Last year, Kia brought the 2018 Stinger out to New York Fashion Week—an appropriate choice considering that car’s striking design. For this year’s big show, Kia is once again using the runway at New York Fashion Week to show off its latest vehicle—but this time it’s going one step further with a global debut. The 2020 Kia Telluride made a surprise first appearance today in New York, months ahead of its auto show debut in Detroit next January.
Because it’s Fashion Week, the Telluride has been dressed up a bit, wearing off-road gear that may or may not be functional to give it that oh-so-hot-right-now overlanding look. But beneath all that tacked-on equipment should be the final design of Kia’s upcoming three-row crossover. The styling has been toned down since we first saw it in concept form at the 2016 Detroit auto show, but many original elements have survived.
We don’t get the concept’s recessed square headlights with four LED projectors, but the boxy front end shape carries over to give the crossover a rugged look. The grille has been widened significantly, and the tiger nose design theme has been downplayed to a subtle notch in the top of the frame. To our surprise, the unique vertical taillights outlining the lower edges of the liftgate have made it to production, though they’re now wider and curve onto the hatch.
At the show, Kia also confirmed the Telluride will be built at its U.S. plant in West Point, Georgia. The crossover, which will accommodate up to eight passengers, will be powered by a V-6, according to Kia. It’s unclear if that will be the only engine option, but we expect the Telluride will in fact be a six-cylinder-only model given its position above the Sorento, which offers four-cylinder power and seating for up to seven. We think an updated take on the Sorento’s 290-hp naturally aspirated 3.3-liter V-6 would be a good fit, but we wouldn’t complain if Kia also offered the 375-hp twin-turbo version available in the Stinger GT. Whatever the case, we’ll find out when it arrives in early 2019.
This customized model was created by Kia’s U.S. design studio in Irvine, California, and gives a pretty good idea what to expect from the production version. Kia partnered with American designer Brandon Maxwell for the reveal, so the U.S. design team drew inspiration from the fashion star’s Texas roots with natural wood trim used in the interior and double-stitched leather upholstery on the dash, door panels, and grab handles inspired by a saddle. The exterior mirror caps are also made of leather, and even the door handles come wrapped in rich, brown cow hide.
The green exterior color is a clear nod to the concept. From here, the embellishments get a bit less OEM. The Telluride is fitted with custom front and rear bumpers, skidplates, and side step sills mounted to the rocker panels. The adventure-ized crossover rides on large split five-spoke alloy wheels finished in black and wrapped in 265/50R20 off-road tires. If you’re still not convinced by this crossover’s overland makeover, there’s a snorkel intake, off-road auxiliary lights, bumper-mounted winch, spare tire hanging off the back, and a wood and aluminum roof rack loaded with chic vintage-inspired luggage and obligatory western gear.
But strip all that away, and you’re left with a ruggedly handsome crossover that could give three-row sport utes like the Honda Pilot, Mazda CX-9, Chevrolet Traverse, Volkswagen Atlas, and Subaru Ascent a run for their money.
We should see it in full production guise and learn much more at the 2019 Detroit auto show.
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