A Kia Telluride Hybrid looks unlikely for the U.S. in 2023 or 2024 [Update]

  • Kia Telluride likely to remain a gas-only model in the first generation
  • Likely to continue with the 3.8L V6 engine for the foreseeable future
  • Kia expected to aim the EV9 at customers who want an electrified Telluride
  • Gas-powered Telluride delivers up to 23 MPG

Update: ‘Blockbuster sales’ section updated.

Kia has substantially expanded its partially electrified vehicle portfolio since the launch of the Niro in 2016. Almost every global Kia SUV is available with a mild-hybrid, full-hybrid, and/or plug-in hybrid system. As for a Kia Telluride Hybrid, such a model is highly unlikely to be launched anytime before 2025.

Blockbuster sales

Kia scored a home run with the Telluride in the U.S. In 2019, the year it launched the model, it sold 58,604 units. The Telluride was the sixth-highest-selling Kia in the country that year. In 2020, the first full year of sales for the model, the Telluride was the third best-selling Kia, with 75,129 units delivered. In 2021, with 93,705 units sold, the Telluride retained its third rank internally.

Even in 2022, the Telluride was Kia’s third-best-selling model in the U.S. The company delivered 99,891 units of the mid-size SUV in the country that year, 7% more than in 2021. In 2023, as of May, the Telluride remains in the third spot at Kia, with 45,750 units. Compared to the January-May 2022 period (37,707 units), sales are 8,043 units or 21% higher, which is an indication that they have cracked the puzzle. As a result of the SUV’s success, the company may not feel compelled to experiment with additional powertrains.

Kia Telluride concept front three quarter
The concept version of the Telluride (2016), which Kia developed on an extended version of the Sorento‘s platform, was a hybrid. Kia used a combination of a 270 hp 3.5L GDI V6 engine and a 130 hp electric motor, which it claimed could return 30 MPG (highway). Image Source: Kia

The Telluride has proved its mettle and worth despite the odds the auto industry has faced in both its full year of sales (2020 and 2021). The next step ideally would be to expand its powertrain selection and make it available in a hybrid and/or plug-in hybrid variant. However, a Kia Telluride Hybrid may not see the light of the day in the near future.

Guido Schenken, Hyundai’s public relations senior manager in Australia, has said that there’s no plan to electrify the Palisade in this generation, Chasing Cars reported on August 4, 2022. The Palisade is a mechanical cousin of the Telluride. If Hyundai planned to offer an electrified powertrain in the current-generation Palisade, it might make more sense to introduce the same in the Telluride. It is likely that Hyundai Motor Group will wait until the second generation of SUVs before offering electrified powertrains.

Currently, the Kia Telluride is only available with the Lambda II 3.8-liter naturally aspirated direct-injection V6 engine that develops 291 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 262 lb.-ft. of torque. An 8-speed automatic transmission is standard and an all-wheel drive system is available optionally. The gas-powered model is easy to drive and offers decent performance, although it could be better at handling. It delivers a combined fuel economy (EPA-est.) of 23 MPG (FWD)/21 MPG (AWD).

EV9: The fully-electrified alternative to Kia Telluride Hybrid prospects

Kia’s immediate focus is on its flagship EV – the Kia EV9. Kia plans to start selling the three-row SUV in the U.S. in Q4 2023. The E-GMP-based electric SUV belongs to the same segment as the Telluride and offers better performance and oodles of space, comfort, and convenience. Although it may be USD 10-15k more expensive than a Telluride Hybrid, it is likely to be cheaper to drive, maintain, and provide significant savings over its lifetime.

2024 Kia EV9 front three quarter dynamic
If Kia sees enough Telluride customers preferring the EV9, it may not need to invest in a Hybrid model. Image Source: Kia

Kia aims to convert over 80% of its sales in North America to EVs, President and CEO Ho Sung Song said during the company’s 2022 CEO Investor Day event on March 3, 2022. Future Kia EVs in the U.S., including the EV9, could be locally manufactured models. On April 5, 2023, Kia said it expects to build the EV9 in West Point, (Georgia), USA, from 2024.

TopElectricSUV says

The Telluride presents a formidable option for families in search of a unique mid-size three-row SUV, deviating from the conventional American and Japanese vehicles that have dominated the market for years. Its interior impresses with its superior quality, comfort, technology, and generous space. However, the disappointing fuel economy subtracts from its appeal as a daily driver, leading to higher operating costs. While electrification through a hybrid or plug-in hybrid system could address this concern, Kia appears to have no plans to pursue such options for the Telluride in the current gen model.

Featured Image Source: Kia