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2023: Kia Sorento vs. Telluride

1. Introduction

An in-depth comparison is necessary, then. Kia now has two very strong contenders in the three-row midsize SUV market, one in a sporty crossover, and the other in a vehicle that has brought family trips back to the 'golden era' of road traveling in the minivan, but in an SUV form. As a result, there is now a tipping point for a Telluride owner to replace their vehicle with a next-gen Sorento, or a Sorento owner wondering whether or not to upgrade to a larger car with the Telluride.

A new 2023 Kia Sorento has been the subject of a good deal of dialogue recently, following its intriguing unveiling last year. It isn't often possible to be sneaky in the automobile industry, but Kia has managed it, possibly unintentionally. The company showed off a Sorento in concept form back in September, but hushed up the topic until testing a heavily disguised model recently. With all the buzz surrounding this new Sorento, it has largely overshadowed its three-row predecessor, the Telluride. While the Telluride's launch was slightly overshadowed, is it outclassed by the groundbreaking new Sorento? Or does it have the upper hand? Learn More about: Kia's safety technologies.

2. Exterior Design

Telluride, the larger sibling, is all about muscle. Straight up with its blocky look, prominent vertical grille, and squared back. It looks very beefy and has a look similar to something like the Ford Expedition but without the dumpster rear end. Wheel arches are tough and large enough to fit an evolved form of the Mohave. Despite looking like a bit of a slab from the side, Kia has carefully thought about the trim and decided to not only black out most of the A, B, and C pillars but also adding a chrome stripe that envelops over the bottom of the rear windows and wraps up right at the end and into the top of the D pillar. Taillights and headlights promise to be snazzy, and there are quad exhaust tips at the rear. This method of styling choice seems to be pointing towards a top-end trim that would have dual exhaust. Both vehicles are nice-looking, Kia isn't attempting to make something outlandish here – the design is quite safe. But ultimately Kia has made a good attempt to ensure that the two vehicles hold unique visual identities. [1] Sorento vs Telluride Features

Starting from the exterior point, Kia Sorento has a somewhat sporty design. Compact and sleek, it counters Telluride's more traditional SUV-like look. Though it's underpinned by the same N3 platform as the muscular new 2023 Hyundai Santa Fe, the new Sorento strikes us as more of a raised station wagon than anything else. A thin line stretches from the grille all the way to the top of the A pillar, above which it drops before returning near the end of the vehicle at the bottom of the C pillar. Notice the tough and blocky wheel arches promising some form of ruggedness. At the rear, there's a slight rear spoiler on the lip of the liftgate, and a fun bulge at the end of the rear windshield which is mirrored by the bulging rear glass. A distinct point is the way the taillights are given a separate element sort of in the same category as the Kia Soul. And hey, let's not forget about the dual exhaust tips.

2.1. Kia Sorento

The Sorento has a lot of notable exterior features. The vehicle is slightly lower, longer, and wider than the 2020 model. The Sorento is built on Kia's new N3 platform, and this has made the vehicle slightly larger and more stable to drive. Like the 2020 model, all Sorentos come with 18" alloy wheels, LED positioning lights, projection headlights, heated mirrors, sound-reducing front windows, and solar glass windows for the front and 2nd row. Moving up a grade to the X-Line model, you'll gain 20" alloy wheels, a larger bumper with metallic-look skid plates, a roof rack, more advanced AWD functions, and it will sit 1" higher than the other models. The redesigned exterior work is a big win for the 2023 Sorento, and early reviews give it a tick of approval. The new look makes the vehicle look a lot more modern and masculine compared to the 2020 model. The more aggressive stance gives off a more expensive feel, and judging the book by its cover, the vehicle looks more premium than before. The added size to the vehicle isn't too excessive, but it does give it a lot more road presence compared to the previous model. Overall, Kia's goal to change the vibe for the Sorento from a family-hauler SUV to a more sporty/off-roading SUV is on track, and the redesign has done its job to give it a new title.

2.2. Kia Telluride

Kia Telluride will have a big and bold design. The design is intended to target buyers that feel Sorento does not fit their personality. The front design is made to look muscular and bold, with a high-set hood, more upright nose, and longer front overhang. The grille design reminds me of the Land Rover Discovery, with the headlights drawn away from the grille design. Adopting 20" wheels as standard, the wheels have an elegant but muscular design. From the side, the longer Telluride's profile features a more vertical rear windshield and a far less aggressive and taut rear haunch design, the longer rear overhang featuring more explicitly. At the rear, a U-shaped body line around the edge of the hood and deep clamshell-style trunk lid provide Telluride with what Kia says is its "most premium design execution to date." They want to showcase here that Telluride is a significant improvement from the recently renewed Sorento, thus giving potential buyers a reason to buy it over the smaller sibling. From the overall design, Telluride is intended to look like a premium SUV. Kia is expecting with the grand size and more premium design execution, it will warrant a significantly higher price over the 2023 Sorento. With a side-by-side design comparison, it is evident that Kia has successfully made Telluride look more upmarket and give it a unique design when compared with its smaller siblings and its competitor, the Hyundai Palisade.

3. Interior Features

Dimensions aren't the only thing that makes the Sorento and Telluride different, so are their interior features. Telling from the outside, there seems to be no clear distinction between the two regarding the quality of the materials, let alone the specific features unique only to one vehicle. In the Telluride, the only feature that cannot be found anywhere on the Sorento is the heated steering wheel. Other than the heated steering wheel and the UVO link with remote connectivity multimedia system (which is standard in all Tellurides), all other features regarding comfort and convenience found in the Telluride can also be found in the Sorento. This includes leather seats, ventilated front seats, driver's seat, mirrors, and steering wheel memory, 2nd row sunshades, premium headliner and roof rails, 3rd row air conditioning with controls located at the 2nd row, 2nd row ventilated captain's chair, blind view monitor, and a 10.25-inch touchscreen display. This comes as no surprise seeing that both the Sorento and Telluride were designed by the same person and built on the same platform. The Sorento has one available feature that is not available in the Telluride, and that is the remote starting system with the climate control. The only feature available on the Sorento that is not available on the Telluride is only available in 2nd row higher-end models, which is the heated 2nd row seats. [2][3][4]

3.1. Kia Sorento

Despite being the smaller vehicle, the Sorento's interior space does not suffer greatly from it. The second row of the 7-seater Sorento provides 2 captain's chairs compared to Sorento's bench, however these can be optioned for bench to make for an 8-seater Sorento. Legroom in the third row is compromised with the captain's chairs, adequate leg room in the third row will require the second row to be pushed forward, which minus some leg room does still allow for enough space for an average size adult, the third row also has air conditioning controls and USB charging points. A slightly smaller outside means a better garage fit and easier to maneuver in narrow spaces. Step in height is also lower in the Sorento making entry and exit a little easier than the Telluride.

In a general sense, the Kia Sorento holds the slight edge over its older brother in the realm of interior design. Where the Telluride's interior boasts a more boxy and aggressive look, the Sorento's interior is more rounded and sleek. While still similar in appearance and design to many of the other vehicles in Kia's lineup, the Sorento's interior seems to be a nice blend of some of the more refined and stately interiors of its competitors. A noticeable absence of brushed silver plastic in the interior helps to further add to the refined and elegant look of the Sorento's interior. The Sorento's distinct lack of faux woodgrain trim is a welcome change and an overall positive for its interior design. The Sorento mainly features high quality glossy black plastic and leather for the majority of the interior components.

3.2. Kia Telluride

Looking at the Telluride on paper might scare off consumers worried about future resale and long-term quality. It will be Kia's largest and most expensive vehicle, but when you compare it to its cousin from Hyundai, the Palisade, there are no direct or higher priced competitors in its segment. Despite its tough looks, the Telluride's coverage cost is less than that of the Sorento. Pricing varies from $35,420 for the base LX to $47,620 for the SX with prestige package. All-wheel drive is a $2000 option, and buyers can add a tow package for only $795, trailering at a maximum of 5000 pounds. The Telluride comes in four different trims, and the base EX can be compared to the Sorento's highest trim: the SX. High demand and limited supply have given the Telluride a Lexus-like resale and strong quality to back it up. Its prestigious looks, luxury equipment, and impressive warranty make it a better buy than some three-row luxury vehicles.

Kia interior designs are known for their ergonomics, infotainment systems, and use of high-quality materials throughout the cabin. Without a doubt, the Telluride is the leader in every category. One of the common complaints among the automotive world is the misuse of piano black plastics, but that isn't the case with the Telluride. The center console, dashboard, and door cards are accented with silver trim or wood, depending on the trim level. Piano black plastics are limited to the location of the climate control and the surrounding areas. The use of Nappa leather can also be found on higher trims. EX and SX trims come with dual sunroofs, one more than the Sorento trims. Another available option is the captain's chair second-row seating, reducing seating from 8 to 7, but giving the second row a luxury feel with reduced seating and more room. This option includes a slide function to gain access to the third-row seating.

3.3. Comparison of Interior Space

Carrying over the 5.3-inch increase in wheelbase and 10.4-inch increase in overall length compared to its predecessor, the Telluride has a cabin that is functional and aesthetically pleasing, while offering ample passenger space in all 3 rows. It also offers a less expensive 8-passenger option for the LX and S trims with a second-row bench seat. With 7 more cu. ft. of passenger volume than the Sorento, and more cargo space behind the third row than the Sorento has behind the second row, the Telluride should be considered for those who need the extra room and don't mind paying a bit more for the extra space. [4][5]

While the Sorento is not going to be as large as the Telluride due to the vehicle class and price gap, the Sorento is really a lot roomier than I expected when I hopped in. It provides versatile seating and cargo configurations with either 6- or 7-passenger options, and is improved by a 3.1-inch-longer wheelbase and an overall length that's increased by 1.4 inches. Its added length yields more legroom for front- and middle-seat passengers, more hip, shoulder, and headroom for third-row passengers, and 5 cu. ft. more cargo capacity behind the third row.

The space inside a vehicle is one of the most important considerations for buyers. While the value of space is different for every car owner, some value it because they are carrying lots of gear. Some people value a roomy interior because they have kids to shuttle to events, while others need a lot of cargo space for their outdoor equipment. No matter what someone needs space for, both the Sorento and the Telluride have something to offer.

4. Performance and Engine Options

Kia Telluride The new Telluride comes with a 3.8L V6 engine that produces 291 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. This engine is also paired with an 8-speed automatic and delivers around 23 mpg combined, but with a comfortable 7,500-pound towing capacity. Front-wheel drive is standard and all-wheel drive is optional. The Telluride's powertrain is solid and well-rounded, but the increased torque of the Sorento's new 2.5T engine provides faster acceleration and more capability for towing and off-road driving.

Kia Sorento The new Sorento's base engine is a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder that produces 191 horsepower and 181 pound-feet of torque. This engine has less power than the last Sorento's base engine, but Kia expects a 1.7-second improvement on the 0-60 mph time. Upgrading to the all-new 2.5T engine provides 281 horsepower and 311 pound-feet of torque. This engine replaces the Sorento's prior V6 option and delivers more power with better fuel efficiency. Both engines are paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission. The 2.5L turbo is expected to achieve 23 mpg combined, while figures for the 4-cylinder have yet to be released. Front-wheel drive is standard, but all engines are available with all-wheel drive.

4.1. Kia Sorento

Kia's two models are closely matched in performance. The 2023 Sorento is slightly smaller and lighter, which will make it feel marginally faster than the Telluride. Both cars will share their safety features, etc., and as we know, the top trims of the Telluride and flagship Sorento will have the same engine anyway. The Sorento will have a 2.5L turbo 4 as well as a hybrid option with the same displacement engine. It also has a more powerful 2.5L Turbo with 281 hp and 311 lb-ft torque. With the lighter weight of the Sorento, it will feel very peppy compared to the Telluride with the same engine. However, as a whole, the Telluride has more powerful and smoother engines. With fewer variants and only an AWD system, it has a 3.8L V6 GDI with 291 hp, 262 lb-ft torque. The sole transmission is an 8-speed automatic. This front-weighted engine setup will provide more power and traction compared to the Sorento in an equivalent AWD mode; expect it to be smoother and faster. The rest of the Sorento lineup will use an FWD system with a Snow Mode, which can also send 50% torque to the rear wheels when slip is detected. The best acceleration, though, will definitely be from the new X-Line trim Sorento with a more rugged exterior and AWD system with a 6-mode operation and a 1.2-inch increase in ride height for off-road capability. Although it is only offered with a decently efficient 1.6 Turbo Hybrid, outdoor enthusiasts will appreciate the improved rough climate traction. The Sorento is rated to tow 1500 lbs for FWD variants and 2000 lbs for all AWD models.

4.2. Kia Telluride

The Telluride is based on the same platform as the Sorento, but it's longer, entitling it to seating for up to eight occupants and much more interior room. It shares its powertrain with the more modest V-6 Sorento. The Telluride's motor is the 3.8-liter Lambda II V-6, steering 291 torque and 262 lb.-ft. of force through a smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive is standard, and all-wheel drive with AWD lock is accessible on each trim. This gives the Telluride a 5,000-pound towing limit on all-wheel drive models, but be warned the front-wheel drive version is only rated for 1,650 pounds.

Most trims are set up with a 3.8-liter V-6 that makes 291 strength, offering sufficient pull but sometimes feeling coarse and sheepish. The eight-speed automatic transmission it collaborates with is awesome. Push the Telluride harder and the V-6 can get somewhat coarse as it needs to rev high and feels somewhat slow to move, which might have to do with the 4,300-pound curb weight of the enormous Kia. Fuel mileage is evaluated at 26 mpg combined at the EX trim level and under, and 23 mpg elsewhere.

4.3. Fuel Efficiency Comparison

The Kia Sorento offers potential fuel savings by dispensing with the previous V6 and using a 2.5-liter turbo-4 and 8-speed automatic transmission, a combination that nets up to 24 mpg combined. Those figures are close to the thriftiest 4-cylinder rivals, and the most efficient Sorento can reach 28 mpg highway. Kia also offers a Sorento Hybrid that pairs a 1.6-liter turbo-4, a 44-kw (59 hp) electric motor, a 1.49 kwh battery pack, and a 6-speed automatic transmission for a total output of 227 hp. The hybrid powertrain is mated to a 6-speed automatic and is available only with front-wheel drive. Rates are significantly better at 37 on the freeway and 39 mpg combined with the base LX, S, and EX trim levels; the most efficient Sorento configuration is the EX. Lastly, there is also a Sorento PHEV that uses a bigger 66.9 kw (90 hp) electric motor and 13.8 kwh battery pack to improve mixed output to 261 hp and enable all-electric driving. This Sorento is estimated to achieve 39 mpg and 79 mpge. The Telluride will cost more in gas due to its V6 and AWD. With its 3.8-liter V6 engine and 8-speed automatic transmission, the Telluride returns a competitive 21 mpg combined with 19 mpg in the city and 24 mpg on the freeway. An AWD Telluride will get 21 mpg combined with 19 mpg in the city and 24 mpg on the freeway. This will meet the energy requirements of many SUV buyers, but Sorento drivers prioritizing efficiency for short trips may also appreciate the hybrid options which are unavailable in the Telluride. Read More about SUV technology comparison.


[1] Y. Jun and H. Lee, "Multisensory congruence in brand identity: evidence from the global automotive market," Archives of Design Research, 2020. researchgate.net

[2] L. Nicoletti, A. Romano, A. König, P. Köhler, and M. Heinrich, "An estimation of the lightweight potential of battery electric vehicles," Energies, 2021. mdpi.com

[3] D. Kennedy, "Electric Vehicles: Design, Development and Growth Directions," 2022. tudublin.ie

[4] T. D. Legg, "Development of a Parallel Hybrid Energy Management Strategy with Consideration of Drive Quality and State of Charge Dynamics," 2021. vt.edu

[5] S. Capizzano, E. Drioli, M. Frappa, and F. Macedonio, "AN INNOVATIVE APPROACH TO LITHIUM PRODUCTION: THE MCr," Book of Abstracts, 2021. cnr.it​​​​​​​