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Kia’s Telluride concept imagines a high-tech SUV

Paul A. Eisenstein
Special to The Detroit News

Kia wants to add a large SUV to its line-up, as the light truck market continues to boom.

That’s why its Telluride, which debuted Monday at the first of two press days at the Detroit auto show, is more than just another concept vehicle. Company officials admit they’d love to add a production version as a larger alternative to the popular Kia Sorento.

But the Telluride is more than just a thinly disguised production model – as has become commonplace at auto shows these days. The three-row SUV explores a variety of other, more high-tech trends that are reshaping the auto industry.

There’s Telluride’s Swipe Command system, a touch-sensitive band mounted into the rear console. Much like a smartphone, it allows a passenger to quickly scroll through the available media and then play it on the concept vehicle’s 7-speaker Harman Kardon premium audio system.

Under the hood, Telluride is powered by a plug-in hybrid system pairing a 3.5-liter gasoline engine with an electric motor. The transverse-mounted system makes a combined 400 horsepower – 270 from the V-6, 130 more from the electric motor – distributed to all four wheels.

The Telluride forgoes conventional keys, and replaces today’s start button with a fingerprint reader that could have been lifted off the latest iPhone.

If that doesn’t push things far enough, Telluride’s seats come complete with built-in “Smart Sensors,” a twist on the hot new trend toward wearable medical devices. Forget the doctor; you can check your health on the car’s video display and then lay back in one of its fold-flat seats. A Light-Emitted Rejuvenation system using a wing-shaped LED screen mounted beneath Telluride’s big sunroof will help treat desynchronosis or jetlag.

Measuring about 197 inches, nose-to-tail, a production version of the Telluride would use an all-new, large crossover platform under development by the South Korean carmaker and its sibling Hyundai brand.

While a few design details, such as the rear “suicide” doors, probably would be scrapped, the basic look of the Kia Telluride is likely to land in the maker’s U.S. showrooms within the next several years.