Kia’s Successful Telluride Goes Off Road, And On-Screen, For 2023

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When you’ve got a model in your line up that has already won North American SUV of the Year, World Car of the Year, Edmunds Top Rated SUV, and at least a dozen other high-profile industry awards, it would be easy, and reasonable, to kick back and bask in the automotive love. But Kia isn’t known for resting on its laurels, as the brand’s ongoing success over the past 10-plus years confirms.

With the 2023 Kia Telluride approaching its mid-cycle refresh, along with the ongoing popularity of off-road-oriented SUV trims strewn across the industry, it’s not surprising to see Kia turn to is new “X-Line” and “X-Pro” trims, which already made their debuts on the 2023 Sportage, as the next logical step in Telluride evolution.

These off-road trims include the standard treatment we’ve seen from other brands, including more “aggressive” exterior styling cues, specific wheel designs wearing off-road tires, and a slight (0.4-inch) lift in ride height to improve off-pavement clearance. These X-Line/X-Pro-specific changes are in addition to added tech and safety features for the Telluride in 2023, ranging from a digital (smartphone-based) key that works with Apple and Android models to larger 12.3-inch interior displays to improved driver-assist technology. Many of these improvements mirror the Kia Telluride’s mechanical twin, the 2023 Hyundai Palisade featured here.

More intriguing than the Telluride’s new features and tech is the new approach the brand is taking in the SUV’s advertising campaign. Kia has a history of creating memorable commercials, and the 2023 Telluride is the latest product to bask in the company’s creative TV messaging. Given the emphasis on off-road performance for the latest Telluride it’s not surprising to find the latest commercial focusing on this area.

We can’t go into detail regarding the new commercial’s storyline, but we’ve seen not only the story board but the actual shooting location for said commercial. It was high in the Rocky Mountains, about 4,000 feet above the town of Telluride, on a boulder-strewn peak with challenging terrain and turbulent weather.

After witnessing the shooting spectacle we spoke with Ben Purcell, Chief Creative Officer at David & Goliath, Kia’s creative agency of record. “This vehicle is another level in every sense of the word, and we want to demonstrate how that looks and where it can go. With a lot of competitors you might just see running footage of a vehicle performing, and for us we want to show that off but there has to be more to it — a human connection.”

We also talked to Russell Wager, VP of Marketing at Kia America, about how the Telluride’s industry-wide success has impacted the larger Kia brand. “Telluride launched 3 years ago and we saw higher income, higher education, lower age and higher transaction prices for the vehicle. We also saw new buyers we’d never seen in the brand, 75 percent first-time Kia buyers. In the following years, for each SUV launch we did, the Telluride gave us a halo. People who couldn’t afford the three-row Telluride SUV said ‘I’m going to get as much of that as I can’, so we saw our all-wheel-drive mix go up, we saw our trim mix go up on the Seltos and Sorrento when they launched. Telluride has put the halo over our entire SUV line, and every one of our vehicles has experienced the same shift, higher income, higher education, higher transaction price.”

In the realm of automotive success stories, the Kia Telluride ranks up there with the original VW Beetle and Ford Mustang — at least in terms of near-universal praise from both critics and consumers. Of course supply chain challenges for Kia (and every other automaker) are limiting the Telluride’s sales volume compared to those earlier models.

But Kia knows it has a winner, and it’s investing in the Telluride’s continued success with a new creative campaign that will debut during the Emmy’s next month. Based on what we saw high in the Rockies recently, the Telluride’s awareness levels (and sales pace) will continue with the 2023 refresh and new TV commercial.

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