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Midsize SUVs are extremely popular family haulers. Many people like the versatility of these vehicles. Not only do the majority of today’s midsize SUVs provide a lot of interior space, but they also perform well during inclement weather. While there are several worthy options to consider, some car shoppers will ultimately be choosing between the 2021 Ford Explorer and the 2021 Kia Telluride. Let’ take a closer look at how these two models stack up against each other.
The 2021 Ford Explorer offers three different powertrains. Its base turbo four-cylinder engine develops a more than fulfilling 300 horsepower. Drivers who need more performance can step up to a twin-turbo V6 engine. While the standard version develops 350 horsepower, Ford tunes the high-output ST model to crank out 400 horsepower. Every new Explorer makes use of a 10-speed automatic transmission.
In contrast to the Explorer, the 2021 Kia Telluride only gives you access to one powertrain. However, it proves to be very effective. Motivating the SUV is a stout V6 engine, which pushes out 291 horsepower. An eight-speed automatic transmission comes standard as well.
Expect the Explorer to offer quicker acceleration. While the Explorer clocks a 0-60 mph time of 6.3 seconds, the Telluride recorded a 0-60 mph time of 7.0 seconds. Driving enthusiasts will especially love the high-performance Explorer ST’s gutsy acceleration. When launched from a standstill, it’s capable of hitting 60 mph in as quick as 5.4 seconds.
Despite the Explorer being a quicker and more powerful SUV, the Telluride actually offers a more pleasing driving experience. Its excellent transmission and polished engine ensure a relaxing commute. Some test drivers have noticed that the Explorer’s base engine has an uneven power delivery around town. Ford’s 10-speed automatic transmission is also not quite as good.
On the road, the Telluride impresses with its outstanding body control. It drives better than the competition. Torque Vectoring Cornering Control helps the Telluride to grip the road when taking curves. Don’t expect the Explorer to feel as connected to the road. With that said, a sports-tuned suspension is found on the high-output Explorer ST. This upgrade does noticeably improve the SUV’s road handling.
Fortunately, both SUVs can be used to haul a load. When equipped with its standard powertrain, the Explorer is rated to tow up to 5,300 pounds. This SUV’s maximum tow rating increases to 5,600 pounds with the available twin-turbo V6 engine. By comparison, Kia rates the new Telluride to tow up to 5,000 pounds.
In terms of fuel economy, the Explorer returns up to an EPA-calculated 21 mpg town/28 mpg freeway. This is an above-average rating for the segment. As expected, efficiency drops with the more powerful engine. Drivers can anticipate getting around 18 mpg town/26 mpg freeway. Meanwhile, fuel economy estimates for the Telluride stand at 20 mpg town/26 mpg freeway. Luckily, both SUVs are tuned to develop full power using regular unleaded gas.
All-wheel drive is optional on these vehicles. While the Explorer isn’t the most rugged model in the segment, it can topple a muddy trail. This is good news for families who prefer an outdoor lifestyle. The Telluride can also handle a camping trip. Activating the Telluride’s AWD lock mode gives you greater traction in the mud and snow.
Both of these SUVs can stop quickly for being relatively heavy vehicles. Reviewers applaud the Telluride for its fine stopping power. However, performance brakes are found on the high-output Explorer ST. These upgraded brakes are engineered to withstand higher temperatures.
In regard to dependability, the Kia Telluride is a notch above the Ford Explorer. It receives a 3.5 out of 5.0 dependability rating. This is better than the Explorer’s 3.0 dependability score. A better warranty gives the Telluride another advantage. Kia covers the SUV with a 100,00-mile powertrain warranty and a 60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty. On the other hand, Ford provides 60,000 miles of powertrain coverage and a 36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty.
In the eyes of some automotive reviewers, the 2021 Kia Telluride is the ultimate SUV for traveling and daily commuting. It offers one of the best rides in the midsize segment. While the 2021 Ford Explorer has a fairly good ride quality, most experts agree that the Telluride’s overall ride comfort is better. A performance-tuned suspension makes the Explorer ST’s ride quite stiff.
Families will like the Telluride’s quiet nature. According to some journalists, it ranks among the most peaceful SUVs on the market. Even when traveling at 70 mph on the interstate, there’s barely any noise entering the cabin. The Explorer is also remarkably quiet. There are a number of road-reducing features on the Explorer, including a dual-wall dashboard. However, tests show that the Telluride does have a more hushed cabin.
Both of these SUVs prove to be very accommodating family vehicles. Passenger comfort is clearly a big emphasis. While the Explorer seats up to seven people, the Telluride can handle up to eight passengers.
The Telluride does provide the most space to stretch out. It has a total passenger volume of 157.1 cubic feet, which outclasses the Explorer’s total passenger volume of 152.7 cubic feet. When sitting in the Telluride’s second row, occupants will have an extra 3.4 inches of legroom. Taller folks will be especially thankful for the additional space. However, there is more legroom in the front of the Explorer.
From a standpoint of overall seat comfort, the Telluride takes the lead. Excellent cushioning helps passengers to remain comfy on long rides. While the Explorer’s seats get the job done, some testers say they lack suitable support. However, driving enthusiasts will enjoy the Explorer ST’s sport seats.
When traveling with a full load of passengers, the Kia Telluride provides 21 cubic feet of cargo space. There’s 18 cubic feet of cargo space in the Ford Explorer. If you fold down the third-row seat, the Explorer provides slightly more space for your extra gear. While the Explorer offers a hands-free tailgate, Kia’s smart liftgate is more convenient. As you approach the Telluride, its smart liftgate automatically opens up. Explorer drivers must swipe their foot underneath the tailgate.
Drivers will appreciate the Ford Explorer’s good forward visibility. However, rearward visibility is not the best. Ford’s optional blind-spot monitoring system is highly recommended. Large windows help the Telluride to offer slightly better outward visibility.
Many drivers will be interested in which SUV has the better infotainment system. Ford’s SYNC interface gets high marks for its clear graphics. An 8.0-inch touchscreen with full smartphone integration comes standard. While buyers can upgrade to a larger 10.1-inch touchscreen, it’s not as easy to operate.
Kia‘s UVO infotainment system is a great asset. Many drivers will enjoy this interface’s simple menu structure and user-friendly controls. While the standard 8.0-inch touch display works well, the optional 10.2-inch touch display offers split-screen functionality. This means drivers can view navigation maps and apps at the same time.
Parents will appreciate the Telluride’s optional intercom system. This feature enables them to easily communicate with children riding in the rear. It’s especially helpful when kids are playing video games and watching movies on the SUV’s newly available rear entertainment system.
A head-up display is also exclusively offered on the Telluride. By projecting the speedometer’s information onto the lower windshield, it further minimizes driving distractions. No longer will drivers need to take their eyes off the road.
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In terms of passenger safety, the 2021 Kia Telluride scores well. It receives a five-star overall safety rating from the federal government. Last year, this SUV was also chosen as a Top Safety Pick by the IIHS.
While the 2021 Ford Explorer also earned an NHTSA five-star overall safety rating, it actually recorded better crash scores. In fact, the Explorer received a perfect rating in every major crash test. Another highlight is the SUV’s IIHS Top Safety Pick+ award.
Both SUVs come standard with in-demand safety features. Among these helpful driving aids include pre-collision braking, blind-spot warning, lane-keep assist, and adaptive cruise control. While a traditional backup camera is standard, buyers can opt for a surround-view camera.
Some safety technologies are only offered on the Telluride. Kia’s rear-seat reminder system ensures that busy drivers don’t forget about children and pets. Drivers will also love Kia’s blind-spot camera system, which shows live video of vehicles approaching from the rear.
There are also some exclusive driving aids on the Explorer’s list of options. City dwellers will want the Explorer’s advanced parking system, which can automatically steer you into parallel and perpendicular parking spots. Meanwhile, evasive steering assist helps drivers to safely dodge obstacles.
Which Has the Best Value?
Prices for the new 2021 Kia Telluride start at around $32,000, which is reasonable for such a well-equipped SUV. Meanwhile, Ford lists the 2021 Ford Explorer with a starting MSRP of $33,000. Common standard features include a color touchscreen with smartphone integration, remote start, and satellite radio. The Explorer also adds a Wi-Fi hotspot and tri-zone automatic climate control.
While the Explorer may provide a few more standard conveniences, synthetic leather upholstery gives the Telluride’s cabin a more luxurious feel. Buyers can also take advantage of Kia’s much longer warranty.
Drivers who seek the most luxury will be choosing between the Telluride SX and the Explorer Platinum. While the Explorer Platinum demands $59,000, prices for the Telluride SX start at a more affordable $42,200. There’s no overlooking the Telluride SX’s superior value. Furthermore, only the Telluride SX offers optional heated and ventilated second-row seats.
Which is Better?
The 2021 Ford Explorer remains a top-selling SUV. However, this fact doesn’t mean that the Explorer is a better vehicle. There are several aspects where the Explorer ranks behind the Telluride.
Drivers seeking a serious level of performance will be drawn to the high-output Explorer ST. However, most people will be perfectly happy with the Kia Telluride. Although the Telluride may not be as powerful, its smooth driving dynamics will win over a lot of people. When it comes to off-road capabilities, there’s not a big difference between these vehicles.
Whether one chooses the Explorer or the Telluride, their family and friends can travel in complete comfort. However, the Telluride’s interior style and quality are a step above. Greater rear legroom also gives the Telluride an edge over its American rival. Both of these midsize models have an eye-catching exterior. However, the new Telluride looks especially bold. It truly dominates the road.
The Explorer is arguably the most secure SUV in the class. Crash protection is exceptional. However, Kia’s premier SUV is not too far behind. Automatic emergency braking and blind-spot monitoring are standard on both vehicles.
Despite the Ford Explorer’s popularity, it loses this head-to-head comparison. The 2021 Kia Telluride’s outstanding value, well-executed interior design, and cool styling give it the edge. Great driving dynamics also help the new Telluride to stand out. Drivers who simply demand more performance should choose the racier Explorer ST.