Few brands in recent memory have pushed up-market as relentlessly as Kia. While the 2011 Optima was a huge improvement in style and sophistication over its forgettable predecessor, it was a mere glimpse of what was to come. Now with the Cadenza and Quoris headed towards showrooms, and the 2014 Sorento cresting $40,000 in top trim, Kia is not the least bit shy about positioning itself in higher-priced segments. The Cross GT concept shown at the 2013 Chicago Auto Show is the latest example of the brand's push into the premium realm.
If the Cross GT is a preview of a future model, which Kia is neither officially confirming nor denying, it's no cynical stretched and re-skinned Sorento. Kia is claiming the Cross GT is a close relative to the GT concept sedan shown at the 2011 Frankfurt Auto Show, which means it has a longitudinal drivetrain. Unlike the GT sedan, which used a turbocharged V-6, the Cross GT's drivetrain consists of a naturally aspirated 3.8-liter V-6 paired with an eight-speed automatic and electric motor. The claimed combined output of the system is 400 hp and a stout 500 lb-ft of torque.
The proportions of the Cross GT signal its sporting intentions. It sits on a long 122-inch wheelbase, is a comparably trim 192.8-inches in length. Its 79.1-inch width and 65.3-inch height, meanwhile, give the Cross GT a wide, purposeful stance. The rear hatch is a two-piece "clamshell" design like that utilized on the Range Rover, with a top-opening glass and bottom-hinged lower tailgate. The rear doors are rear-hinged "suicide" doors, giving access to the Cross GT's four-passenger cabin. The four seats are anchored to the central driveline tunnel, giving them a floating appearance. The seats are trimmed in leather made with an eco-friendly tanning process utilizing vegetable oil.
This environmentally-friendly theme continues with re-harvested American Walnut trim and renewable wool felt. Cabin controls are accessed through a central touchscreen controller. Rear passengers can enjoy entertainment through their rear flatscreen monitors mounted to the headrests of the front seats.
Although Hyundai and Kia are working harder than ever at differentiating their models, the Korean corporate twins nonetheless share platforms, and the appearance of the Cross GT may preview an upscale Hyundai premium crossover concept, possibly adding to the Genesis family.
With Peter Schreyer now overseeing the styling of both brands, it will be interesting to see how Hyundai might differentiate its version from Kia's crisp, architectural theme.