Kia wants to take us back to the future with its new Telluride SUV concept. An SUV used to be just a pickup truck with a passenger car body. It could carry 5 passengers, had all wheel drive, and could haul a refrigerator in its cavernous interior. The original Ford Explorer, the car that started it all, was just a gussied up Ranger. People loved it because its high seating position allowed them to look down — figuratively and literally — on their fellow motorists. Manufacturers loved them because they could make $10,000 or more extra profit. Millions were sold.
But people are funny. Soon, many started to complain that their truck based SUVs rode like…..trucks! Oh, the horror. From there, car makers started the trend toward cute utes and soft roaders — vehicles with the cachet of an SUV but the ride of Buick. Some even question whether the new Tesla Model X is a real SUV. Sure, it sits a little higher off the ground and it has those goofy falcon wing doors, but can you still bring a refrigerator home in one? Not with that sloping rear hatch you can’t. You can’t even get full size adults to sit in the back.
The Kia Telluride concept is a forward looking throwback. It basically a box on wheels, but rather a nicely styled box for all that can carry seven passengers with their hats on. Its back doors are hinged at the rear for excellent access to the interior. It has a plug-in hybrid powertrain that mates a 270 horsepower V-6 engine to a 130 horsepower electric motor. That’s a total of 400 horses for those of you who were not math majors. It should get an honest 30 mpg on the highway. The concept is built on the same platform as the hot selling Kia Sorrento, but stretched nearly a foot for more interior room.
Of course, every concept car today has to have some electronic wizardry to wow show goers. Kia has decided to embed sensors in the seats that measure each passenger’s vital signs and uses them to power what it calls “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.” Doesn’t get any cooler than that, does it? If you are the Secretary of State and are traveling across multiple time zones on a daily basis, that’s “must have” technology.
The next question becomes, “Will Kia build this car?” The answer is contained in a Kia press release that is almost Delphic in its ambiguity. “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.”
The Telluride is a good looking ride with its hunky proportions and carefully sculpted flanks. Road & Track calls the look “damn near perfect.” Any resemblance to the Jeep Grand Cherokee is, of course, purely coincidental.