By on September 10, 2018

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]


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17 Comments on “Gussied Up 2020 Kia Telluride Debuts for New York Fashion Week...”

  • avatar

    That’s a nice 1999 model design ….. love the leather covered outside mirrors

  • avatar

    This is the definition of compensating, make a unibody tall car (I.e. Minivan) put a tiny engine in it, make its intended purpose (clearly) traveling up and down the road. Gussy it up with faux off-road gear as if to try and hide the integrated plastic bumpers, the tiny tires, the unibody construction, lack of ground clearance – show case it at an event.

    This is an outright embarrassment to all senses. This is positively horrifying – if a company told me to produce this concept I would give them my 20 minutes notice and be gone.

  • avatar

    This was a mis-step in the product’s introduction. Showing chic fashion audiences the Texarcana Trinkets Edition before showing them the regular one is a BAD idea.


  • avatar

    Looks pretty nice. Would be nice to see without all the ridiculous add-ons. Looks fairly large as well although the long hood and front overhang take up a large portion of the overall vehicle and the third row, as in many 3 row crossovers, will likely be for kids only with virtually no storage capacity behind said 3rd row. At least based on where the headrests land in that picture of its rump. You can see the third row literally rests on the tailgate window.

  • avatar

    Just add colored triangles onto those ropes and this looks like a BHPH lot special, with “added value” accessories bolted on. Just terrible. Why not show the real truck Kia and do away with this nonsense? Marketing is one of the most useless profession ever.

  • avatar

    Zzzzzzzzzz…zzz…zzz..what? oh, more of this crap. Wake me Ford starts making the Nucleon.

  • avatar

    Am I the only one that thinks this looks like the Chinese SUV we saw spyshots of the other week?

  • avatar

    This is one of the silliest concepts I’ve seen in some time. Take a rather dull SUV/crossover and throw as much macho safari crap on it that will stick and call it a day. Should have named it the Kia “Mr. Woodsy”

  • avatar

    Honda: Odyssey/Pilot
    Toyota: Sienna/Highlander
    Exactly why are we shocked to see a trucky version of the Sedona? It’ll sell all day long at (Sedona + $10K) pricing. Smart move.

  • avatar

    Can it tow anything? In Texas you have to drag a 20-ft flatbed trailer at 85 MPH with some wellhead valves bouncing around.

  • avatar

    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.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      Obviously, it’s been shoe-horned onto a transverse-engine platform. Previous speculation would have had you believe it’d share the G90/new K900 architecture, but clearly not.

      • 0 avatar

        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.

  • avatar

    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.

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