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Have you ever driven an SUV that made people stop, stare, ask questions and give unsolicited compliments? Yep, me neither…until I tried the the 2020 Kia Telluride SX AWD, which is oh-so-sexy and remarkably affordable. (The fully loaded version clocks in at $47,000.) Here’s everything I loved, and why it might be a good fit for you and your brood.

side view
Teia Collier

The Look

The 2020 Kia Telluride SX AWD arrived for review early on the morning of my grandfather’s burial, a couple of days after a second wave of vicious storms to descended on North Texas. It stood out as a beautiful contrast to the downed trees and somber tone. I did the initial walk-around and had one overarching thought: This SUV looks and feels special; its classic, boxy shape is reminiscent of the recent Land Rover or larger Mercedes-Benz SUVs.

The model we test-drove was a gorgeous dark moss green, and the interior was made of a buttery blend of smooth and perforated gray Nappa leather. The clean lines paired well with the sleek 10’’ infotainment panel, smart cargo and striking interior lights. Indeed, every detail felt intentional.

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back seats
Teia Collier

The Roominess

Before heading to the funeral, I got the seven-seater Telluride ready for my week. I grabbed our gear, stored my handbag in the deep center console and then loaded in three adults and four children, two of whom were in car seats. The middle row captain's chairs allowed more than enough space, even for my sister’s husband who is well over six foot four. No one was kicking me in the back, and there were no knees in the back of anyone’s seat—even in the center row.

I love that the captain's chairs are adjustable with their own heating and cooling ventilation systems that are independently controllable, as well as the fact that everyone has their own space and their own USB ports (six for the entire vehicle). As our drive to the Dallas National Cemetery drew on, I was thankful for the heads up display and the push-button child window and door lock system, nestled smartly in the driver’s window controls.

The compliments

We arrived at Veteran’s Memorial, a lush cemetery honoring servicemen and women in Dallas. I parked on a tree-lined road under a large mulberry tree that ended up being a spot where people gathered to talk, share good memories and relax in each other's company. After the service was over, I caught some waiting servicemen taking a peek at the Telluride, complimenting the wheels, the shape and the overall appeal. I offered to let them take a look inside, and I heard from one gentleman that “it lives up to the hype.”

It was the same story later in the week when I had to make a quick run to the mall. The valet guys said pretty much the same thing: “That’s a beauty.” Ditto when I went to the Mesquite Rodeo and the handsome cowboys wanted to know what I was driving and how it was on gas. (Very nice by the way—it hovered right around 21 to 24 mpg highway.)

control panel
Teia Collier

The tech and safety features

But the real goods are inside—the Telluride delivered a smooth, safe ride and felt less like a truck than I expected. It actually handled more like a large, modern sedan.

The active safety system is easy to turn on and off with the turn of a dial, though I found that it does come in very handy on the construction-laden highways of North Texas. With multiple drive options, Smart Mode is my favorite. It is a driver-friendly, intelligent support system that includes cruise control, highway drive assist and blind-spot monitors with 360-degree surround camera views. The rain sensing wipers were a nice bonus, and the rear occupant alert system (intended to keep a driver from forgetting a child in the back seat) gave me extra peace of mind.

The Telluride's tech panel and navigation system (a flat screen paired with a heads up display) was particularly intuitive. It paired easily to my Android, and the Bluetooth connection delivered a crisp, clear signal to the Harman Kardon sound system, making my beloved audiobooks sound even better. The display is large with a customizable, adjustable font and a streamlined design that lets you see what you need without being distracted by anything else. One really cool feature was the Driver Talk system, which allows you to talk directly to the people in the the back seat—interrupting any media playing on the sound system. In other words, I could say, “Hello, short people in the back seat,” and sound like a voice from the heavens.

trunk view
Teia Collier

The stuff moms love

My youngest son (who’s still in a car seat) loves to sit all the way back in the third row, and often, it’s simply not easy to get him in and out, thanks to hidden latch anchors and complicated second and third row seat placement. Happily, the Telluride is thoughtfully designed so the rear seat is easy to access: With the touch of a button, the captain's chairs fold down and a person (and car seat) slides in. I anchored the seat with one hand and he climbed right in after.

The rear seats also fold flat with the pull of a cord, making it versatile enough for everyday life and roomy enough for that extravagant Target run. While with the third seat up and in use, it still holds a regular sized stroller and a couple of bags.

So who should buy the Telluride?

This seven- or eight-seater is definitely for fans of the Ford Expedition, Toyota Highlander, Hyundai Palisade, Honda Pilot or those considering a minivan but not quite ready to take the plunge. All in all: A fan-favorite for families who like to be spoiled and drivers who feel the need for prestige.

RELATED: The Best 7-Passenger SUVs for Hauling Your Clan Around

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