kia lineup, which ultimately comes down to a matter of preference. But in an age where many of these three-row SUVs have extremely similar profiles, the Telluride stands out more than most. That may be appealing to some buyers. Its tall windows also allow for better visibility out for kids, and the top-level SX also includes second-row sunshades to stop too much light from getting in. However, there’s also a reason to look up in the SX, because it adds a dual sunroof system that includes a glass roof over that second row.

Ford Explorer: 7/10

  • The Ford family lineage is immediately apparent on the new Explorer, which is not necessarily a bad thing, considering the prevalence of trucks such as the Ranger and F-150. Fans of the previous Explorer may find a lot to like in the new one, or that it’s at least like an evolution rather than a significant change. That said, it’s still far from the most adventurous shapes among three-row SUVs.

  • Wind noise on the latest Explorer iteration was pronounced. The vehicle’s exterior side mirrors produced a healthy amount of noise at highway speeds, which could put off some drivers. A test drive would help gauge this irritant, but in such a competitive class, it’s little details that could make a deal.

Practicality:

Kia Telluride: 8/10

  • The Telluride’s vast exterior dimensions pay dividends inside, as it’s one of the roomiest models in its class. Some higher-end versions get second-row captain’s chairs that reduce total capacity to seven, but those in the first two rows will get plenty of legroom regardless of the seating configuration.

  • Large doors also make it a cinch to get in and out, even if the step-in is higher than a minivan (the sacrifices people are willing to make to get rugged looks and all-wheel-drive).

  • Unfortunately, the Telluride’s third-row seat isn’t as adult-friendly as one would hope with something this large. Kids should be fine, although even they might find three’s a crowd. The VW Atlas is also good for two adults, as is the Ford Explorer.

  • And space behind the Telluride’s third row isn’t anything cavernous, like it is on vehicles such as the Atlas and Traverse, although it is impressive with the second and third rows folded. Still, the Telluride is better-than-average among its immediate rivals, meaning there’s no need to go looking for a full-size, truck-based SUV like a Chevrolet Suburban or Ford Expedition.

Telluride models can tow up to 5,000 pounds when properly equipped. That’s on the higher end of towing capacities for vehicles in this class, most of which top out at around 3,500 pounds. Only the rear-wheel-drive Dodge Durango and Ford Explorer can tow more.

Ford Explorer: 8/10

  • The Explorer’s size is put to good use inside. Adults can fit in all three rows, which is a relative rarity among three-row SUVs of this size. Head and legroom are generous throughout the vehicle, making it a possible substitute for a full-size SUV.

  • Base models seat up to seven, while all others offer second-row captain’s chairs that lower passenger capacity to six. That’s typical of many competitors, although some seat as many as eight, though that’s not always in comfort. At least the Explorer’s seats are easy to fold, and many models offer power operation for the folding of those positions.

Cost of Ownership

2020 Kia Telluride

2020 Ford Explorer

Annual Fuel Costs

$1,559
15k miles at $2.183/gal
$1,723
15k miles at $2.183/gal
Fuel Economy

19 mpg (miles per gallon)
City
16 mpg (miles per gallon)
City
24 mpg (miles per gallon)
Highway
23 mpg (miles per gallon)
Highway

Safety

2020 Kia Telluride

2020 Ford Explorer

NHTSA Crash Test Results

Overall
Overall
Safety Features

Standard
Autonomous Braking
-
Autonomous Braking
Standard
Blind-Spot Warnings
Available
Blind-Spot Warnings
Standard
Adaptive Cruise Control
Standard
Adaptive Cruise Control
Standard
Lane-Keep Assist
-
Lane-Keep Assist
Standard
Cross-Traffic Alert
Available
Cross-Traffic Alert

Interior

2020 Kia Telluride

2020 Ford Explorer

Interior Features

Standard
Leather
-
Leather
Standard
Moonroof
-
Moonroof
Standard
Heated Seats
-
Heated Seats
Standard
Keyless Entry
-
Keyless Entry
Standard
Climate Control
Standard
Climate Control
Technology

Standard
Apple Carplay
-
Apple Carplay
Standard
Android Auto
-
Android Auto
Standard
Satellite Radio
-
Satellite Radio
Standard
Bluetooth
Standard
Bluetooth
Standard
Navigation System
-
Navigation System

Under the Hood

2020 Kia Telluride

2020 Ford Explorer

Powertrain

Transmission
10-Speed Shiftable Automatic
Transmission
FWD
Drivetrain
AWD
Drivetrain
Drivetrain

N/A
Horsepower
N/A
Horsepower
N/A
Torque
N/A
Torque
N/A
Cylinders
N/A
Cylinders