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A silver 2021 Ford Explorer is parked in a desert with a roof rack.

Sport Utility Showdown: Ford Explorer vs Kia Telluride

There’s nothing quite like the feeling of adventure. Whether you’re traveling up mountain roads or down desert trails, your vehicle needs to be able to perform optimally, so you’re able to savor the moment as you’re discovering new places. For many, SUVs are the top options available to deliver power, capability, and comfort designed to maximize any journey. If you’re looking to explore, two vehicles to compare are the 2021 Ford Explorer vs 2021 Kia Telluride.

Ford and Kia, two vastly different automakers with histories at the opposite ends of the spectrum, offer up two of the most worthy adversaries when it comes to ultimate adventure. Both of these midsize SUVs offer three rows of seats, good looks, and plenty of modern technology. So, when it comes to the 2021 Ford Explorer vs the 2021 Kia Telluride, which sport utility vehicle comes out on top to deliver an unparalleled experience no matter where your destination lies?

The Ride

We’ll start with the ride, which encapsulates everything about how each vehicle performs in any road condition. The 2021 Ford Explorer is touted as being the “Ultimate Exploration Vehicle” and proves this with its fierce capabilities and strong engine selection, including a twin-turbocharged V6 with up to 400 horsepower and an ultra-efficient hybrid that is able to get up to 27 MPG in the city and 29 MPG on the highway with its hybrid model. The Explorer isn’t just efficient; it’s strong too, with towing capabilities of up to 5,600 lbs when properly equipped. And don’t forget about getting out into nature. With the Explorer’s 4WD with Terrain Management System, navigating any type of trail or roadway is not just effortless; it’s a blast.

The 2021 Kia Telluride doesn’t have as much of a selection when it comes to engines, so drivers are stuck with a standard 3.8L V6 that can tow a maximum of 5,000 lbs. It also doesn’t perform as well in the area of fuel efficiency when compared to the Explorer, getting only 20 MPG in the city and 26 MPG on the highway. All in all, we’d like to see more excitement out of the Telluride’s engine, as well as more efficiency, because after all, you don’t want to have to worry about frequent stops when you’re jetting off on a family road trip.

When it comes to the ride, the Ford Explorer really showcases a vibrant performance with multiple powertrains to choose from, as well as maximum efficiency with its hybrid option. And with more towing capabilities, you’re able to do more in the Explorer. Unfortunately, the Kia Telluride just doesn’t live up to our expectations here.

A red 2021 Kia Telluride is shown from the front parked in the desert.

The Style

As we move on, let’s delve into the style of each vehicle, really focusing on how each one will make our travels better and more dialed in. The Ford Explorer sports a comfortable design inside its roomy cabin, marked by convenient storage solutions and plenty of space for all, which is a must – especially when you’re embarking on an adventure. With multiple options available in the Explorer lineup, you’ll be able to keep it simple with a more rugged model or turn up the class with an Explorer that emits sheer unmatched luxury throughout, making the Explorer a distinctively versatile and stylish vehicle. Built for the active traveler, the Explorer is the ideal partner when it comes to taking you to your next destination in absolute comfort and functional style.

Although the Telluride may look a bit daunting from the outside, once you step inside, it’s a completely different story. Marked by an air of refinement, the Telluride offers up a nice contemporary space for all, dotted by luxury appointments and a cozy feeling that can’t be beat. Available reclining captain’s chairs, in addition to enhanced tech like an available Head-Up Display, make the Telluride even more alluring. If you can get past its extremely rugged appearance on the outside, you’ll be impressed by the feel of its refined interior; however, if you want all the bells and whistles, you better prepare yourself to pay extra.

We like the interiors of both of these fine travelers. The Ford Explorer offers up a nicely designed cabin with loads of space for all, while the Telluride adds in lavish accents to really set it apart from the rest. Although the Telluride’s affordable price tag may have you intrigued, keep in mind that if you want the best of the best when it comes to design, that price is likely to go up… way up.

The Destination

Your destination lies ahead, and while all you may be able to focus on is arriving, keeping your passengers entertained and yourself connected is key. The 2021 Ford Explorer is equipped with all the latest safety tech, in addition to helpful driver-assist features to keep you focused on the road ahead. From standard features like blind-spot monitoring and automatic emergency braking to available upgrades like self parking assist, you’re able to maximize the success of your journey, no matter what obstacles are in your way. And with voice-activated navigation, you’ll feel confident whether you’re minutes or miles away from home.

You’ll also find a suitable selection of safety and driver-assist technology in the 2021 Kia Telluride, in addition to enhanced entertainment features to keep all onboard busy while you make your way to your destination. Although you can expect to find many standard and available options in the Telluride, drivers report that its adaptive cruise control could use some fine-tuning. And if you’re looking to keep your travelers entertained, the most desirable features, like a Harman Kardon audio system and more, are only available in the top trim.

If you’re looking to stay safe on your journey, both the 2021 Ford Explorer and the 2021 Kia Telluride offer up secure rides and have earned five stars in NHTSA crash tests. They also both include desirable tech features designed to amplify your ride and make it fun for all. Where the Telluride falls short, however, is with some of its driver-assist features, as some drivers report that certain features could be better.

A blue 2021 Ford Explorer is parked in front of a lake.

2021 Ford Explorer vs 2021 Kia Telluride

So let’s recap, shall we? When it comes to the ride, the Ford Explorer offers up a variety of powertrains, including a hybrid option for unmatched fuel efficiency, while providing you with a spirited ride with ultimate capabilities on the road or off. Ford also wows with extreme style and function within the Explorer’s spacious cabin, marked by plenty of room for everyone and everything you’re taking with you on the journey. And with its standard suite of safety and driver-assist features, in addition to navigation and entertainment features, you and your passengers will have the best experience possible as you look forward to arriving at your destination.

The Kia Telluride offers less when it comes to capabilities and efficiency with only one engine to choose from, and while its bold exterior may put some drivers off, it makes up for it with a sophisticated interior space. However, keep in mind that to enjoy maximum luxury, you’ll need to upgrade, as you won’t find it in its base model. With its safety features designed to provide ample security no matter where you’re off to next, the Telluride performs well on the road, but some drivers have issues with some of its features, especially adaptive cruise control.

When it comes to which SUV is our top pick, we have to go with the Ford Explorer. Not only are you able to take advantage of remarkable capabilities and excellent efficiency, but you also get to enjoy a spacious and comfortable cabin in addition to tech and safety features that make your ride more controlled and exciting. If you’re shopping for your next sturdy midsize vehicle, we recommend taking a closer look at the 2021 Ford Explorer and seeing for yourself how it will stir up a sense of adventure in you.