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Rumor Mill: High-zoot Kia Sounds Like a Good Idea

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You read here how 2019 was a buoyant year for corporate siblings Hyundai and Kia; both brands posted full-year sales gains, and both can thank new, large crossover vehicles for the added volume. The higher prices demanded by the Hyundai Palisade and Kia Telluride will certainly be appreciated by the automakers’ beancounters, too.

Of the two midsizers, one possesses an enhanced level of gravitas. A little more panache and youth appeal. And it’s no secret which one we’re referring to — which is why an industry rumor has us thinking that an uplevel version is something worth pursuing.

The folks at AutoSpies (via Motor1), citing a cloud of ether, claim a loftier Telluride trim will arrive later this year, bound for 2021 models. Greater customization greets buyers in this spec; apparently, customers will be able to opt for two-tone paint jobs (well, a roof of a different color), snazzier interior treatments, plus an off-road package to butch up the already boxy crossover’s looks. We’re talking things like a pedestrian-scattering brush guard, skid plates, and upgraded rubber, among other possible additions.

So, that’s that. If true, the new addition to the Telluride line would push its trim ladder up another $10,000. A base LX model starts at $33,060 after destination, with the uplevel SX with Prestige Package setting you back more than $45k. This mythical Telluride AutoSpies speaks of would easily top the $50k barrier.

Pricey for anything wearing a Kia badge, but the Telluride is no normal Kia. It’s the biggest Kia, to be sure, but it’s one with visual presence and an unspoken, hard-to-prove street cred. People like the Telluride, and not just auto journos with big mouths and dusty wallets. After coming online in force in March 2019, Telluride closed out the year with 58,604 sales, helping Kia rise to a 4.4-percent annual gain.

The demand is there, and enough worthiness might be there to warrant another rung on the Telluride’s trim ladder. Domestic truck makers seized upon the existing demand for Big Luxury  to turn their full-size offerings into even larger cash cows. Surely, Kia wouldn’t resist an opportunity to boost the model’s margins if it sensed a sufficient pool of customers; no one would fault the company, either, for holding back initially in the interest of gauging demand.

Even a loaded-up Kia in this form could be seen as a value proposition when contrasted with Japanese or German rivals.

Interestingly, the Telluride’s first public appearance (at New York Fashion Week in 2018, of all places) showed the three-row ute festooned with off-road-ready accessories — among them, a snorkel, bumper guard, external spare, and roof ladder.

[Image: Kia Motors]

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