The Kia Trail’ster e-AWD concept had the hanky taken off it last night at the Chicago Motor Show giving a glimpse of how a rugged Kia Soul could look.

INTENDED TO be a vehicle designed for “those looking to escape their urban environs in search of higher-elevation playgrounds where snow, mud, streams and trails abound”. Born at Kia’s Californian design studio, the place that also birthed the Track’ster and the GT4 Stinger, the Trail’ster e-AWD features a Polar Pearl Snowdrift/Terra Bronze Metallic paint scheme, roll-top canvas roof and armored aluminum skid plates.

Trail'ster Concept

“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 Center of America (KDCA).

Based on the production Kia Soul, the Trailster gets cosmetic tweaks like the K900-style projector head-lights, LED fog and tail-lights, anodized fire red wheel accents, a full-length, canvas roof with integrated roof rack fittings for carrying mountain bikes and more. It also gets aluminium skid plates to protect it when rough roading, it sits on Pirelli Winter Carving 245/45-19 snow tyres and runs KSport coilover shocks and has been raised by 40mm over the garden-variety Soul.

But the Trail’ster e-AWD is as much about what’s underneath than it is the look of the thing. The Trail’ster gets a1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine making 138kW and 250Nm of torque, this gets to the front wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission. A supplementary electric motor drives the back axle and is intended primarily for low-speed assist, enhanced launch acceleration and improved traction in inclement weather or off-road situations.

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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 26kW and 135Nm of torque to the rear wheels and bringing total output to an impressive 164kW and 386Nm of torque.

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.

While Kia is being coy about the Trail’ster’s likelihood of making it to production, it’s suggesting fuel economy would be targeted at a 25-30% improvement in city driving and 5-10% in highway driving over the normally aspirated 2015 2.0-litre petrol Soul.

So, what do you think, has Kia got a winner on its hands with the Trail’ster e-AWD or does it look to be all mouth and no trousers?


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