Instead of an auto show, Kia chose a fashion show to provide the first glimpse of its new three-row, eight passenger SUV. The 2020 Kia Telluride appeared on Brandon Maxwell’s runway during New York Fashion Week, four months ahead of its official debut at the 2019 Detroit Auto Show in January.
The Telluride is Kia’s attempt at a full-size SUV that can challenge the likes of the Chevrolet Tahoe, Ford Expedition, Nissan Armada, and Toyota Sequoia. Kia tried this once before with the Borrego, which launched in the U.S. in 2009. With the financial crisis in full swing, few buyers were looking for a big, gas-guzzling SUV, so the Borrego was a sales dud.
Fast-forward nearly a decade, and the demand for SUVs is insatiable, so it makes more sense to launch a vehicle like the Telluride in this kind of environment. The Kia will likely also share a platform with an upcoming eight-passenger SUV from parent brand Hyundai.
The production 2020 Telluride unveiled in New York hasn’t changed much from the Telluride concept first seen at the 2016 Detroit Auto Show. Other than detail changes to the headlights, front fascia, and grille, the general shape is pretty much the same. Kia did scrap the concept’s suicide doors and massive infotainment screen, but that’s typical of the process of watering down concept cars for production.
For its Fashion Week debut, Kia dressed up the Telluride with some off-road gear, including a protruding front skid plate, winch, snorkel, extra lights, and a ladder-accessible roof rack. The SUV rides on flat-black alloy wheels wrapped in 265/50R-20 off-road tires from an unknown manufacturer. Don’t expect these items to be listed on the Telluride’s options list when sales start in early 2019.
When it goes on sale, the 2020 Telluride will use a V6 engine, rather than a V8, like the old Borrego. It will also be substantially larger than the biggest current Kia SUV, the seven-seat Sorento. The Telluride will be built at the same West Point, Georgia, factory that builds the Sorento. Full technical details will be revealed at the 2019 Detroit Auto Show.
Kia chose New York Fashion Week for this first peek at the Telluride as part of an ongoing partnership with fashion designer Maxwell. Kia and Maxwell will donate money to the public school system of Marfa, Texas, where Maxwell designed his Spring/Summer 2019 collection.
“Kia is not just funding necessary technological purchases and educational programming to give the children of Marfa the quality education they deserve, but also providing a vehicle for local teachers’ use,” Maxwell, who as a child was driven to school in a Kia Sedona, said in a statement. “I am honored to collaborate with Kia Motors.”