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Chicago show: Kia’s radical luxury SUV concept

No go: The futuristic Kia Cross GT may one day make production in a toned-down form, but its chances for Australia appear slim-to-none.

The Kia Cross GT concept is a high-riding, hybrid-powered answer to Range Rover

8 Feb 2013


THIS is the Kia Cross GT, an ambitious passenger car-based luxury SUV concept that could preview the fast-growing Korean company’s answer to the BMW X6 or Range Rover Sport.

Revealed in full today on Kia’s large Chicago motor show stand – where it stole some spotlight from the brand’s crucial new Cerato hatch – the Cross GT shares its roots with Kia’s much-praised rear-drive GT luxury sedan concept revealed in Frankurt in 2011.

The radical all-wheel-drive concept combines eye-catching design – including a high waistline, clamshell bonnet, three-piece sunroof and pillar-less ‘suicide’ doors – with a powerful prototype hybrid drivetrain and a futuristic four-seat cabin.

Unlike the German-designed GT sedan – which was overseen by former Audi designer and now Kia chief Peter Schreyer – the Cross GT is a product of its North American studio in California, also responsible for the eye-catching Trackster concept and the all-new Cerato sedan.

Together, the pair of GTs are said to give a good look at the “future of the brand’s premium aesthetic”, as the company moves away apace from its less prestigious roots.

Mr Schreyer, who now oversees the design of sister company Hyundai as well as his role as president of Kia, said together, the GT and its high-riding offshoot heralded a “new frontier” for Kia, from both a design and a business perspective.

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“The GT beautifully illustrated to the world that the brand was ready to explore the possibility of perhaps one day offering a full-size rear-drive luxury saloon,” he said.

“The Cross GT, with its raised stance and large cargo area, allows us to envision the GT in the form of a full-size luxury crossover.” While the car shown here in the Windy City is clearly quite far removed from production reality, Kia hasn’t ruled out introducing some form of luxury SUV into the huge North American market within a few years, no doubt taking inspiration from the design of the Cross GT.

Such a model would sit above the current Sorento SUV range-topper, and would be the company’s first foray into the large off-roader or crossover market since the decidedly low-tech, Hyundai Terracan-based Borrego was discontinued here in 2011.

Mr Schreyer told GoAuto at the reveal in Chicago that any future production version would be aimed primarily at the US, but could conceivably hit Europe and beyond.

"I think definitely the American market would be the main market, but I can easily imagine it in other countries like maybe Europe. But it could be on the upper end size-wise maybe," he said.

Referring to the possibility of a right-hand drive version, Mr Schryer said: "It’s a concept only but I could imagine the steering wheel on the other side of the dash as well maybe, why not?" At 3900mm, the Cross GT’s wheelbase is longer than the Sorento’s by 400mm, and its overall length of 4890mm is up 210mm. The 2000mm width is 120mm wider than Sorento, but the overall height of 1660mm is actually 40mm less, giving it a lower roof-line than most large crossovers.

The petrol-electric parallel hybrid drivetrain combines a 3.8-litre V6 with a “pancake-shaped” electric motor producing a meaty combined output of 298kW and 678Nm of torque, with an all-electric range of 32 kilometres.

The power is sent to all four corners via an eight-speed automatic transmission. Kia calls the powertrain a “thought-provoking” concept system that “may one day” find its way under the bonnet of a production vehicle.

Letting light into the four-seat cabin – clearly large enough in the flesh to accommodate seven or more – is a multi-panelled sky light with hexagonal glass inserts. The uncluttered fascia has several high-resolution touch-screens, a single rotary dial and airy wood highlights.

However, despite all the speculation about a possible production version, Kia Australia public relations general manager Kevin Hepworth said any such model would almost certainly be off the radar for Australia, even on the off-chance it were made available in right-hand drive.

“It’s not a car that would have any real priority in Australia. Trying to place it against something that’s in the market now – it’s almost a Rangie (Range Rover) competitor if they juice it up properly, that sort of size – is very much a niche market,” he said.

“It’s been born and bred in the design studio in America, it may be an opportunity for Kia to run an extra model down the line at the Alabama factory for the US.

“It’s not a car we could at this stage imaging selling in any numbers in Australia."

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