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2023 Kia Telluride X-Pro

Driven: The 2023 Kia Telluride X-Pro Moves the Needle Slightly

When the best gets better, it stays on top

  • The refreshed 2023 Telluride adds two new off-road-oriented variants: X-Line and X-Pro.
  • X-Line can be added to the EX, SX and SX Prestige trims, but X-Pro is only available with the SX and SX Prestige.
  • The X models make the Telluride slightly better off-road, but it’s the SUV’s other updates that improve its livability even more.

The Kia Telluride is well known around these parts, having garnered our Edmunds Top Rated SUV award three years running. I'm surprised the Telluride doesn't bang drums and scream "THE CHAMP IS HERE" when one gets dropped off at our office for testing. But in such a crowded and competitive field, even the Telluride can't rest on its laurels. That's why the 2023 Telluride brings with it a refresh that's meant to make sure the big three-row keeps its crown.

That includes the introduction of a pair of X named variants and upgraded technology and driver assist features. We previously covered the full extent of these changes (and the inevitable price increase that comes along with them), but we recently found ourselves behind the wheel of the updated Telluride in the hill country around San Antonio, Texas. It quickly became clear that the three-row king isn't ready to give up the throne just yet.

2023 Kia Telluride X-Pro

Is the X-Pro gon' give it to ya off-road?

Most of our time was spent behind the wheel of the X-Pro in SX Prestige guise, which is basically the most fully loaded Telluride you can get with a price tag that tips north of $55,000. It's best to think of the X-Line as an appearance package (not to be confused with the almost too similarly named X-Pro model), as it comes with a different front grille, roof rails and 20-inch alloy wheels.

Both trims come with a 0.4-inch increase in ground clearance, but that only increases approach and departure angles by 0.7 and 0.6 degrees, respectively. That isn't enough to get the Telluride over any obstacles you shouldn't be attempting in this vehicle anyway, and the X-Line's 20-inch wheels come shod in the same all-season tires as the standard models. Kia says the traction control has been modified for both variants, but it was already pretty good. Plus, if you opt for all-wheel drive, the Telluride comes with a locking center differential anyway.

Only the X-Pro offers any tangible gain in off-road performance, thanks to its all-terrain tires that give it some extra grip. But on the light off-road course we put the Telluride through, I didn't encounter anything the standard Telluride wouldn't have been able to do just as well. For any kind of fire road or dirt trail leading to a campsite, an all-wheel-drive Telluride (X'd up or not) remains more than qualified.

2023 Kia Telluride X-Pro

What about on the road?

Similar to the off-road environment, the on-road experience with both vehicles is roughly the same. The Telluride's 3.8-liter V6 provides more than ample power and under hard acceleration it can change gear abruptly, but it's an easy vehicle to drive that feels smaller than its size would suggest.

Even with the all-terrain tires, the X-Pro doesn't compromise the Telluride's interior with a noticeable increase in noise or vibration, and it remains a great choice even if you drive on pavement the vast majority of the time. If anything, those tires and the slightly retuned suspension make it a hair better at smoothing out road imperfections and potholes.

2023 Kia Telluride X-Pro

Tech and driver assist updates lead the way

So if the introduction of the X trims isn't the major story, what is? The technology and driver assist enhancements that apply more widely across the Telluride lineup carry most of the water in this redesign.

The dashboard has been redone, with a new set of displays that are now mounted in side-by-side fashion. A 12.3-inch infotainment touchscreen is now standard on all models and there's a matching 12.3-inch instrument cluster that comes standard on the SX and SX Prestige models. It's a look that we've seen before in not only other Kia vehicles, but also the Hyundai Ioniq 5 and Genesis GV60. I wonder why that could be … Hey, parts sharing between manufacturers isn't always a bad thing.

The system is easy to use, with straightforward functionality and a well-positioned screen that can easily be reached from the driver's seat. There's just one catch to it: no wireless connectivity for Android Auto or Apple CarPlay. It's a bit perturbing that Kia's infotainment systems with the smaller 8-inch screen get this functionality, while this "upgrade" locks you out of that feature. The real reason is, during the development phase of this particular infotainment system for Kia and Hyundai, BMW had an exclusive handle on the wireless version of CarPlay. That meant the functionality was never baked into the shared Kia-Hyundai system, and years later, since the two companies still use the same unit, wireless CarPlay and Android Auto still aren't here. OK, maybe parts sharing does have its drawbacks, but we've been assured it's something that Kia (and Hyundai and Genesis for that matter) is working to rectify.

2023 Kia Telluride X-Pro

The Telluride also gets some updated driver assistance features for SX and SX Prestige models. Adding the 12.3-inch instrument cluster screen allows for the addition of a blind-spot view monitor that displays a live view of the blind spot right in front of the driver when the turn signal is activated. There are also upgraded forward collision and adaptive cruise control systems. The forward collision avoidance system can now track cross traffic at intersections and oncoming traffic as well. Kia calls its upgraded adaptive cruise control system "Highway Drive Assist 2" and has added automatic lane change capability if the driver clicks on the turn signal while the system is activated. What we really like about the Telluride's driver assist systems is that they are painless and intuitive, meaning that it's more likely that folks won't be annoyed by them and shut them off. That makes the road safer for everyone.

Edmunds says

Did the refreshed 2023 Telluride add off-road capability? Perhaps a smidge, if you're being generous. But the best three-row SUV out there gets definite technology and driver assistance boosts that should give it even more of a leg up on a hard-charging pack of rivals.

2023 Kia Telluride X-Pro