Kia Trail'ster Concept: Soul AWD hybrid ready to roll

By Bob Nagy on February 12, 2015 6:26 AM

Based on early teasers, we know the Kia Trail'ster Concept was going to be a pretty cool piece, but it's even more impressive in the metal. This born-to-run-anywhere variation on the Soul charts a new path on several levels, starting with its high-profile appearance and unique gasoline/electric powertrain. Beyond that, Tom Kearns who heads the Kia Design Center of America where the Trail'ster was born, confirms this one-off represents "a near-future look at how the production Soul would logically evolve into an AWD-capable version."  And that's something the automaker is extremely interested in making happen, regardless of its specific drivetrain elements.  

Primary motivation for the Trail'ster Concept is provided by a 185-horsepower/1.6-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that makes 185 lb-ft of torque and drives the front wheels through a 6-speed automatic transmission. It's supplemented by a 35-horse electric motor/generator mounted on the Trail'ster's rear axle that bolsters off-the-line response and full-throttle acceleration while improving traction on slippery surfaces using torque vectoring. Fed by a 1.2kWh Lithium-ion battery pack under the rear floor that gets replenished when the vehicle is coasting or braking, the motor also keeps the Trail'ster moving ahead at low speeds for 2-3 miles on electric power alone. 

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The gas/electric combo cranks out 220 total horses and 285 lb-ft of torque, which should ensure the Trail'ster remains quite engaging, on or off-road. Further abetted by a Hybrid Starter Generator start/stop system on the engine, Kia projects the setup will return 25-30 percent better overall fuel economy in city driving and a 5-10 percent increase on the city cycle. Given its active-lifestyle orientation, the Trail'ster's chassis also received a makeover, adding over 2.5 inches of ground clearance and replacing the standard shocks with a set of fully-adjustable KSport coilover shocks. 

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Bold styling

Kia also cranks up the Trail'ster's cosmetics. Finished in Polar Pearl Snowdrift set off with Terra Bronze Metallic trim on the roof and lower cladding, this cool Kia features bright fire-red accents on the tow hooks and stylish 19-inch billet aluminum wheels that are wrapped in Pirelli Winter Carving 245/45 snow tires. Fitted with functional aluminum skid plates all around, the Trail'ster is loaded with LED lighting elements, including K900-style projector headlamps and integrated front/rear foglamps. Even the aluminum roof rack features an array of mini-spot lights that help the Trail'ster's driver see and be seen. Inside, the cabin is rendered in brown leather and pillow-embossed textiles with aluminum accents that create a look that recalls "an earthy but upscale environment" inspired by various winter sports gear. A distinctive center console holds the beefy shift lever, AWD controller and prominent red starter button. 

While Kia has yet to give the Soul Trail'ster an official greenlight for production, we're betting that some form of AWD Soul will be heading to showrooms.

 

 

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