The Honda Pilot has always been a strong choice for a midsize, three-row, crossover SUV. But Kia has recently introduced an all-new model known as the Telluride that it hopes will attract shoppers with its bold styling and value.
The basics are similar. Both the Pilot and the Telluride roughly occupy the same amount of garage space, seat up to eight people, and come with standard V6 engines. But there are significant differences. Edmunds compares them to find out if the new challenger has what it takes to upset the status quo.
Seating, cargo space
Most Pilot and Telluride models have a middle-row bench seat and can seat eight, though the priciest models have captain’s chairs and can seat seven. Both are impressively roomy, but the Kia, partially because of its slightly larger windows, comes across as the airier SUV. The Telluride’s interior is also made from richer materials and is a little more interesting to look at.
It has a longer wheelbase (the distance between the front and rear wheels), which Kia uses to provide 4 more inches of middle-row legroom compared to the Pilot. Besides the obvious comfort advantage, this extra space also provides more seat-sliding leeway and versatility when installing child safety seats.
Taking on a full load of passengers? It’s a tighter squeeze to get into the Pilot’s third row, but there’s a smidgen more width and headroom once you’re seated. In the end, both third-row seats are suitable for children and average-size adults.
The Pilot and the Telluride hold similar amounts of cargo with their rear seats folded. The biggest difference comes when the third row is up and in use. Here, the Kia holds a clear advantage (21 cubic feet versus 16.5 cubic feet) that amounts to 27% more space.
You’ll find similar advanced driving assistance features on both vehicles. Standard equipment includes forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist and adaptive cruise control systems. The base Pilot also comes standard with automatic high-beam control, but the Telluride counters with standard rear parking sensors, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert systems.
The Pilot LX starts at $32,495 with destination charges included. The base Telluride LX costs $32,735. The Kia’s slightly higher base price includes the extra safety gear plus Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and more USB ports. You have to move up to the EX trim level to get those on the Honda.
The Kia’s price advantage becomes obvious if you want leather and navigation. You’ll pay $38,135 for a Telluride EX but $40,805 for a Pilot EX-L with navigation. You do get a rear-seat entertainment system with that Honda, though.
Kia maintains its pricing advantage at the top, too. The priciest Telluride SX with the Prestige package costs $46,535. A Pilot Elite is $49,065.
All-wheel drive (AWD) is generally an option. It costs you $1,900 on the Pilot and $2,000 on the Telluride. The Kia’s slightly higher cost is justified because you get an AWD lock feature that can enhance traction on unpaved surfaces.
Each SUV is powered by a V6 engine that provides strong power when you need to get onto the highway or make a quick pass. The Kia’s is rated 11 horsepower higher, but in our testing, we’ve found the Pilot is actually a half-second quicker to 60 mph.
All Tellurides come with an eight-speed automatic transmission. Honda fits most Pilots with a six-speed automatic, though the Touring and Elite trim levels get a nine-speed that helps boost fuel economy slightly.
As such, the fuel economy advantage shifts between the two SUVs depending on which configuration you choose.
Both the Pilot and the Telluride do a good job of filtering out road imperfections while holding the vehicle steady through sweeping turns. But the Telluride is a bit better at doing truck-like things.
An AWD Pilot can tow 5,000 pounds, but the front-wheel-drive version is limited to 3,500 pounds. Kia says front- and all-wheel-drive versions of the Telluride can tow 5,000 pounds, and its optional load-leveling rear suspension provides added support for trailer and cargo loads.
For those concerned with long-term coverage, Kia also offers a superior warranty. The Pilot comes with three years/36,000 miles of basic coverage and five years/60,000 miles of drivetrain coverage. Kia provides five years/60,000 miles of basic coverage and 10 years/100,000 miles of powertrain coverage.
The 2019 Honda Pilot excels at everything a family could ask for, and that is why it has been Edmunds’ top-ranked midsize three-row SUV. But thanks to its bold looks, ample space, attractive pricing and warranty, the all-new 2020 Kia Telluride edges out the Pilot to be our new top-ranked midsize three-row SUV.
Dan Edmunds is director of vehicle testing at Edmunds. Twitter: @Edmunds_Test.