It appears Kia Australia is open to investigating a performance version of its upcoming ute that could put it head-to-head with the Ford Ranger Raptor.
When asked directly about the potential of a high-performance version of the hotly anticipated ute, called TK internally and potentially set to wear the Tasman name, Kia Australia product planning general manager Roland Rivero didn’t rule it out.
“You dissect [the ute] category there’s new sections of it that I think every OEM would desire to have a crack at. We’re no different,” said Mr Rivero.
While he didn’t confirm such a variant, his remarks indicate Kia Australia is exploring the possibility of a performance version of its TK/Tasman ute. It’s unclear, however, what form such a vehicle would take.
It’s unclear if Kia would go all-out with a baja-ready version of its upcoming ute, like the Ford Ranger Raptor, potentially packing the same 3.3-litre twin-turbo V6 petrol engine as the Stinger and Genesis G70.
Another potential way Kia could go about creating a performance version of its TK/Tasman ute is by tuning the diesel engine and tweaking the suspension setup. This would make it similar to the likes of the Toyota HiLux GR Sport, Mitsubishi Triton Xtreme and Nissan Navara Pro-4X Warrior, among others.
As previously reported, the Kia TK/Tasman ute is being referred to as a “strategic model for emerging markets”, with development having commenced in 2020.
There’s an Australian connection with the new ute, as Kia’s engineers have been using our ute-loving market as a test bed.
Mr Rivero added that “lots of visitors have made the trip” to Australia to experience competitors and local conditions.
A “substantial” amount of work on the ute has been done in Australia, “though a lot of work is ready to go”, according to Mr Rivero.
The TK/Tasman ute has been benchmarked against the likes of the Ford Ranger, Volkswagen Amarok and Toyota HiLux and will pack diesel power when it arrives here in 2025. It’s also confirmed to be produced in Korea.
Prototypes have been spied testing in Korea disguised in sheetmetal from the venerable body-on-frame Mohave SUV.
Whether that suggests the TK/Tasman will offer the same engine as the Mohave is unclear.
In Korea, the Mohave is powered by a 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel engine producing 189kW and 560Nm. For reference, the 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel engine in the Ranger and Amarok produces 184kW and 600Nm.
The Mohave offers four-wheel drive with electronic low-range and a range of terrain modes much like Kia’s other SUVs. An eight-speed auto is standard.
Kia has homologated its latest 3.0-litre diesel to Euro 6 standards, aligning it with emissions regulations likely coming to Australia soon, and currently in force in other markets around the world. Few utes are currently EU6 certified in Australia.
The ute segment in Australia could look quite different by 2025 – Ford has confirmed a Ranger plug-in hybrid is launching in Europe in 2024, and it could be coming here, while the next Toyota HiLux is due around the same time.
The latter is likely to be based on the same TNGA-F architecture underpinning the LandCruiser, potentially with hybrid and all-electric options.
Beyond that, a new Mitsubishi Triton and Nissan Navara are on the horizon based on common underpinnings. Mitsubishi is also working on an electric ute to sit alongside the Triton, though it’s unclear whether this is coming to Australia.
China will also be in the mix, with GWM set to launch the Shanhai Cannon with diesel and hybrid options before the end of 2023, while the even larger King Kong Cannon is under consideration for the Australian market.