Kia Trail'ster Concept is finally unveiled

Kia Trail’ster Concept combines a FWD turbocharged motor and a RWD electric drive system to provide all-wheel-drive

2/13/15 3:29 am chumakdenis 1

I assume that everyone who was eagerly waiting for an advanced electric all-wheel drive (e-AWD) concept vehicle based on KIA Soul EV today is on cloud nine.

Kia Motors finally unveiled its new concept called Kia Trail’ster at the 2015 Chicago Auto Show.

A brand-new vehicle combines a FWD turbocharged motor and a RWD electric drive system to provide all-wheel-drive.

"The Trail'ster concept is a near-future look at how the production Kia Soul would logically evolve into an AWD-capable version that's built to escape the city streets and roam into the mountain wilderness," said Tom Kearns, chief designer, Kia Design Centre of America. "It takes the go-anywhere capability of an SUV and reimagines it within a compact and sporty package with an expressive design to match."

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Design

Kia Trail’ster Concept design is really similar to production version of Kia Soul EV. That means the Soul's refrigerator-esque body is lifted about 2.5 inches on KSport coilovers and rolls on 245/45-19 Pirelli Winter Carving tires.

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For traversing tough terrain, the Trail'ster has been raised more than two-and-a-half inches over the production Soul. In addition, this mountain rover wears Pirelli Winter Carving 245/45-19 snow tires for enhanced traction and utilises KSport coilover shocks to absorb the impact of rough, uneven ground and rocky surfaces.

The concept has aluminum skid plates, a roll-back canvas roof, and an integrated roof rack for your mountain bikes/snowboards/snowbikes or whatever active youth are hurtling down cliffs atop this week.

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Color

Painted a color called Polar Pearl Snowdrift and accented by a Terra Bronze Metallic roof and lower cladding and anodized red trim, the color palette was “inspired by the earthy combinations of springtime snow and mud, the terrain for which the Trail’ster has been created,” Kia says. 

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Headlights

With square, K900-style projector headlights; a thin, full-width grille; accent lights in the roof and side-view mirrors; and prominent LED foglights in the lower fascia, the concept’s aesthetic aims to be both premium and rugged. And y’know what? It pulls it off. Inside, earthy brown leather upholstery and polished aluminum accents are definitely more upmarket than you might expect from an outdoorsy runabout.

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Performance

The Trail'ster is powered by a 1.6-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder engine outputting 188 ps and 251 Nm of torque through a six-speed automatic transmission, matched to an electric all-wheel drive system on the rear axle intended for low-speed assist, enhanced launch acceleration and improved traction in inclement weather or off-road situations. This approach helps mitigate turbo lag by providing instant torque. The system also improves fuel economy over standard all-wheel drive setups by operating only when needed and serving as an energy recovery mechanism.

Hybrid drivetrain?


Further defining the near future perspective of Soul as a capable and efficient all-wheel drive runner, the Trail'ster arrives as a ‘Through-the-Road' hybrid, which means it has two power sources (a front gasoline engine and a rear electric motor) that make up the hybrid system and meet ‘through the road,' as opposed to inside the transmission with a common driveline connection. It requires all four wheels being driven in careful coordination, but there's no mechanical link between engine and electric motor. The link between the two is the road itself.

"This powertrain strategy of a downsized turbo and ‘Through-the-Road' hybrid power yields a dual benefit of increased performance - torque and traction - and optimised efficiency," said Kearns. "This is AWD being done the advanced, intelligent and responsible way, while sacrificing nothing." Should the Trail'ster find its way to production, fuel economy would be targeted at a 25-30 percent improvement in city driving and 5-10 percent in highway driving over the normally aspirated 2015 2.0-litre gasoline Soul.

Electric propulsion system

The Trail'ster's electric propulsion system draws energy from a 1.2 kWh Lithium Ion Polymer battery powering a 27 kW, 270 volt AC synchronous permanent magnet electric motor outputting 36 ps and 100 pound-feet of torque to the rear wheels and bringing total output to an impressive 220 horses and 136 Nm of torque. To further improve fuel efficiency, the system also utilises a Hybrid Starter Generator to start/stop the engine as needed (and to feed energy to the high voltage battery), and an electrically driven A/C compressor, which can run when the engine is shut off. This technology is designed for easy, lightweight packaging, with the compact battery pack stored under the cargo floor.

The rear electric drive system

Operationally, the rear electric drive system engages in one of three scenarios, depending on throttle position and road conditions: Under light throttle, the Trail'ster attains true clean mobility as the electric motor drives the car solely for a range of two to three miles; under normal driving, the rear electric motor assists the 1.6-litre turbo during acceleration events calling for greater power and torque; when treading off-road or on wet pavement, the electric drive system is introduced when front wheel slippage is detected. Finally, the Trail'ster's electric motor acts as a generator to recover kinetic energy and recharge the battery when the vehicle is braking or coasting.

Production

3245.jpg“If feedback is strong, we’ll be quick to market,” Michael Sprague, executive vice president-sales and marketing for Kia Motors America, tells us. “There would be some cannibalization from the current Soul, especially in states with a lot of snow, but we would expect it to add to the overall sales volume.”

Sprague says the automaker sold 145,000 Souls last year, and as volumes increase, Kia is discovering customers are venturing out of the urban areas the original CUV was designed for and into more rural settings.

The AWD Trail’ster concept represents an opportunity to deliver on what the growing customer base wants and showing Kia is a brand that is constantly evolving, Sprague says.

Kia dealers also are clamoring for such a product, he says, noting the growing demand for AWD vehicles in the U.S.

“We’re seeing the proliferation of AWD vehicles,” Sprague says. “Not just in the Northeast, Midwest and Northwest, but into the south as well. So dealers are saying, ‘We offer AWD on Sportage and Sorento, is there an opportunity to offer it on Soul on as well?’”

Production versions of concept vehicles rarely include all the features and attributes of the original vision. The Trail’ster concept, which features high-end interior materials and a 185-hp 1.6L turbocharged 4-cyl. and 6-speed automatic transmission, paired to an electric AWD system on the vehicle’s rear axle, likely would price it far above the base Soul’s $15,190 starting price point.

Sprague doesn’t reveal what the production version of the Trail’ster would cost, but says if it is built it will adhere to Kia’s low-cost strategy.

“If we do come out with a vehicle like this, we will maintain its value positioning,” he says. “What we’re able to do because we’re a global company is spread the cost across the entire world, because Soul is a global vehicle. That helps us a lot to maintain that value positioning.”

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