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2020 Kia Telluride vs Ford Explorer

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2020 Kia Telluride vs Ford Explorer

2020 Telluride vs Explorer - How do they stack up? Which is Better?

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If you have a larger than average family, a three-row SUV may prove to be the perfect vehicle. This segment gives you some great options to choose from. Although the 2020 Kia Telluride is an all-new model, it’s already making waves. Many car shoppers will love the Telluride’s gorgeous exterior design and luxurious accommodations.

In terms of yearly sales figures, the Ford Explorer has dominated the segment for a long time. A complete redesign makes the 2020 model especially exciting. It offers a lot of new features. In this comparison, we’ll see if the all-new 2020 Kia Telluride can overtake the top-selling 2020 Ford Explorer.

The Powertrain

The 2020 Kia Telluride doesn’t give you access to an optional powertrain. Every trim in the lineup receives a DOHC V6 engine, which is rated to crank out 291 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque. Although there are more powerful SUVs in the class, an excellent eight-speed automatic transmission helps the Telluride to deliver a smooth performance. On the road, the Telluride has no trouble getting up to highway speeds. It’s also quick enough to keep up with other vehicles at red lights.

Unlike the Telluride, the 2020 Ford Explorer gives you two different powertrains to choose from. A turbo four-cylinder engine is standard. Ford rates it to produce 300 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque. Every trim uses a 10-speed automatic gearbox. Drivers seeking more muscle can upgrade to Ford’s EcoBoost V6 engine. It unleashes a more exciting 400 horsepower and 415 pound-feet of torque.

When comparing these two SUVs, there’s no overlooking the Explorer's more responsive nature. It feels noticeably stronger than the Telluride. An available twin-turbo V6 engine makes the Explorer light-years quicker. However, some testers have found that the Explorer’s transmission shifts too frequently. Although the Telluride may not be as muscular, it does deliver an enjoyable performance. This SUV’s smooth power delivery helps promote a relaxing driving experience.

When it comes to towing, the Ford Explorer unsurprisingly comes out on top. While models equipped with a turbo four-cylinder engine can pull a 5,300-pound load, Ford lists the V6-powered Explorer with a 5,600-pound maximum towing capacity. However, a 5,000-pound tow rating makes the Kia Telluride more than suitable for most tasks. Kia also offers an optional self-leveling rear suspension, which gives drivers greater confidence when pulling a heavy load.

The Kia Telluride feels more stable than the Explorer. This is partly due to the Telluride’s lighter design. Expect the Explorer to experience more body lean when taking curves. However, Ford does offer a high-performance Explorer ST. It receives a sport suspension and specially tuned steering. These performance upgrades dramatically improve handling.

Like the new Telluride, the Explorer delivers a strong braking performance. Drivers will be able to stop quickly during emergencies. Even some of today’s smaller vehicles take longer to stop.

As expected, both SUVs offer all-wheel drive as an option. You can expect the Telluride to match the Explorer’s performance in the snow. Adventure-seekers will also find these SUVs to have similar off-roading skills. However, rugged skid plates do come standard on the Telluride. The extra protection will come in handy when venturing off the beaten path.

When it comes to fuel economy, the Explorer takes the lead. It has an EPA-estimated rating of 21 mpg city/28 mpg freeway. However, opting for the twin-turbo V6 engine lowers fuel economy to 18 mpg city/24 mpg freeway. Meanwhile, fuel economy estimates for the new Telluride stand at 20 mpg city/26 mpg freeway. Both SUVs are designed to run regular unleaded gas.

In regard to reliability, these SUVs are neck and neck. They both received a 3.0 out of 5.0 rating in J.D. Power’s dependability test. This is an average rating for the class. However, a 100,000-mile powertrain warranty gives the 2020 Kia Telluride a serious advantage. Explorer buyers must settle for a 60,000-mile powertrain warranty.


On the road, the 2020 Kia Telluride feels like a luxury vehicle. Its suspension system delivers a smooth ride over all types of pavement. While the Explorer’s ride quality is far from poor, don’t expect it to feel quite as plush as the Telluride.

The new Telluride is also quieter on the inside. Kia did a superior job of isolating outside noise. Families love the Telluride’s calm atmosphere. When riding in the Ford Explorer, passengers may hear more road noise.

These SUVs are both designed with the comfort of your family in mind. While the Telluride can seat up to eight people, the Explorer has a seven-passenger capacity. In terms of overall roominess, Kia’s new Telluride edges out the Explorer. It has a total passenger volume of 157.1 cubic feet, which outclasses the Explorer’s total passenger volume of 152.7 cubic feet.

Passengers sitting in the Telluride’s second row will have an extra 3.4 inches to stretch their legs. However, folks sitting in the third row will prefer the Explorer. It provides an additional 0.8 inches of legroom. The Explorer also provides 1.6 inches more legroom in the front, which benefits taller passengers.

Although the Explorer is longer than the Telluride, this doesn’t result in more storage room. The Explorer has 18.2 inches of cargo space behind its third row. By comparison, there’s 21 cubic feet of cargo space in the back of the Telluride.

Large windows and an upright sitting position in the Telluride help give drivers a great view of the road. Meanwhile, a larger C-pillar can hinder outward visibility in the Explorer. A very small rear window also creates more blind spots in the Explorer.

Technology lovers will be especially interested in which SUV has the better infotainment system. Ford’s SYNC 3 infotainment system is quick and simple to operate. While a larger 10.1 touchscreen is optional, your best bet is to stick with the standard 8.0-inch touch display. Some users have found the larger display to be more complicated than necessary.

Kia’s UVO infotainment system is arguably the easiest to use in the segment. It also has sharp graphics. While an 8.0-inch touch display is standard, buyers can step up to a 10.25-inch display with navigation. Split-screen functionality makes the upgraded display especially nice to have. High-resolution road maps help travelers to find their way to out-of-town destinations.

Fortunately, music fans can upgrade to a more powerful audio system. The Explorer’s 12-speaker B&O system sounds very good. Although the Telluride's Harmon Kardon stereo features two fewer speakers, it doesn’t sacrifice any sound quality.

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The 2020 Kia Telluride managed to earn an overall five-star safety score from the federal government. While the 2020 Ford Explorer also received a five-star overall rating, it actually provides better front-crash protection according to the NHTSA.

Keep in mind that only the Telluride was honored with a Top Safety Pick rating from the IIHS. It received a higher score from the organization in driver-side front protection. Both SUVs received an average IIHS headlight rating. The Telluride’s standard headlights garnered a poor rating. While LED headlights are standard on the Explorer, they’re optional for the Telluride.

Many valuable safety features come standard on these SUVs. Some of the most helpful driving aids include blind-spot warning, automatic panic braking, and lane-keep assist.

Only the new Telluride can be equipped with Kia’s nifty Blind Spot View Monitor. It uses cameras to display your blind spots on the SUV’s infotainment screen. Drivers will be able to clearly see vehicles approaching from behind, thus making lane changes less dangerous.

Another feature exclusive to the new Telluride is Safe Exit Assist. If a vehicle is approaching, it will prevent passengers from opening their doors into traffic. It’s an especially great feature for parents who have young children.

The Ford Explorer also has a few exclusive safety features. Evasive Steering Assist is a big highlight. When a crash is imminent, this feature helps drivers to safely maneuver around the obstacle. Ford’s MyKey system is standard on the Explorer. It enables parents to limit their teenager’s speed. An optional automated parking system also makes life easier for drivers who spend a lot of time in the city.

Which Has the Best Value?

Car shoppers will find the 2020 Kia Telluride to be a better value. It has an estimated starting MSRP of around $31,700. By comparison, prices for the Explorer begin at roughly $36,675. Buyers stand to save a significant amount of money by choosing the Telluride. A longer warranty adds to the Telluride’s value.

Although the base Telluride may be less expensive, it doesn’t force you to forgo popular features. Advanced smartphone support, remote start, and six USB ports all come standard. Nevertheless, there are a few more standard conveniences on the base Explorer. Families can connect to the internet using the Explorer's built-in Wi-Fi hotspot. While tri-zone automatic climate control is standard on the Explorer, Telluride buyers must pay extra for dual-zone climate control.

Drivers who desire the utmost luxury will be deciding between the Telluride SX and the Explorer Platinum. While the Explorer Platinum demands more than $58,000, the Telluride SX has a starting MSRP of $41,500. However, Kia’s optional Prestige package is an extra $4,000. It adds heated/ventilated second-row seats, a head-up display, and Nappa leather upholstery.

Which is Better?

Both of these SUVs have their own pros and cons. Drivers seeking the most power under the hood will want the Explorer. Its available twin-turbo V6 engine delivers a monstrous performance. However, the Telluride’s 291-horsepower engine gets the job done without any trouble. When towing, Kia’s optional self-leveling rear suspension will prove its worth.

Ford has elevated the Explorer’s styling for 2020. However, the 2020 Kia Telluride’s bold exterior makes an even more powerful statement. Models equipped with upgraded headlights and larger alloy wheels look especially cool.

In terms of passenger comfort, these SUVs are a draw. While the Telluride may offer more second-row legroom, the Explorer provides more leg space in the front. While the Explorer offers climate-controlled front seats, the Telluride goes a step further by also offering heated/ventilated rear seats.

These SUVs are a close match in the safety department. Kia’s optional Blind Spot View Monitor proves to be especially beneficial. It’s a step above a traditional blind-spot monitor. Of course, some drivers may not be able to resist the Explorer's automated parking system.

At the end of the day, the all-new 2020 Kia Telluride simply stands out in more categories. While it may not pack as much power as the new Explorer, it has a more comfortable ride and handles the road with greater poise. A quieter cabin also makes the Telluride feel like a more expensive luxury vehicle. Kia's great warranty coverage is another perk.

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