Three years after it got its name, the 2020 Kia Telluride finally makes its official debut at the 2019 Detroit Auto Show, having first appeared as a bespoke off-road concept at the New York Fashion Week last September. Well, the full details are out – think of it as a sister model to the Hyundai Palisade, for both are humongous eight-seater SUVs.

The Telluride is the first Kia designed specifically for the US market and was purposely designed to big, bold and boxy – a nod to legendary SUVs of years past with the go-anywhere, do-anything attitude their square, burly-shouldered shapes suggested.

It’s not too gaudy for its size as well, featuring a long, broad bonnet, wide chromed Tiger Nose grille, and stacked projector headlights surrounded by LED DRLs that also double as turn signals. The front edge of the bonnet and tailgate both get the Telluride lettering to accentuate its width, while the prominent character lines stretch from the headlights and into the upswept, vertical LED tail lights.

Interestingly, the window line and chrome surrounds have a slight G05 BMW X5 feel to it, which in the Kia’s case isn’t a bad thing at all. Here, it rides on 20-inch five triple-spoke dark alloys, wrapped with Michelin Primacy Tour all-season tyres.

Inside, the flagship SUV is draped in high-quality materials. The wide centre console puts emphasis on spaciousness, such that it exudes a more “luxe living room” than “utility vehicle” type of feel. Kia claims adequate spaciousness for all passengers, including those in the third row.

To give the Telluride a proper upscale cabin, Kia chose to go with double-stitched, quilted and extra-padded Nappa leather upholstery for the seats, simulated brushed metal and matte-finished wood trimmings, optional heated and ventilated seats for the first and second row seats, ceiling-mounted second-row climate control and reclining third row seats.

Other available equipment includes a 10.25-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionalities, rear view monitor, 630-watt 10-speaker Harman Kardon audio system with Quantum Logic Surround Sound and Clari-Fi, wireless smartphone charging tray, five USB charging ports (upgradable to six), and head-up display with turn-by-turn navigation.

Now, under the bonnet is a Lambda II 3.8 litre V6 GDI (Atkinson Cycle) engine that makes 291 hp at 6,000 rpm and 355 Nm of torque at 5,200 rpm. Those numbers, which are identical to the Palisade, are higher than its closest rivals, namely the Toyota Highlander, Honda Pilot, Nissan Pathfinder and Ford Explorer.

Power is routed to all four wheels (FWD is standard) through an eight-speed automatic transmission, featuring four drive modes – Smart, Eco, Sport and Comfort. There is also Snow and AWD Lock for specific driving conditions, and the on-demand electro-hydraulic AWD system with multi-plate clutch plate constantly redistributes power to both axles. In Eco and Smart modes, power is completely routed to the front wheels, whereas Sport mode splits the power down to 65% front, 35% rear.

The standard towing rate for this SUV is rated at 5,000 pounds (2,267 kg), and it also features the optional self-levelling rear suspension. Here, the SUV’s ride height is automatically calibrated depending on vehicle load to optimise control and stability. The onboard Downhill Brake Control helps maintain a controlled descent when traversing steep slopes.

Lastly, safety. As the brand’s flagship SUV, the Telluride comes with an array of advanced technology and the “Kia Drive Wise” suite of Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems. This includes Blind Spot Collision-Avoidance Assist Rear, Rear Cross-Traffic Collision Avoidance Assist, Lane Following Assist, Safe Exit Assist, Highway Driving Assist, Driver Attention Warning, Smart Cruise Control with Stop & Go, and seven airbags.

Like the Palisade, the Telluride also features Driver Talk, an in-car intercom system that allows the driver to communicate separately with passengers in the second or third row. The available Quiet Mode cuts audio output in second and third row, whereas Rear Occupant Alert employs ultrasonic sensors designed to detect child or pet movement in the second and third row after the car’s doors have been locked, thus alerting the driver through an app.

It’s also equipped with the UVO24 telematics system, featuring an embedded modem that communicates with Telluride drivers. This allows control to a number of vehicle operations, such as Remote start and door lock, climate control pre-conditioning, and “Send-to-Car” navigation points. So, what do you think?