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Kia Telluride vs Toyota Sequoia: Which SUV is the Better Choice?

1. Introduction

The choice of a car is important, even when it comes to an SUV. An SUV is still a vehicle, and driving an unpleasant or unsuitable car can be annoying and frustrating. Since both the Telluride and Sequoia are serious purchases and not budget buys or bad cars, it is important to determine which one might be a better choice. This reasoning forms the foundation for the comparison drawn here and has influenced the choice of criteria for comparing the two cars. (Klinich, 2023) 

The Kia Telluride and Toyota Sequoia are both mid-to-full-wheel drive SUVs with reasonable prices. They are also known for their quiet and spacious interiors. However, their appeal starts to diverge from this point. The Kia Telluride has gained a good reputation in the segment since its recent debut and full redesign. On the other hand, the Toyota Sequoia is an older option with a reputation for its sturdy build and dependable longevity. Despite being overdue for a remodel or replacement, many US car buyers are still drawn to the Sequoia due to the Toyota name and track record of reliability. Therefore, comparing these two vehicles could be enlightening for prospective car buyers. 

1.1 Overview of the Kia Telluride and Toyota Sequoia

It's interesting to compare these two vehicles despite their differences in age and size, the comparison is more relevant to potential Telluride buyers that want the ultimate peace of mind from a large vehicle that is capable of transporting their family through anything. It's safe to say that most are comparing the Telluride to a Honda Pilot or a Toyota Highlander but upon learning of the durability and capability of the Sequoia, they could easily reconsider their options. High-end Telluride trims also get quite expensive, and it's not out of the realm of possibility for a prospective buyer to wonder if they should just shell out more for a luxury SUV or a used Land Cruiser instead.

The Toyota Sequoia is quite a different animal, despite some superficial similarities. This SUV is a true dinosaur, having been introduced in 2008 and only getting the most minor of updates since. It is based on the Tundra pickup and features body-on-frame construction, as well as a rather thirsty 5.7-liter V8. Although the top-end trim levels offer a luxurious driving experience, this is more of a truck than an SUV for daily use and it doesn't come close to justifying its gas-guzzling nature in comparison to a modern crossover.

At first glance, the Kia Telluride looks to be an excellent option in its class. It boasts sleek European styling, a roomy interior with three rows of seating, and a long list of promising features, including an eight-speed automatic and all-wheel drive. The Telluride is also powered by a 291-horsepower 3.8-liter V6. On paper, it really does sound like the total package.

1.2 Importance of Choosing the Right SUV

It is common for individuals to become blindsided by a specific vehicle that appears to look nice, or is priced at a bargain, and fail to research the practical benefits of owning said vehicle. Here lies the first of many mistakes. While smaller vehicles may be more practical for an individual or small family with occasional passengers, they do not maximize the safety and comfort requirements of a large family on the move. As stated by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, larger, heavier vehicles generally afford more protection than smaller, lighter ones. Size and weight are among the most important factors in vehicle crashworthiness. In their most recent study of crash deaths which occurred in 2015-2018, they found that 63% of deaths in microcars and 57% in small cars occurred in single vehicle crashes, compared to only 46% in SUVs and 41% in pickup trucks. In other words, occupants of lighter passenger vehicles are at a much higher risk of accident in more dangerous conditions, and more vehicle mass will help to protect those you care most about from another less careful driver. This is an informative and harsh reality of today’s busy streets and highways. Although it is impractical to drive a tank, and no amount of size will substitute safe driving habits and awareness, large SUVs do provide a safe and sturdy option for family transportation. (Cheng et al., 2021)

The larger your family’s needs, the more important it is that you spend your money wisely. As your family grows in size and number, so do the choices that you make in ranking the safety, comfort, reliability, and overall cost of ownership of a vehicle. Many parents will hurry to buy a minivan in attempts to fulfill the ideal family transporter. However, buying a large SUV may actually be a smarter choice. Today’s large SUVs are just as safe and offer greater strength than most minivans, while handling similarly in terms of ride quality and fuel economy. The Kia Telluride and Toyota Sequoia are both top ranking SUVs for a larger family, but depending on how much large is enough, and each family’s specific needs, the choice between the two can vary greatly. Before looking into which specific vehicle to buy, it is important to understand why making the choice of a large SUV is an important one in the first place.

2. Performance and Power

Kia's approach is rather different. The Telluride responds to market trends favoring smaller, lighter vehicles. According to product planner Eddie Rayyan, it's the right vehicle at the right time. Toyota has long been a player in this segment, starting with the 1983 4Runner. When it launched a larger, more luxurious Land Cruiser in the late 1990s, the Sequoia became its full-size SUV for cost-conscious buyers. While the 4Runner has grown over the years and now nearly matches the original Land Cruiser in size and price, Toyota believes there's still room for the Sequoia. Where Kia thinks the Telluride bears a resemblance to the older Discovery, Toyota sees a chance for Sequoia to reclaim its mantle. Buyers are gravitating back from car-based crossovers, said Toyota product planning VP Ed Laukes. People need more capability, more room. Rescue missions need this vehicle. Whether active households would rather move up to a full-size domestic SUV at a few grand more is another matter. But capability is a major part of Telluride's sales pitch. The key for Kia is versatility, said vehicle development center director Steve Kosowsky. With unibody construction and independent suspension at all four corners, the second-generation Telluride will be a vast improvement in ride and handling over the original truck/BOF model. But it has to be well-rounded, it has to be capable. We can't call it an SUV and have it fall apart when it hits dirt. So the Telluride will offer all-wheel drive with a center-locking differential, and as in the last generation, there will be a Longitudinal Layout. This helps in both establishing a design identity and allowing for all-wheel drive and off-road capability. But in size and potential off-road ability, the Sequoia and Telluride will overlap. While we weren't able to get detailed specs on the forthcoming Toyota, its basic configuration is similar to the Telluride's. Both rear- and four-wheel drive will be available in a vehicle that's larger than its predecessor but still mid-pack in the full-size segment. High-grade models will go in a more premium direction, such as the Heritage Edition Land Cruiser that continues for 2020 as a sendoff for the current 200 series. The Sequoia will need to stay below Land Cruiser, though, and its point to continue serving as a value proposition in this segment would indicate that it won't climb too close to U.S.-built Land Cruiser's $85,000 starting price.

2.1 Engine Options and Specifications

Kia offers a 3.8-liter V6 with 291 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque. This engine is connected to an 8-speed automatic transmission. While this is the only engine option, it does offer excellent power and smooth transmission shifting. Toyota offers a 5.7-liter V8 engine with 381 horsepower and 401 lb-ft of torque in the 2WD model, however, it is downgraded to 381 lb-ft of torque in the 4WD model. This engine is also connected to an 8-speed automatic transmission but also offers a Multi-Mode 4WD. This engine is proven to be very reliable, smooth operating, and durable. Toyota reliability at its finest. Winner: The Toyota engine is simply too good. With more horsepower, similar MPG, and a Multi-Mode 4WD option, it's more versatile and offers more power. The Telluride engine, while good, does not match up to what is offered in the Sequoia. Step one.

2.2 Acceleration and Top Speed

The Telluride's quick acceleration and quiet highway cruising reinforce its polished character. Its 291-hp 3.8-liter V-6 and eight-speed automatic transmission take to heart the "never get stuck" mantra when pushed to their limits. Acceleration figures of zero to 60 mph in 7.1 seconds and the quarter-mile drag in 15.6 seconds are both faster than the less powerful 2019 Honda Pilot Elite with former long-term Pilot AWD. Although the Telluride has no sport mode to sharpen throttle response or transmission behavior, the transmission is decisive nevertheless and accomplishes its first-to-eighth-gear mission at relatively low engine speeds. Through a mashed throttle, the Telluride will begrudgingly provide downshifts to third or fourth gear with this action deploying automatic mode of AWD LOCK. Maximum expressive acceleration is delivered from around 3,000 redline with the variable valve timing changes at 4,500 to 5,000 rpm. This allows the engine to breathe and sing sweet notes of power. At full throttle, the V-6 is best described as smooth and sophisticated as most gear changes go unnoticed and the engine remains isolated from the cockpit as the rev-limiter will cut throttle opening at 6,500 rpm. The V-6 provides sound acceleration and throttle response is adequate, lacking any sort of lag, but an optional sport mode would be the cherry on top for Telluride enthusiasts. With the height of power described, note the Telluride is equipped with a special ECU setting for police or other fleet services. This may influence acceleration and overall driving impressions but details on this program by Kia are slim and there is no photos or other documentation to efficiently describe exactly what this program entails. A 2019 Telluride recently had a top speed recorded with a GPS tracker of 132 mph.

2.3 Towing Capacity

What's confusing is the fact that Telluride is equipped with self-leveling rear suspension, which is a very good system for towing. This is a feature that is commonly found on a vehicle dedicated to towing, however, it is not an SUV. It is safe to say that this is one of the best Kia Telluride features. This kind of feature is way more advanced compared to Sequoia's rear suspension system.

For buyers who are in need of a vehicle with relevant towing capacity, Telluride probably is the better choice between the two. It has 5,000 pounds of towing capacity compared to the 2008 Sequoia, which has 4,700 pounds, thus making Telluride better for this category. However, if a buyer simply wants to utilize the SUV's towing capability to the absolute max, Sequoia is indeed a better choice due to its heavier weight compared to Telluride. Telluride is a unibody SUV, which arguably is not as good as a heavier body-on-frame SUV when it comes to towing heavy stuff. This case applies to Telluride vs any other body-on-frame SUV.

3. Interior and Comfort

The Kia Telluride boasts a palatial, well-built cabin. Soft-touch materials are used throughout, and the top-trim version comes with optional Nappa leather upholstery. The dashboard is wide and features logically arranged controls. The dials for the climate control are easy to use and the 10.25-inch screen (8-inch screen on EX trims) integrates well with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The instrument cluster presents vital information and the available head-up display shows road speed and all driver assistance settings. The Telluride offers driver's seating in 6 or 7 passenger configurations, with user-friendly one-touch sliding access to the 3rd row seating assessable. The Telluride has 21 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third row, 46 cubic feet behind the second row, and 87 cubic feet with all rear seats folded. The Toyota Sequoia's large cabin is resplendent with wood accents and soft touch surfaces on the dash and door panels. The climate control features three zones with large dials that are user friendly. The SR5 and TRD Sport come with a 7-inch touchscreen and the Limited and Platinum trims receive a 9-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard features. The Sequoia offers optional second row captain's chairs which reduce the passenger capacity to 7. The Sequoia has 19 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third row, 40 cubic feet behind the second row and 120 cubic feet with the second and third row folded. (Herbert)

3.1 Seating Capacity and Space

Boasting ample space for seven or eight passengers, the Sequoia offers an available second-row bench that seats three, or optional captain's chairs that provide occupants with more room. Second-row captain's chairs come with a center console and are easy to access the third row. Unfortunately, the third row is fairly cramped and best suited for children. Those in the third row do not have much room to move and must make do with a lower seat and shock-absorbing. However, the Telluride offers an impressive amount of space for its passengers. With seating for seven or eight occupants, all Telluride models come with second-row captain's chairs. These chairs are best suited for adults and provide a high level of comfort and convenience. Access to the third row is trouble-free with the touch of a button that slides the seat forward. The third row is as spacious as the second, with generous headroom and legroom, and reclining adjustable seats that can be easily utilized to find the perfect position.

Headroom, legroom, and shoulder room are all generous in the first and second-row areas. In the second row of both the Telluride and Sequoia, the space is equally roomy and this is where all the differences are made. The Telluride offers extra space between the second and third row, making it easier to access the third row. Third-row Telluride passengers have significantly more room than their Sequoia counterparts, with extra space and the ability to recline and adjust the seat without feeling too cramped.

The Kia Telluride has the edge over the Toyota Sequoia in terms of passenger space and comfort with its seating for eight people, compared to the seven or eight-seat Sequoia. Both models provide ample space in the front and comfortable seating, especially with some options. The Sequoia has made numerous changes in the most recent year. Both models are available with second-row captain's seats or a three-person seat that creates seating capacity for seven, up to eight.

3.2 Premium Features and Technology

Premium features on the Kia Telluride include an available 10.25-inch touchscreen with head-up display, a Harman Kardon audio system, 8 total USB charging ports, and an available wireless phone charger. Kia's UVO3 telematics system and available smartphone app offer advanced telematic features. The services are free for the first five years and include the ability to set speed, curfew, and geographical boundary alerts, and find the vehicle location or receive 24-hour roadside assistance. Another interesting feature is the Driver Talk feature, which can project the driver's voice to the second and third row through the speakers and rear entertainment system. On specific trims, buyers will have Nappa leather interior and a heated steering wheel available. The Telluride comes standard with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The new Sequoia's 7-inch touchscreen is what many consider to be outdated and limited in size with the current market. It has adequate resolution and does include navigation on Premium models. Toyota does offer a Premium Audio system with Dynamic Navigation and JBL, but no further information is currently available. The Sequoia has 5 USB ports and a 12V outlet in all seating rows. Other notable features include tri-zone automatic climate control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, and a moonroof. The Sequoia has not been given a confirmed list of standard features, but Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are expected — just not in the 2019 model.

3.3 Cargo Space and Versatility

Cargo space and versatility are areas where the Kia Telluride shines, particularly when compared to other vehicles in the full-size arena. The amount of space behind the third row ranges from 21 cubic feet in the dual sunroof models to 21.7 cubic feet in the Telluride with a single sunroof. This is significantly greater than the Toyota Sequoia, which offers 18.9 cubic feet of space behind the third row. Kia designers have come up with many versatile features to fill the cargo area. Depending on the model, they include a bag hook, a cargo net, and an under-floor storage tray. Both vehicles include 60/40 split folding 2nd and 3rd rows to open up large cargo areas. The Telluride's cargo area expands to 46 cubic feet with the third row folded and 87 cubic feet with the second and third rows folded. That's helpful if you plan to often fill the vehicle with passengers and cargo. At its max, the Sequoia can carry 66.6 cubic feet of cargo with the 3rd row folded, but that space decreases to 120 cubic feet with 2nd and 3rd row seats folded – unspectacular numbers considering the Sequoia's substantial size.

4. Safety and Reliability

For safety, the Telluride comes with a number of standard advanced safety features not included in the base model of the Sequoia including, but not limited to: automatic emergency braking, lane keeping assist, rear cross-traffic alert, and blind spot collision avoidance. It also has an available driver-assist package for the EX and above that includes features such as lane following assist, highway driving assist, and a 360-degree camera view. The IIHS has named the Telluride a Top Safety Pick for 2020 and it received nearly perfect scores in crash testing. The Sequoia is equipped with Toyota Safety Sense and has a number of safety features standard as well such as lane departure alert, automatic high beams, and dynamic radar cruise control. However, its most recent model is nearly a decade old and it received poor crash test ratings from the IIHS. In comparing the two, the Telluride offers a more modern and arguably safer driving experience.

The Telluride's long-term reliability is still somewhat unknown, as it has only been on sale for a short time. That said, Kia's long-term reliability has been steadily improving and the Telluride comes with an industry standard 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty that is fully transferable to a potential second owner. Toyota is known for building vehicles that can last many years with minimal issues and the Sequoia is near the top of the list in regards to long-term reliability. However, its warranty only covers powertrain components for 5 years/60,000 miles or 6 years/70,000 miles depending on the original date of service. Given its consistency in dependability, the Sequoia's warranty may be less of a selling point, but comparing the two on the basis of reliability it's tough to argue against the fact that Toyota is the more proven brand.

4.1 Crash Test Ratings and Safety Features

The Kia Telluride, though a new model, carries the honor of best safety rating in its class. It received 'Good' ratings in every category by IIHS, including collision, head restraints, and a further subcategorical rating in crash prevention and mitigation, displaying a safe and secure vehicle for passengers. It also rated 9.5/10 stars by J.D. Power and a remote chance of rollover according to NHTSA. On the other hand, the Toyota Sequoia fairs slightly below the Telluride. It holds slightly worse ratings by both NHTSA and the IIHS. The NHTSA gave the Sequoia 4/5 stars in their frontal crash and rollover rating, and the IIHS gave it marginal ratings in both headlight and LATCH ease of use. While neither vehicle displays a strikingly poor safety rating, both IIHS and NHTSA tests show that the Telluride is a step ahead in terms of crash test safety. In regard to safety features Kia's current ads claim that the Telluride comes with numerous safety features, such as blind spot avoidance, safe exit assist, highway driving assist, lane following assist, and parking distance warning. These features are available on different trim models for the Telluride. At this time there is no comparison from Toyota's webpage that compares the safety features found in the Telluride to those in the Sequoia, so we can assume that the Telluride has a slight advantage with safety features due to its modernity and the lack of information on the Sequoia's page.

4.2 Long-Term Reliability and Maintenance Costs

Toyota's cost of maintenance is considered to be less than average according to the same CR data that was used for predicted reliability, and this data goes up through 2018. This can imply that the costs for maintaining the model are low in comparison. KIA's Predicted Maintenance Costs for ownership were rated to be fair, and this is also compared against the same average model data. Unfortunately, there is no information on the cost of maintenance for the Telluride or the past several years of Toyota.

Crash Test ratings from the NHTSA and IIHS are crucial in predicting how safe a vehicle will be as it ages due to the nature of wear and tear from driving. Unfortunately for the Telluride, as a first-year model, it has not yet been tested for crashworthiness. These ratings will be updated once the tests are done, but they will be imperative in gauging how reliable the Telluride will be from a safety standpoint. The Sequoia has quite poor predicted reliability compared to the Telluride. It scores roughly 60% less than the average model reliability over the first five years. This data is consistent with the outdated platform that the Sequoia is still using, which has been in production since 2007 and has seen few changes. In terms of changes, there are fewer in quality and improvement, so its ratings are below average in more recent years. A poor reliability rating on an outdated model suggests that the Sequoia will likely become less reliable in comparison to its earlier models from a safety and maintenance standpoint.

One major concern for any car buyer is how long their car will be dependable. According to Consumer Reports' predicted reliability model, the Telluride is expected to be about 33% more reliable than the average model in its first year, followed by around 16% in its second model year. Predicted builds for US models were based on historical data from the brand's previous four years. Given that this is the first model year of the Telluride, this is an estimation for the reliability of a first-year model. This data suggests the Telluride is considered to be more reliable than the average new car model starting out, and it shows that KIA is making its excellence in initial quality translate to its dependability in the Telluride's first model years. These ratings were based on anticipated reliability of powertrain, body hardware, paint, interior, and features.

4.3 Warranty Coverage and Customer Satisfaction

Kia beat Toyota with a surprising number of warranty coverage for the Telluride: 10 years/100,000 miles both in basic and powertrain. It is the longest coverage option in the SUV segment. It also offers free maintenance for 5 years/60,000 miles. This is a complete package to ensure customers that the Telluride will be one of the reliable big SUVs in the future. From this fact, we can know that Kia is putting a strong commitment in a product that they believe. This is portraying Kia as an automotive company with rapid development. This rapid progress from Kia in various sectors no doubt will make the customer feel that the decision to purchase the Telluride is the best choice.

We searched Kia Telluride vs Toyota Sequoia about warranty coverage and customer satisfaction. Here is the answer. Customer satisfaction is an explicit driver in the Telluride's critics. It got Consumer Guide Best Buy and Kiplinger Best Value Award. These awards are highlighting vehicle the best in quality, price, and special feature. This is a good example of how the Telluride is the best choice for a big SUV. The act of beating Toyota is also a satisfactory accomplishment considering Toyota is a known brand for an SUV. Besides that, good customer satisfaction was followed by good warranty coverage. Toyota Sequoia only offers 3 years/36,000 miles basic, 5 years/60,000 miles powertrain, and free maintenance for 2 years/25,000 miles. It's actually a decent number, but wait until you see what Kia will offer. Compare large SUVs.


Klinich, K. D., 2023. Survey of Vehicle Controls and Displays. umich.edu

Cheng, G., Cheng, R., Pei, Y., & Han, J., 2021. Research on highway roadside safety. Journal of advanced transportation. hindawi.com

Herbert, M., . Quantum and Cancer Biology Research Literatures. cancer. cancerbio.net​​​​​​​