Gussied Up 2020 Kia Telluride Debuts for New York Fashion Week

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

Two years after the concept’s debut in Detroit, the “production” 2020 Kia Telluride appeared during New York City’s Fashion Week festivities this past weekend.

Fashion is not a subject this author is particularly familiar with. While I know that a button-up and suit jacket serves me better than an oversized Space Jam t-shirt, the reasons why remain a complete mystery. I just know that people are less likely to ask me to leave their establishment when I’m wearing a tie.

Be that as it may, I am savvy enough to know that Fashion Week is a strange locale in which to introduce a new vehicle. However, fashion designer Brandon Maxwell convinced Kia to donate to his childhood school district in Marfa, Texas, in exchange for the opportunity to showcase the automaker’s giant, unibody SUV. Created by Kia’s American design studio in Irvine, California, the customized Telluride that appeared on the runway drew influence from Texas (where everything is bigger). Fittingly, that was also Maxwell’s inspiration for the Spring/Summer 2019 collection — which I’m told is “fabulous.”

While Kia sponsored the event and planted its new crossover vehicle center stage, the focus remained on fashion. Fortunately, Brandon Maxwell’s designs didn’t stray into ludicrous costumes. These were flattering, yet normal-looking clothes that could be worn by actual people attending an upscale picnic — not some fashion experiment. The distinct absence of lace masks and bird feathers was a monumental relief for me, as I had spent the entire weekend doing my utmost to avoid such distractions.

Meanwhile, the Telluride, which served as a backdrop for the event, was tarted up to resemble a saddle or some other horse-related accessory. That decision had everything to do with Maxwell’s nostalgia for his childhood in Texas and Kia’s assertion that the eight-passenger vehicle was equipped to handle rough-and-tumble play.

The SUV, which came equipped with a roof rack, winch, and snorkel, certainly looked the part. But beneath the pointless hiking gear and leather mirror caps, you could see the automaker’s earnest attempt to provide a luxurious and sizable automobile. Kia claims the Telluride is a few inches longer and wider than the Sorento, but stopped short of providing specific details. All it said with any certainty was that it would have a V6.

That’s why I’m going to stop myself from calling this an official debut. Kia provided us with a production model, but it’s not indicative of what will eventually populate dealer lots.

Imagine if someone asked you to tell them what you thought of their new cocktail dress. But, when they came out to show you, they were also wearing a pair of combat boots, fringed leather gloves, and a cowboy hat. That was the Telluride debut in a nutshell.

Looking past the camping accessories and Texas theme, you can see that the Telluride is a relatively handsome automobile. However, gone are the concept’s headlamps, grille, rounded lines, and suicide doors. It’s definitely not as easy on the eyes as the original draft, but it probably was never going to be, either. The Telluride still draws heavily from the concept; Kia just squared off the rounded edges and rounded the edges that were square.

The tailgate is a perfect example. On the concept, the rear hatch was nearly vertical, but Kia has tilted the top half forward slightly to meet the roof. It’s a small change, but the SUV dropped into the middle of Fashion Week came loaded with little changes like that. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the manufacturer made a few more minor alterations before the vehicle actually entered production. It just looks slightly unfinished, like Kia ran out of time to properly translate the concept into something dealers could sell and the factory could build. Either way, it’ll be an important vehicle for Kia and one of the largest crossovers in its class.

Assembly is slated to begin in Georgia later this year, with the real 2020 Kia Telluride arriving in showrooms near the start of 2019.

[Images: Kia]

Discuss this story on our Kia Telluride Forum

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

More by Matt Posky

Join the conversation
4 of 17 comments
  • Wodehouse Wodehouse on Sep 10, 2018

    Too bad this thing is suffering from Lincoln Continental: Concept to Production Syndrome. What happened to the really nice dash-to-axle ratio and short front overhang from the concept? That was the one truly nice and interesting detail on the Telluride concept.

    • See 1 previous
    • Bd2 Bd2 on Sep 11, 2018

      @Kyree That speculation was in error over a report that Kia is considering doing a RWD CUV. The current G80/G90/K900 architecture is unsuitable for CUV-duty due to weight. Any Kia RWD CUV would be based on the new platform underpinning the next gen G80 and GV80 CUV.

  • CincyDavid CincyDavid on Sep 11, 2018

    I kinda like the spare tire carrier. There's an older Grand Cherokee that lives near me with something similar on the back of it. No cheesy leather straps though... I was recently in the market for a used SUV and ONLY looked at RWD-biased vehicles, under the premise that transmissions and drivetrains for truck-based vehicles should, in theory, hold up better than components that were originally designed for sedans. We'll see how that plays out.

  • 28-Cars-Later They were mocked as whales in their time but the last B-bodies really were ideally suited for decades of family use and long distance travel.
  • 28-Cars-Later "Naturally, GM turned to its most tech-forward engineering team to work on the [Cadillac] Northstar: Oldsmobile."The most GM phrase I have seen yet.
  • Carson D The automotive equivalent of necrophilia appeals to people who have no redeeming social value.
  • Funky D These cars appeal to such different clienteles that it is completely comparing apples to oranges. I would go for the Mustang, especially in convertible form, but wouldn't mind at all a weekend behind the wheel of a Z.
  • Funky D Take it from an IT professional: ALWAYS have a backup plan! And then have a backup to that plan if possible. And always rehearse the plan every once in awhile.Always keep local copies of your data, or you don't really have a backup. My current company is working on revising our plan now, while we still have the opportunity.