“Imagine being a top Kia executive. Not only do you have to deliver under extreme pressure and make everyone happy, but you have to go to bed every night knowing there’s an empty spot at the top of your SUV range. It’s rough…”
2016 North American International Auto Show – Kia Telluride Concept
I feel like I live a good chunk of my life working as a Kia PR representative, as I often find myself explaining to people the great success story that is Kia Motors in the U.S. So if you ever ask me for car advice, do know that you will hear how Kia has gone from selling the most basic, inexpensive and at times—questionable vehicles, to class-leading cars and SUVs with top safety ratings, top resale value, and best initial quality in the business in just 14 years, which is an incredible feat.
I took a few days off from being a non-paid Kia PR rep to head over to Detroit, Michigan for the 2016 North American International Auto Show, or as most of us call it—the Detroit Auto Show. That’s where Kia’s Chief Operating Officer, Executive Vice President, and all around cool dude (he once made sure my kids had thoroughly enjoyed the Kia Sedona), introduced us to the future of the brand’s SUV lineup. And guess what, it’s full size, and it’s hot.
Say hello to the Kia Telluride concept. The Telluride is a full-size, three row, seven passenger luxury SUV, and according to Kia it will transport its occupants from urban jungles to upscale ski resorts with might and panache.
The idea behind the Telluride is to hint at the future, while being grounded to reality, which to me sounds like Kia might actually consider putting this beauty into production. Regardless, the Telluride’s exterior is elegant and clean with smooth but muscular lines throughout the hood, wheel arches and doors, while the signature Kia tiger nose grille is considerably larger than usual and therefore much more menacing and exclusive looking.
My favorite design queue of the Telluride is by far the quad-LED headlamps, which contrast in striking manner against the flared fenders and massive 22-inch Bentley-esque wheels. The rear end is equally gorgeous and dominated by large vertical LED taillights and a chromed diffuser that houses dual exhaust pipes.
Although the exterior design is not a far cry from reality, the interior is a different story. The Telluride features unique technology such as the Light Emitted Rejuvenation system (LER) which uses a massive amount of roof mounted LED lights to display a therapeutic light show to treat jet lag and improve the occupant’s energy levels. I told you it was way crazier…
Once the press conference pressure dissipated, I had the incredible opportunity to do a detailed walk around of the Kia Telluride with Kia’s Design Center of the Americas Chief Designer—Tom Kearn, and I asked him the one question that most designers hate. In fact, I asked him two of the same question— which was his favorite exterior and interior feature? Asking a designer such thing is like asking a parent to choose their favorite child.
Thankfully Tom is a super cool guy, and he quickly ran to the opposite side of the vehicle to show me how much he loves the profile of the Kia Telluride, and then he energetically opened the suicide-doors to explain his love for the overall dashboard design. Even though it’s just a concept, I could feel that Tom and his team put some serious love and passion into the Telluride’s design.
Everyone with a Kia name badge in Detroit repeated the fact there are no current plans of bringing the Telluride to production, but Kia has a history of being sneaky and delivering production vehicles with strong resemblance to their prototype counterparts, so only time will tell.
Michael Sprague wrapped the press conference by saying that Kia will monitor the global response to the Telluride, and pretty much go from there. Well, Mr. Sprague, I say you build the darn thing!
The entire Kia lineup was present in Detroit, and I can’t help but think that all of those vehicles were concepts at some point… there is hope!
Photography by Sean Grove and Jerry Perez.