It's a sexy thing for Americans but Kia's big, bold and almost beautiful Cross GT hybrid has no place in Australia.
The outrageous concept SUV, unveiled this week for the first time at the Chicago motor show, fills the large hole left when Kia dropped its big 4WD, the Borrego, in 2011. Dubbed a "premium crossover utility vehicle'' and bigger than the Sorento, the Cross GT exercises Kia's right to produce a hybrid for the US market.
But Kia Australia's spokesman Kevin Hepworth says "it's not a car with any priority'' in Australia. "It's a very niche market,'' he says. "The concept was born and bred in the US.
Maybe it was an opportunity for the US to get another model in production at Kia's Alabama factory. If that's the case, then it's likely to only be a left-hand drive vehicle. "It's not a car that we (Kia Australia) could imagine selling in any numbers.''
The Cross GT is similar in concept and size to the Mercedes-Benz R-Class. It is based heavily on the styling and platform of the GT sedan shown at Frankfurt motor show in 2011. Kia design boss Peter Schreyer says the Cross GT "allows us to envision the GT in the form of a full-size luxury crossover."
The GT sedan was designed at Kia's studio in Germany but the Cross GT comes from Kia's studio in California. Based on the rear-drive GT platform, the Cross GT's dimensions are similar with short overhangs, a long wheelbase and a wide stance.
But its high-riding position allows it better driver and occupant visibility while its all-wheel drive system returns improved performance and all-weather capability. The SUV is powered by a hybrid that combines a 3.3-litre petrol V6 with an electric motor.
Both drive through an eight-speed automatic transmission. Combined, the V6 and electric motor produce 678Nm of torque and 298kW. Kia claims an all-electric range of 32km. Kia says that while its promoted as a concept, the powertrain "may one day find their way into a production vehicle.''
The Cross GT is 4.89m long - 210mm longer than the Sorento - and sits on a 3.09m wheelbase that exceeds the Sorento by 400mm. At 2m wide, it is also 120mm wider than the Sorento and at 1660mm high, is lower by 40mm than the Sorento.
Kia says the Cross GT is designed to "easily accommodate four passengers and their cargo in luxurious surroundings, but the large greenhouse, airy cabin and gently sloping hood give the Cross GT a nimble feel that's at home in crowded urban environments.'' It has rear-hinged doors - known as "suicide" doors - to allow easy access to the rear bucket seats.