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2023 Kia Telluride vs. 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander

There are moments in history when a new contender arrives on the scene and disrupts the entire landscape. Remember professional golf before Tiger Woods? Athletes on the PGA Tour didn’t work out. Heck, they showed up for their round of 18 with a pack of cigarettes and a sixer of domestic beer. Then Tiger arrived and began an era of domination that rattled the foundation of the sport. Why is any of that relevant to three-row SUVs? Well, when the Kia Telluride first arrived for 2020, it forced a similar shakeup in the three-row world. The Telluride offered a lavish experience at a bargain price, but it’s no longer as fresh as it was at the beginning of the decade, and the competition hasn’t been sleeping.

A few years later, the Telluride remains a fantastic family SUV, but others in this class are catching up. With the arrival of the new Toyota Grand Highlander, we figured now was a good time to reassess the Telluride and its place in the family-SUV market. For the test, we chose well-optioned versions of both vehicles while staying under the $60,000 mark.

2nd Place: 2023 Kia Telluride SX Prestige AWD

Money talks, and viewing the two cars from a purely economic standpoint, the Telluride comes out on top. Equipped with the SX Prestige AWD package, the Telluride continues to amaze us with the impressive number of features included for the base price of $51,955 or our tested vehicle’s $52,970 sticker—more than $6000 less than the Toyota.

Even with the reasonable price of admission, the interior of our test car provides a near-luxury experience with leather, a faux-suede headliner, and heated and ventilated first- and second-row seating. And the Telluride’s interior layout continues to make sense. Dual 12.3-inch displays stretch across the left side of the dash, and the center touchscreen offers an intuitive menu. Controls on the steering wheel are clear and straightforward, the PRNDL shifter is instantly familiar, and unlike some of the newer offerings from Kia, the Telluride retains a full suite of physical buttons for the climate control and the stereo.

HIGHS: Feature-rich, fantastic styling, great value.
LOWS: So-so acceleration, less than accommodating for all sizes, wired phone mirroring.
VERDICT: Still the best value, but no longer the best overall.

Yes, the Grand Highlander tops it in many volume metrics, but the Telluride ties the Toyota for front-row space and actually offers more space for second-row passengers. Plus, the Telluride equals the Grand Highlander for cargo storage behind the third row.

Most drivers will find the Telluride’s cockpit a comfortable space, though shorter pilots might struggle to find that just-right driving position, even with 10-way adjustability for the driver’s seat. Despite that, the Telluride cockpit sits low enough that most folks can settle into the car rather than clambering up and in.

Generally, the build quality shows attention to detail, and the materials are for the most part upscale. Frequent touch points, such as the shifter and the interior door handles, are finished in sturdy plastic, nappa leather, or a gloss metallic finish. Elsewhere, the Telluride starts to show its value pricing a bit more. On the front seatbacks, leather gives way to a cheaper-looking black plastic covering that also makes its way to the glove compartment.

And for as well equipped as it is, the Telluride does show some gray hairs. Take Apple CarPlay—the Telluride comes equipped with it but requires a wired connection, and that connection is USB-A. Probably not a dealbreaker, but the wireless option would be nice to have.

When it comes to driving dynamics, the Telluride does everything it needs to and does it well, but the competition has caught up. The Kia’s 291-hp V-6 offers enough oomph for most occasions, but the Grand Highlander Hybrid Max has a lot more power. For example, its 4.2-second 50-to-70-mph run easily beat the Telluride’s 4.7. It probably won’t be a frequent issue, but the extra grunt in the Toyota certainly made passing on two-lane highways a less stressful event.

1st Place: 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander Hybrid Max Platinum AWD

The Grand Highlander arrives as the new kid on the block. It shares the Highlander name, but it’s a bigger vehicle all around: longer, wider, and taller than the Highlander. Yet it’s still able to slip into a parking stall or most garages. It’s 4.5 inches longer than the Telluride and nearly a full inch taller, with both SUVs measuring 78.3 inches wide. The extra length in the Toyota makes room for 11 more cubic feet of cargo space with the second- and third-row seats folded down.

When you first open the door, the Toyota interior is pretty much all work and no play, even with the Platinum’s diamond-stylized trim pieces and rose-gold accents. The center console is practical, although we wish Toyota didn’t feel the need to reinvent the shifter. The wireless charging pad is tucked under the dash to keep your smartphone from becoming a projectile. The removable cupholder doubles as an extra cubby, and the center console offers enough space for a bag or a purse. Flexible storage was clearly a theme for the design team, as the second-row console can be lifted out of the way to make an aisle between the seats. Children will likely find the third row to be welcoming enough, but most adults will find a scarcity of legroom unless the second row is pushed forward.

HIGHS: Carries the most cargo, strong fuel economy, lots of power.
LOWS: Higher price, cramped third row, Rubik’s Cube shifter.
VERDICT: What the Grand Highlander lacks in pizazz, it makes up for in practicality.

If the hybrid system in the Prius is the concert equivalent of attending a Sunday church choir, the one that debuted in the Crown—and that serves as the top powertrain offering in the Grand Highlander—is the equivalent of a Slipknot concert. The combustion engine is a 265-hp turbocharged 2.4-liter four-cylinder paired with a set of electric motors and a six-speed automatic transmission with a wet clutch. The total output in the Grand Highlander is an impressive 362 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque. The torque figure is achieved at a wonderfully low 2000 rpm, making stoplight drag racing a reality. The 5.6 seconds required to hit 60 mph makes it 1.1 seconds quicker than the Telluride.

Those two-lane highways we mentioned earlier? Passing with the Grand Highlander was a breeze. Granted, performance isn’t the main marketing point for this segment, but you’ll be glad for the extra ponies when your loaded-up SUV is used to chauffeur half of your child’s youth hockey team and its gear.

As for fuel economy, the Grand Highlander shows the benefits of its hybrid power—especially in the city. The Toyota returned 25 mpg over the course of our 650-mile test, beating the Telluride’s 22 mpg. However, the Telluride did manage to come out on top in our 200-mile 75-mph fuel-economy test, returning 26 mpg to the Grand Highlander’s 24 mpg.

Outside of acceleration and power, the driving dynamics of the Grand Highlander and the Telluride are actually quite similar. Ride quality is smooth and comfortable, with both suspension setups sopping up all but the worst potholes. Neither three-row provides much steering feedback, but, then again, these aren’t canyon carvers.

After three years of being undefeated in comparison tests and winning 10Best awards, the Telluride fully earned the target on its back. Now the Grand Highlander is here, and it’s big, quick, and incredibly practical. If the Grand Highlander leaves anything on the table, it’s that Toyota is unashamedly leaving room for the Lexus TX (which will likely cost even more than this Toyota’s $59,520 base/as-tested price). There aren’t many frills, but the Grand Highlander knows what its mission is and executes it incredibly well.

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2023 Kia Telluride SX Prestige AWD

Vehicle Type: front-engine, all-wheel-drive, 7-passenger, 4-door wagon


Base/As Tested: $51,955/$52,970

Options: Glacial White Pearl paint, $495; Mahogany Interior Color package, $295; carpeted floor mats, $210


DOHC 24-valve V-6, aluminum block and heads, direct fuel injection

Displacement: 231 in3, 3778 cm3

Power: 291 hp @ 6000 rpm

Torque: 262 lb-ft @ 5200 rpm


8-speed automatic


Suspension, F/R: struts/multilink

Brakes, F/R: 13.4-in vented disc/12.0-in disc

Tires: Michelin Primacy LTX

245/50R-20 102V M+S


Wheelbase: 114.2 in

Length: 196.9 in

Width: 78.3 in

Height: 69.3 in

Passenger Volume, F/M/R: 58/57/36 ft3

Cargo Volume, Behind F/M/R: 87/46/21 ft3

Curb Weight: 4490 lb


60 mph: 6.7 sec

1/4-Mile: 15.1 sec @ 93 mph

100 mph: 17.6 sec

130 mph: 38.6 sec

Results above omit 1-ft rollout of 0.3 sec.

Rolling Start, 5–60 mph: 7.3 sec

Top Gear, 30–50 mph: 3.7 sec

Top Gear, 50–70 mph: 4.7 sec

Top Speed (C/D est): 135 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 176 ft

Roadholding, 300-ft Skidpad: 0.79 g


Observed: 22 mpg

75-mph Highway Driving: 26 mpg

75-mph Highway Range: 480 mi


Combined/City/Highway: 21/18/24 mpg

2024 Toyota Grand Highlander Hybrid Max Platinum AWD

Vehicle Type: front-engine and front- and rear-motor, all-wheel-drive, 7-passenger, 4-door wagon


Base/As Tested: $59,520/$59,520


turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 16-valve inline-4, 265 hp, 332 lb-ft + 2 AC motors (combined output: 362 hp, 400 lb-ft; 1.4-kWh nickel-metal hydride battery pack)

Transmissions, F/R: 6-speed automatic/direct-drive


Suspension, F/R: struts/multilink

Brakes, F/R: 13.4-in vented disc/13.3-in vented disc

Tires: Continental CrossContact LX20 EcoPlus+

255/55R-20 107V M+S


Wheelbase: 116.1 in

Length: 201.4 in

Width: 78.3 in

Height: 70.1 in

Passenger Volume, F/M/R: 58/52/39 ft3

Cargo Volume, Behind F/M/R: 98/58/21 ft3

Curb Weight: 4936 lb


60 mph: 5.6 sec

1/4-Mile: 14.3 sec @ 98 mph

100 mph: 14.9 sec

Results above omit 1-ft rollout of 0.3 sec.

Rolling Start, 5–60 mph: 6.1 sec

Top Gear, 30–50 mph: 2.9 sec

Top Gear, 50–70 mph: 4.2 sec

Top Speed (gov ltd): 117 mph

Braking, 70–0 mph: 187 ft

Roadholding, 300-ft Skidpad: 0.80 g


Observed: 25 mpg

75-mph Highway Driving: 24 mpg

75-mph Highway Range: 410 mi


Combined/City/Highway: 27/26/27 mpg


Associate News Editor

Jack Fitzgerald’s love for cars stems from his as yet unshakable addiction to Formula 1.
After a brief stint as a detailer for a local dealership group in college, he knew he needed a more permanent way to drive all the new cars he couldn’t afford and decided to pursue a career in auto writing. By hounding his college professors at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, he was able to travel Wisconsin seeking out stories in the auto world before landing his dream job at Car and Driver. His new goal is to delay the inevitable demise of his 2010 Volkswagen Golf.

#Kia #Telluride #Toyota #Grand #Highlander

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