Kristin Shaw is an automotive journalist at Edmunds.
November 21st, 2022
Kia's newest iteration of the popular Telluride SUV has two new trims: X-Line and X-Pro.
In Edmunds' off-road testing, the X-Pro shined as a capable contender in the segment.
Kia product planners started the process of launching these trims even before the uptick in off-roading.
In 2020, overlanding and off-roading seemed to explode with a “get outside now!” fervor as people emerged from their homes. Those who off-road regularly will tell you that the trails are getting more crowded now as thrill seekers and adventurers find their inner camper. That’s not always a positive outcome for the faithful but it is a reality.
Automakers have responded in turn with rugged (or faux-rugged, as it may be) trims and accoutrements to appease the masses. However, what looks like a knee-jerk reaction is hardly that when considering that product planners for the manufacturers are looking ahead three to five years as they map out their prognostications. Kia, for one, nailed it with its newest Telluride SUV for 2023.
Sure, the runaway hit for Kia has a new grille, redesigned dashboard and steering wheel, and more color options for the interior for 2023. But check out its two new trims: the X-Line and X-Pro, both aimed squarely at the adventure market. It seems prescient now as the product planning process started several years ago, Telluride planner Sang Lee told Edmunds.
“We knew it was a good move,” he said. “We insisted on [off-road themed trims] it and saw it to fruition.”
The X-Line, which replaces the Telluride Nightfall Edition, is available as an upgrade to the EX, SX and SX Prestige trims. Along with some cosmetic enhancements, it gets unique 20-inch wheels and roof rails that give it an edgier look.
“The beauty is that if you have no intention of going off-road but like the look, you go with the X-Line,” Lee told Edmunds. “Plenty of consumers will opt for that. We still have a big demand for Nightfall; it has been so popular.”
Alternatively, the X-Pro boasts Continental all-terrain tires wrapped around exclusive 18-inch black wheels. The bumper is sculpted like the X-Line’s, which gives both new trims a 0.4-inch increase in ground clearance for a total of 8.4 inches, which improves approach, breakover and departure angles for tackling tougher terrain. All-wheel drive is standard for the X-Line and X-Pro.
"Is market demanding this? Absolutely,” he said. “There was a clear trend of venturing outdoors before the pandemic started, and we really saw an uptick on outdoor activities during the pandemic."
Kia sold 93,705 Tellurides in 2021, 125% over 2020 sales and 160% over the numbers in 2019. The South Korean brand said it’s expanding Telluride capacity to 120,000 units a year. The market is demanding more off-road-capable vehicles, and Lee said the Telluride is a family vehicle for many of its buyers and Kia wanted to add capability with the new trims for 2023 while keeping the usability for those families.
"Since 2020, the midsize SUV segment has seen the emergence of several new off-road-oriented trims on the market," Lee said. "One was the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk and the other Toyota, with the TRD Pro line. Ford entered the game with the Timberline, Honda made an effort with the Pilot TrailSport, and Nissan launched its Pathfinder Rock Creek Edition.”
Once again, Kia is challenging the market by staying not just current but ahead of the trends in its production and planning approach. It's going to serve the company well. It also proves Kia's product planners know what you want before even you do. We're excited to see what they dish up next.
These two new trim lines will almost surely push the wave of success for the popular Telluride through 2023. After testing it out in real-world off-road situations, we can say with confidence that it's more capable than ever.