Kia isn't known for rough, tough trucks or athletic sports cars, but it's showing its fun side at this year's SEMA show. It's revealed four heavily modified cars that celebrate the spirit of the American road trip. Its open-top A1A Optima helps drivers experience the open road, while the other three concepts veer off that road for dirt, rock, mud and views.
A1A Optima convertible
We'll start off with the one new Kia custom designed solely for asphalt, the A1A Optima. Developed in conjunction with LUX Motorwerks, the open Optima is named after Florida's A1A highway, a scenic stretch that drops down the state's Atlantic coast past white-sand beaches and deep-blue ocean.
The radically modified concept has its roof pulled clean off. To make up for the loss of B pillars involved in opening that cockpit up to the cascading rays of the Sunshine State, Kia's moved the rear door hinges to the back, creating a set of coach doors that further separate the A1A Optima convertible from the stock sedan. The car's structure has been reinforced with steel tubes and its windshield cut off to better match the convertible build.
The turquoise car matches the cloudless sky above and provides the perfect taxi for a couple's retreat to the A1A's terminus of Key West or even a family of four's road trip to Disney World. Those occupants will enjoy a modified interior with butter-soft cream and titanium leather bucket seats. The car rides on 20-in wheels secured to ride-height-lowering Ksport coilover suspension. The 245-hp turbo four spits emissions through a high-performance exhaust system.
Photo Safari Sedona pickup
The Kia Sedona may have a Southwest model name, but it gets a Northeast spin for SEMA. It's inspired by the colorful fall foliage famous in places like New England and Upstate New York. Kia consulted with professional photographers and worked with LGE-CTS Motorsports to turn the eight-seat Sedona into a two-seat photography studio on wheels.
he elephant in the room with this build is the short pickup bed that stands in for the rearmost section of the Sedona's cabin. That bed houses integrated storage, exterior electrical outlets, and a hidden compartment for low-angle photos. The burly tubular steel roof rack up above is purpose-built for mounting equipment like DSLR cameras, action cams, booms, or jigs and can also accommodate the photographer him/herself.
Actual vehicular equipment is also tuned for assisting with picture-perfect photo snapping. A 2,500-lb (1,134 kg) airbag suspension system provides auto leveling and ride height adjustment, and the KC HiLites LED lighting system instantly lights up a dark scene at the flip of the dashboard-integrated switch. Photogs don't have to limit themselves to asphalt-based photo taking thanks to the build's light off-roading capability. It rides on Nitto Dura Grappler 265/65R17 tires and 17-in Method “Rally” wheels.
The Safari Sedona's interior serves as command center and editing studio. The original eight seats have been trimmed down to a driver's seat and rear passenger/work seat, making room for storage in the front-passenger area and an editing studio in back. The editing area is set up around a 27-in iMac with 5K retina display wired to a military grade battery that charges when the Sedona is on the move. There's also a handcrafted walnut desk, keyboard tray and cabinets from Highline Cabinets, and RW wireless radio headsets for driver-photographer communications. The rear Beard Torque racing seat locks into the editing bay and can also slide 3 feet (914 cm) out the rear passenger-side door. The 30-in (76-cm) retractable rear window provides extended viewing outside.
PacWest Adventure Sorento
Kia offered only very basic details when it teased the PacWest Adventure Sorento last week, but it's provided all the big points of interest now. The concept should probably be called the PacNorthwest Adventure because it's inspired specifically by the forests and laid-back, outdoor-friendly culture surrounding Seattle and Portland.
Another collaboration with LGE-CTS Motorsports, the PacWest Adventure is ruggedized for off-road driving with a redesigned front underside, overhauled suspension with Fox Racing 2.0 coilover shocks and Eibach springs, LT285/70R17 Nitto Trail Grappler M/Ts beaded to BMF S.S.D. 17x8.5-in beadlock-style wheels, and fabricated front and rear bumpers with steel skid plates and side bars. The revised Sorento rides 6 in (15 cm) higher than stock.
More than just a splash of paint, the green exterior came to life through a custom, multi-layer painting process that used pearls and candy effects to deliver an ever-changing chameleon effect. Components like the roof rack, LED light bars, WFJ snorkel and Mile Marker winch add to the car's overall rough-and-ready presence.
The PacWest Sorento houses an equally wilderness-inspired interior complete with LED lighting rocker switches, floor mats, tire-tread themed seats, custom painted dash and door panels, and green leather. There's also an 8-in Alpine Mobile Media entertainment system with front camera.
Forte Koup Mud Bogger
As we originally reported, the fun-loving Forte Koup Mud Bogger represents the South and features a 4-in (10-cm) suspension lift, 28-in off-road tires, riveted fender flares and a roll cage. It also has white powder-coated Fuel Off-road 15x10-in Revolver wheels, a white powder-coated brush guard and a Rigid LED light bar. That deep blue paint that dominates the patriotic red, white and blue theme is a shade called Midnight Sapphire.
Inside, the car features Sparco Evo II red race seats with Sparco snap-in harnesses, a Sparco steering wheel, and a vinyl pushback top for the panoramic roof.
Trail'ster and Ballast Point Sedona
When Kia announced on Monday that it would be revealing four all-new custom cars at SEMA, we thought maybe it ran out of time to complete all the six SEMA concepts it promised last week, but it turns out that the other two are previous reveals. Given the four in-depth builds above, we can't really fault Kia for simply tagging a couple of relatively new concepts with different US regions and calling it a half-dozen.
We looked at the Soul-based Trail'ster hybrid AWD crossover during its 2015 Chicago debut. Kia ties it into the snow, skiing, camping, trails and off-roading of the Rocky Mountain region.
The other concept comes from last year's SEMA Show and fills out the remaining corner of the map by representing California and San Diego's Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits. Its claim to fame is the mahogany-skinned flip-roof, fold-out bar in back. Not only did the mod job involve replacing the rear cabin with a bar-hosting bed, but the front passenger area was gutted to make room for four half-barrel kegs, a dual Micro Matic tap system and accompanying equipment.
Check out the full gallery of Kia SEMA cars and let us know which (if any) is your favorite.