The Korean automaker is planning to challenge the Toyota Land Cruiser.
Seems like we’ve spent a lot of time talking up Kia and Hyundai on Art of Gears.
It’s well-deserved. The Hyundai Motor Group is experiencing a renaissance from top to bottom, ranging from the impressive Kia Stinger to the hit Hyundai Palisade and Kia Telluride full-size SUVs to the beautiful new Genesis G70.
We wouldn’t have been caught dead praising Kia even five years ago. It was a budget car company making bargain-basement cars. And yet, slowly but surely, Kia has climbed to the top of the heap, bringing us vehicles we didn’t know we needed.
So what’s the next frontier for the company? The answer is revealed in a recent piece from The Drive, which teases a new body-on-frame truck-based Kia SUV.
The body-on-frame SUV has gone the way of the six-speed manual transmission in recent years. In the United States, only the stalwarts continue to offer them, and they’re almost always modern iterations of ancient car bloodlines – think the Ford Expedition, Chevrolet Tahoe, Jeep Wrangler, and Toyota 4Runner.
Several of the truck-based SUVs still in production have long-since traded in their off-road bona fides for luxury accoutrements. This is certainly true for the Cadillac Escalade, as well as the Lexus LX (the upscale Toyota Land Cruiser) and the Infiniti QX80 (the upscale Nissan Armada).
The segment simply hasn’t seen a new face in years, if not decades.
So, the resurgent Kia Motors Corporation is planning to debut a brand-new body-on-frame SUV in 2023. The prospect of a shakeup has our imaginations racing with the possibilities. Here are just a few of the features we’d like to see if and when Kia follows through with the truck-based SUV plan:
1. Six-speed manual transmission
As torchbearers for the stick shift, of course we want to see a manual transmission in Kia’s challenger for the Land Cruiser throne.
2. Performance package
Ford has demonstrated that trucks with souped-up engines and racing design cues are a feasible option, to the extent that other automakers are trying to get in on the trend. Who wouldn’t want to see a Kia behemoth with twin turbochargers and 700 horsepower?
3. Standard part-time four-wheel drive
Perhaps it goes without saying, but any body-on-frame SUV that truly wants to compete with Toyota needs to be off-road capable. Four-wheel drive in the new Kia SUV should be the rule rather than the exception. We want to see a base-model version that can still hit the trails.
4. Brawny good looks
Ok, this isn’t really a feature. But our favorite SUVs these days have chunky, angular features that make them look worthy of the off-roaders of yore. The current-gen 4Runner nails the look, and the upcoming Ford Bronco is boxy in all the right ways. Kia has already laid the groundwork with the Telluride, so we expect big things from the new SUV.
5. Standard locking rear differential
Again, this is basically a necessity for a legitimate off-road capable SUV. If Kia truly wants to make a run at Toyota in this segment, it’s going to have to include the features that will let its new off-roader compete.
As a bonus, we would love to see the kind of durability for which Toyota is known. Toyota, more than any of the other companies making truck-based SUVs, has a near-mythical reputation for reliability in its trucks. If Kia can bring that kind of quality to its new SUV, its future looks bright.