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Kia’s vision for a future full-sized luxury SUV that will sit above the Kia Sorento took shape at the 2016 North American International Auto Show with the debut of the Kia Telluride Concept.

The three-row, seven-seater SUV concept is actually based on an existing platform that already underpins the Sorento. To accommodate the bigger size of the Telluride, Kia stretched the wheelbase of the chassis to 121.3 inches, almost a foot longer than the wheelbase of the Sorento. Its massive size notwithstanding, the Telluride also comes with a dramatic body design that’s fixing to attract its fair share of fans. Inside, Kia loaded up on the technology, even though most of them is unlikely to make it to production anytime soon.

The whole SUV, for that matter, is simply a “theoretical” exercise for Kia so even if the Telluride does get positive reviews from the gathered folks at Detroit, there are no assurances that Kia will proceed with a production version anytime soon. That’s not to say that a full-sized luxury SUV isn’t going to happen for the Korean brand. It just means that we shouldn’t hold out hope of seeing the Telluride in showrooms in the near future.

Continue reading to learn more about the Kia Telluride Concept.

  • 2016 Kia Telluride Concept
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  • Displacement:
    3.5 L
  • 0-60 time:
    6 sec. (Est.)
  • Top Speed:
    155 mph (Est.)
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2016 Kia Telluride Concept
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The exterior of the Telluride Concept is the unquestioned highlight of the entire package. Dressed in a Dark Pyrite Green finish, the Telluride is what I like to call a retro design done right. It eschews the curvaceous styling characteristics of today’s SUVs in favor of a muscular and more upright stance. The front end, in particular, has the styling feel of those old school American trucks. Kia’s “tiger nose” grille is still there, but even that comes in a no-frills, rectangular shape that’s a far departure from what we’re used to seeing in other Kia models. To keep some resemblance of modernity, the Korean automaker installed quad-LED headlamps and horizontal LED indicator lights. Kia even separated the two to create a little bit of distinction and balance on a front section that’s otherwise dominated by that tiger nose grille. A polished-metal skid plate just below the bumper rounds out the details of the Telluride’s impressive front end design.

A polished-metal skid plate just below the bumper rounds out the details of the Telluride’s impressive front end design.

The side profile of the full-size SUV concept follows the same design treatment. There are no excess curves that takes away from the identity of the full-sized SUV. The high shoulder actually extends from the top corner of the headlights all the way to the vertical taillights, creating a unified look that, in my mind, is another strong suit of the Telluride’s overall aesthetics. The doors are predictably of the concept variety, specifically the suicide doors on the rear. It’s one of the few modern innovations of the Telluride’s exterior and one that actually makes for a welcome addition in the segment.

The rear section is somewhat muted, although I suspect that Kia intentionally did this to remain consistent with the SUV’s overall design language. The only prominent details are the pair of thin, vertical taillights, the rear spoiler on the roof that also incorporates the horizontal brake lights, and the dual exhaust tips.

The SUV’s dimensions fit its billing as a full-sized, luxury SUV. It’s 196.9 inches long, 70.9 inches tall, and 79.1 inches wide, making it 9.5 inches longer, 4.4 inches taller, and 4.7 inches wider than the current Kia Sorento. No wonder Kia described the Telluride as a potential preview of a future luxury SUV that would sit above the Sorento. Rounding out the exterior design are a set of new 22-inch five-spoke wheels wrapped in Hankook Ventus ST 275/45R22 tires. 


2016 Kia Telluride Concept
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The four captain chairs make up the first two rows and the entire cabin is spacious enough for the middle seats to have large fold-away footrests.

I still don’t know if it’s a good thing or a bad thing, but there are far too many things going on in the interior of the Telluride. On one end, the configuration of the cabin fits the bill of what I like in a full-size SUV. The four captain chairs make up the first two rows and the entire cabin is spacious enough for the middle seats to have large fold-away footrests. When not in use, these footrests can be folded neatly, creating more legroom for the occupants. The foldable third-row bench seats are largely an afterthought. It’s those captain chairs that’s really important for Kia. See, each of these seats are embedded with Smart Sensors that can read the vital health information of its occupants. These sensors work in concert with a Light Emitted Rejuvenation (LER) system that can supposedly improve the passengers’ energy levels through an LED panel under the sunroof that displays a veritable light show of sorts.

Kia didn’t cite any medical references behind the effectiveness of this system so I’m taking this one with a pinch-full of salt until there’s actually enough data to back it up. In any case, it’s a fancy addition that’s unlikely to make it to any production model in the near future.

The other bit of technology, and one that’s a lot more attainable for modern-day use than the LER system is Swipe Command - a touch-sensitive, interactive band mounted to the second row center console. The band works like a display unit in the dashboard, giving occupants in the rear seats access to a plethora of media options that can be played through a seven-speaker Harman Kardon system or portable Harman Kardon headphones.

Wireless cell phone charging is also available on the Telluride and is located in a compartment in the center stack. Finally, the Telluride’s cabin also contains Kia’s first attempt at using 3D-printing technology. A handful of components on the dashboard, door panels, and steering wheel were created using 3D-printing.


2016 Kia Telluride Concept Exterior
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Lost in all the hullabaloo of the Kia Telluride’s incredible design and hyperbaric-like interior is a hybrid system that features a transverse-mounted 3.5-liter GDI V-6 engine and an electric motor. The former is responsible for 270 horsepower of the powertrain’s total output while the latter contributes 130 horsepower, bringing the total output to 400 ponies. No mention was made on how much torque the hybrid engine is capable of producing, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see those numbers reach around 280 pound-feet of torque.

The concept is powered by a hybrid system that features a transverse-mounted 3.5-liter GDI V-6 engine and an electric motor.

Likewise, performance numbers weren’t mentioned and I’ll venture a guess that those figures aren’t important enough for Kia, given the Telluride’s concept status. The company did say that the hybrid powertrain can achieve more than 30 mpg on the highway, a figure that’s surprisingly modest on account of its hybrid makeup. The Telluride also comes with all-wheel drive system, meaning that all that power it generates is routed to the all four wheels.


2016 Kia Telluride Concept Exterior
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The Kia Telluride is a perfect illustration of a company’s attempt to showcase a design that’s fit for the times and combined with technologies that aren’t quite there yet. It’s a little confusing, if I’m to be honest. On one hand, the Telluride looks like a million bucks. If Kia decided to launch it based on its looks, it’s going to attract a lot of potential buyers. On the other hand, the technologies in the cabin, specifically that LER system seems like a complete reach into the future. Functionally, it has a purpose, but the bigger question is if it actually works. Right now, Kia hasn’t shown that it can actually rejuvenate someone’s energy. I mean, isn’t it just as likely that the lights show can trigger an epileptic attack instead? Those are questions that are best served for another day. For now, I’m giving the Telluride high marks for its unique and purposeful look, with everything else filed under the “to be determined’ category.

  • Leave it
    • It’s not going to production
    • LER system makes a lot of promises
    • Fuel rating has to be a conservative estimate, right?
Kirby Garlitos
Kirby Garlitos
Automotive Aftermarket Expert -
Kirby’s first exposure into the world of automobiles happened when he caught Knight Rider on television as a five-year old boy. David Hasselhoff didn’t leave much of an impression on him (that happened later on in Baywatch), but KITT certainly did. To this day, Kirby remains convinced that he will one day own a car with the same ‘spirit’ as the original KITT (not the 2008 monstrosity). He doesn't know when that will be, but until then, he’s committed to expressing his love for KITT, and all cars for that matter, here at TopSpeed.  Read full bio
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Press Release

Glimpsing a future that is grounded in reality but not bound by the present, Kia Motors America (KMA) today unveiled a cutting-edge vision for a full-size SUV at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS). The Telluride, a striking three-row, seven-passenger, luxury SUV concept features a modern and upright shape, muscular stance, and state-of-the-art technology to care for its occupants. Purely conceptual, the Kia Telluride is based on an existing platform and reveals the brand’s interest in potentially offering a premium SUV positioned above the current hot-selling Sorento.

2016 Kia Telluride Concept Exterior
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“The Kia Telluride makes an aesthetic statement for the Kia brand as a bold, all-new luxury SUV with an abundance of advanced technology, focusing particular attention on the experience and comfort of second-row occupants,” said Tom Kearns, chief designer, Kia Design Center America (KDCA). “Longer, wider and taller than the recently redesigned Sorento CUV, Telluride allows us to envision what a full-size seven-passenger SUV from Kia could look like.”

Telluride’s front doors and rear-hinged back doors swing open 90 degrees in opposing directions, creating an expansive and inviting portal into the panoramic interior space and revealing a technological showcase. Four beautiful black-leather captain’s seats appear to float within the spacious cabin in front of a folded third-row bench. The large cabin allows the middle seats to recline nearly flat and include large fold-away footrests for sublime comfort. All four seats include a series of precise diamond-cut openings in the seatback, each embedded with Smart Sensors to capture a passenger’s vital health information. Once obtained, these vitals are displayed on the interior door panel screens, which then systematically synchronize with a Light Emitted Rejuvenation (LER) system. The LER system utilizes a massive, wing-shaped LED panel mounted beneath the oversized sunroof that displays a pattern of therapeutic light to treat desynchronosis (jetlag) and improve the passengers’ energy levels.

2016 Kia Telluride Concept Exterior
- image 661761

Another unique technology introduced in Telluride is Swipe Command – a thin, touch-sensitive, interactive band mounted to the second row center console – which allows rear-seat passengers to quickly scroll and select desired media by simply swiping their hand. The selected media is then played either through the seven-speaker premium Harman Kardon® audio system, or via a set of portable Harman Kardon® headphones that wirelessly charge when stowed in the console. Up front, a compartment in the center stack allows for wireless cell phone charging, and Kia’s first use of 3D-printed components add a distinct, modern design element to the dashboard, door panels, and steering wheel.

Telluride’s interior and exterior were penned at the brand’s California-based studio, Kia Design Center America (KDCA). Finished in Dark Pyrite green paint, the tall stance is amplified by the overall size of the vehicle. At 70.9-inches tall, 79.1-inches wide and 196.9-inches long, Telluride is 4.4-inches taller, 4.7-inches wider, and a sizable 9.5-inches longer than the current Sorento. Underpinning the Telluride is a modified Sorento chassis with a wheelbase stretched 11.9 inches to 121.3 inches, giving Telluride a dominating presence. It’s modern and muscular appearance is accentuated by flared fenders stretching around massive 22-inch five-spoke wheels wrapped in Hankook® Ventus ST 275/45R22 tires. Telluride’s front fascia incorporates a much larger version of Kia’s signature tiger nose grille, and its menacing face brings an attitude all its own with recessed quad-LED headlamps, pronounced horizontal LED indicator lights, and an aggressive polished-metal skid plate below the bumper. In the rear, thin vertical taillights align with the modern design language of the SUV, while consistent styling cues across the front and rear door handles, hood scoops and dual exhaust tips enhance the vehicle’s solid appearance.

2016 Kia Telluride Concept Exterior
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With an innovative combination of cutting-edge technologies, the Telluride’s powertrain is a near-future, no-compromises propulsion system, offering both power and efficiency. A finger-print activated push-button start unleashes Telluride’s tremendously potent yet extremely efficient PHEV powertrain. Utilizing a 3.5-liter gasoline direct injected (GDI) V6 engine and powerful electric motor, Telluride’s transverse-mounted powertrain combines to produce 400 horsepower (270 horsepower from V6 and 130 horsepower from the electric motor) while achieving more than 30 mpg on the highway. Power is routed to all four wheels via an advanced all-wheel drive system.

While there are currently no plans to bring the Telluride to production, Kia has a history of delivering production vehicles that bear strong resemblance to preceding concepts, and Kia’s large SUV is anything but a utopian fantasy.

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