Kia forges bold Telluride to fill key product void
DETROIT — The burly Telluride, Kia's largest utility vehicle to date, will join the increasingly crowded market for three-row crossovers later this year, giving the Korean brand an entry in a key light-truck segment.
The Telluride, introduced as a boxy concept at the 2016 Detroit auto show, made a glitzy pit stop during New York Fashion Week in September before its formal auto show debut on Monday in the Motor City.
It will square off against rivals such as the Ford Explorer, Toyota Highlander, Chevrolet Traverse, Buick Enclave and Mazda CX-9, and newer entries such as the Volkswagen Atlas and Subaru Ascent, as well as its platform sibling, the all-new Hyundai Palisade.
U.S. sales of large crossovers rose 11 percent to 935,337 last year, and they remain among the largest and most profitable light-truck segments.
Kia said the eight-seat crossover was designed specifically for the U.S. at its Irvine, Calif., design center. The brand aimed to give the Telluride the same presence as the "big, bold and boxy" SUVs of years past that had a "go-anywhere, do-anything attitude."
The crossover will be produced at Kia's assembly plant in West Point, Ga., and pricing will be released closer to the launch date.
Kia Motors COO Michael Cole said the Telluride will draw "aspirational people who want to make a statement, [but] need that practicality as well as having something that reflects their status and personality."
Cole said during the Los Angeles Auto Show that the Telluride is one of the vehicles, along with the Stinger sport sedan, that will show consumers that Kia isn't a company that only builds "rational products." The brand, he said, wants to convey that it can produce "emotional products with outstanding quality, durability, reliability, great technology."
The Telluride, infused with a slate of safety technologies and infotainment gadgets, is powered by a 3.8-liter GDI V-6 engine that generates 291 hp and 262 pound-feet of torque. The interior was fashioned with available upscale touches such as double-stitched, quilted and extra-padded Nappa leather trim upholstery, along with "simulated brushed metal and matte-finished wood."
Cole hopes the beefy crossover can fill a void.
"We could say we're underperforming today in the SUV market. We need stronger product in terms of filling more of the market that is available to us," Cole said in November at the L.A. show. "When Telluride comes, that opens up about 10 percent of the market that we really don't compete in today."