I’m guessing I’m not the only one who’s become way too familiar with my immediate surroundings. Sometimes, you just have to get away. But where to go? I don’t want to endanger myself, my wife, or anyone else. The mountains are always a good option, but just because I’m feeling stir-crazy, that doesn’t mean that I should put the people of a small mountain community at risk.
This was the thinking that led me to the question, what if I don’t stop? What kind of road trip could I do on a single tank in our long-term 2020 Kia Telluride? We packed a lunch so we wouldn’t have to stop for food, filled up at our local gas station, and hit the road. Our route would take us east to the small mountain town of Idyllwild, California. We would then continue past Lake Hemet, through Temecula, and eventually, after many hours, find our way back home. Google Maps put the trip at 270 miles, and although that theoretically wouldn’t run the tank dry, Idyllwild sits up a beautiful, dramatically twisty mountain road, above 5,000 feet elevation. My wife and I tend to take a lot of detours to explore interesting roads that we come across. I figured by the end of the day we we’d have covered enough miles that the Telluride would be sucking vapors like those pre-cancerous Instagram influencers you see: “Blowing fat clouds, yo!”
Before we got to the mountainous portion of the trip we had roughly 100 miles of highway driving. The Kia Telluride is a great road trip vehicle. The front seats are comfortable, and even in our low-spec Telluride S the stereo is decent. The suite of Drive Wise features, including radar sensing cruise control, works well and makes long stretches of highway cruising a breeze.
Our 2020 SUV of the Year is also very roomy. This trip would only involve me, my wife, and our dog, but a while back coworker and SEO genius Thomas Rosquin borrowed the Telluride to tale his family on a short getaway. Rosquin maxed out the Telluride’s three-row capacity with seven people and their luggage. He commented, “The ability to slide the second row forward and recline the third row made for a very livable rear seat.” He also complimented the number of USB ports, indicating that it kept his children connected and happy during their trip.
I very rarely utilize the rear seats for human occupants, but the sliding second-row bench seat is great for our dog hammock. Our worthless fleabag (read: spoiled rotten and valued member of the family) is on the smaller side, and I like to slide the seats forward to minimize the distance that he would move around in the event of an emergency stop. With the third row stowed and the second row slid all the way forward, the Telluride has a cavernous amount of cargo room. An additional comfort feature for our furry family member is the ceiling-mounted climate control vents. This may seem like an odd thing to call out, but many pet hammocks and seat protectors block the vents located low on the rear center console.
As the straight highway gave way to the tight, twisty switchbacks, the Telluride never hiccupped. This is one of the better-handling SUVs in the three-row segment, and if you’re going to frequent twisty mountain roads, I highly recommend the AWD version. But with the dog in the back seat, I wasn’t pushing the limits of grip, and our front-driver handled just fine. The Mazda CX-9 sits atop my list for handling, but it doesn’t hold a candle to the Telluride’s people-hauling abilities. The Kia’s 3.8-liter V-6’s 291 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque was more than enough to keep us moving as we climbed.
We continued through picturesque Idyllwild and stopped at an empty mountain overlook near Lake Hemet for our picnic lunch. Breathing the thin, pine-scented mountain air was quite refreshing and paired perfectly with our sandwiches.
The road home leads south out of the mountains and descends in a much more subtle manor. We connected back with the highway near Temecula and spent the final 90 miles of our drive lamenting our short-lived visit to the mountains and daydreaming of owning a cabin in the woods. As we pulled into our driveway, the trip computer read out 330.2 miles with an indicated fuel economy 23.8 mpg. Did we almost run dry? Not even close. We still had over a quarter of a tank and an estimated range of 150 miles to empty.
Although our trip didn’t end in a nail-biting, puckered coast to a gas station, it was a much-needed respite. It also highlighted the Kia Telluride’s strengths as a long-distance road trip vehicle. Whether your family consists of humans or canines, the Telluride will get you there and back in comfort.