First Look: Kia Cross GT Concept

2014-kia-cross-gt-concept

Remember the Kia GT concept from the 2011 Frankfurt show? Along with wowing crowds and reinforcing our respect for Peter Schreyer's design team, it also tested the idea of Kia venturing into the realm of large, upscale sedans -- foreign territory for the automaker, at least here in North America.

That's the same basic premise behind the automaker's new Cross GT concept, which makes its public debut at the 2013 Chicago auto show. Billed as the "stablemate" to the original GT show car, the shapely concept here also serves as proof that Kia's looking to move upmarket -- albeit this time, with a large crossovers.

Kia says the Cross GT allows the company to "envision the GT in the form of a full-size luxury crossover," but this new concept is more than just a GT on stilts. Unlike its sedan sibling, which was designed primarily in Europe, the Cross GT is the handiwork of Kia's American design center, located in Irvine, California. Apart from the trademark "tiger nose" grille, the shape of the daylight openings, and a few key proportions, the two hardly resemble one another.

Thin, razor sharp LED headlamps flow directly into the grille, while boomerang-shaped fog lamps lurk at the lower corners of the front bumper. A strong beltline emerges from the headlamps and runs to the end of the Cross GT. Virtually every surface beneath this element appears to be fluidic, save for thin, vertical fender vents placed at the leading edge of the front doors. The liquid-like look is a little ironic, given Hyundai -- Kia's corporate parent -- used "Fluidic Sculpture" as a design mantra for years.

Like the GT, the Cross GT boasts an extremely long hood, a low roofline, wide track, and short overhangs. At 192.8 inches, it's a fairly long vehicle, about 8 inches longer than today's Sorento (its 122-inch wheelbase, for the record is more than a foot longer). The Cross GT is notably taller than the low-slung GT -- unsurprising, given its crossover aspirations -- but Kia does note it's about two inches lower than a Sorento.

Rear-hinged rear doors -- another trait stolen from the GT concept -- allegedly improve access to the rear seat, but it also helps Kia show off the Cross GT's interior while it sits on an auto show stand. That interior is certainly worth ogling, as four bucket seats, all wrapped in almond-colored leather, are cantilevered from the center driveline tunnel, and appear to be floating beneath an expansive glass skylight. American walnut veneer -- all sourced from re-harvested wood -- runs across the entire dashboard, while other interior fabrics are made from renewable wool and colored with vegetable-based dyes.

The Cross GT's ecological concerns don't start and end with interior materials. According to Kia, the crossover is a hybrid, as it sandwiches an electric motor between a 3.8-liter V-6 and an eight-speed automatic transmission. We're told the concept theoretically offers torque-vectoring all-wheel-drive, but have no details on if any of that motive power is provided by additional electric motors. Kia does allege the Cross GT can function as a plug-in hybrid, and can offer up to 20 miles of travel on electricity alone. When working in combination with the engine, the driveline yields up to 400 hp and 500 lb-ft of torque.

If you're hoping for any further details on that powertrain, we'd advise you not hold your breath. Kia says the Cross GT is "purely conceptual," aside from the fact the automaker is indeed interested in pursuing this sort of vehicle in the future.

To that, is there really life beyond the Sorento? Does Kia really need something larger in its lineup? If the finished product looks and feels like the Cross GT -- and not the boorish, short-lived Borrego -- we'd say Kia has room left to grow.

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Since KIA itself declared design as its "core future growth engine" and went on to hire Peter Schreyer as CDO to finally give itself an identity, I wonder why there's no mention here that this concept looks like a Range Rover Evoque through a "tiger nose" lens.

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