Something started to happen at SEMA in late 2018, Toyota was challenged by nearly every automaker out in the capable pick up and SUV segment. Overland spec vehicles were all the rage with entries by Ford with the new Ranger, Chevrolet with the Colorado, and the two new kids on the block: the Kia Telluride and the Volkswgen Atlas. Lets break down these SUVs and see if they could potentially hang with the likes of the legendary Land Cruiser.
Is the Telluride just another grocery getting, soccer practice driving, midsize SUV, or does it have real off road potential? Based on the pictures alone, the answer is no, with low ground clearance and approach and departure angles made for the parking lot at the local Sears (RIP). But lets dig into the specs a little more to see if there’s something to the Telluride’s hype. With 21 cubic feet of cargo space (with all three rows of seats in place) and 87 cubic feet of cargo space (with the seats lowered), Kia’s largest SUV to date has plenty of room for all of the latest overland gear Instagram has to offer. So the interior has all the techy stuff you would expect in a 2019 vehicle but what about the drive train? Boasting 291 hp and 262 lb/ft of torque out of the 3.8l V6 gets 22mpg combined which makes it perfect for long hauls both on and off road. If you’re looking to tow your smaller travel trailer with the Telluride then you’re in luck because 5000lb towing capacity should be plenty to get you to the campground and back. Kia’s biggest obstacle to competing with the big boys off road is having an AWD system vs a true a 4WD drive train. Time will tell if all the cool guy parts shown at SEMA will every hit the consumer market, and if the Telluride will make a splash in the Overland scene but at a price of around $45k I won’t hold my breath.
The Basecamp is a new concept vehicle based on the 2019 Volkswagen Atlas SEL Premium and shows the possibilities of VWs newest kid hauler. Aside from some cosmetic upgrades, the Basecamp offers everything you can get in the production model Atlas plus a 1.5″ coilover lift and upgraded wheels and tires. Using the SEL Premium for this comparison, the Atlas stacks up well against the Telluride. The 276 hp 266 lb/ft of torque 3.6 is slightly less fuel efficient than the Kia, and has a 7 speed transmission compared to the Kia’s 8 speed trans. Towing with this vehicle will be no issue as it has the same 5,000lbs capacity as the Telluride. The Atlas is also equipped with the proven 4Motion AWD system that they’ve used in their other cars and SUVs in the past. Going inside the max cargo capacity (with the seats folded) slightly tops the Kia at 96 cubic feet, and it has everything you’d expect out of a new Volkswagen.
So with all that said, will Toyota be shaking in its boots anytime soon? Probably not. At high $40k price points there are much better options like a TRD Pro 4 Runner if your goal is coast to coast overlanding. As most of us aren’t YouTube famous, sponsored overlanders, either one of these mid sized SUVs could be comfortable daily drivers and excellent off pavement vehicles. Personally, I’d choose the Atlas to be Maple X’s tow vehicle as I am prefers Volkswagen’s interiors and tech to Kias, but I think both are great options as long as your expectations are realistic about the their true off road capabilities.