CHICAGO – Kia unveils its Cross GT concept hybrid vehicle at the show here that offers a strong hint of its intention to eventually offer a premium cross/utility vehicle larger than the current Sorento.

"The debut of the GT in 2011 heralded a new frontier for Kia," says Peter Schreyer, Kia’s president of design. "It illustrated to the world that the brand was ready to explore the possibility of perhaps one day offering a fullsize rear-drive luxury (sedan). The Cross GT, with its raised stance and large cargo area, allows us to envision the GT in the form of a fullsize luxury crossover."

The Cross GT is built on the same but slightly modified platform as the Hyundai long-wheelbase Santa Fe coming to market in 2014. While sharing its heritage with the Sorento, the Cross GT’s 122-in. (310-cm) wheelbase is 15.7 ins. (40 cm) longer and 4.9 ins. (12.4 cm) wider.

However, its overall height of 65.3 ins. (cm) is 1.6 ins. (166 cm) shorter, giving the concept a lower roofline than most large CUVs. As a concept, the dimensions aren't set in stone for a production model, Kia says.

The Cross GT is designed to accommodate four passengers and their cargo. "The concept has two rows, but a production model could have three rows," says Michael Sprague, executive vice president-marketing, says. "We don't have a 3-row model now like the (Chevrolet) Traverse or (GMC) Acadia, and the Cross GT would certainly give us that opportunity."

But the Cross GT would not be a replacement for the discontinued Borrego. “(The) Borrego was built off a truck platform,” he says. “(The) Cross GT is off a car platform with a smoother ride."

Sprague declines to say how soon the Cross GT could be produced. He is noncommittal as to whether the production version would be a luxury model, as Kia has talked about going more upscale.

"We will be taking the Cross GT to other auto shows to measure consumer reaction and learn what they'd be willing to pay," he says.

While the GT’s lines were penned in Frankfurt, the Cross GT hails from the Kia Design Center America in Irvine, CA, the house that breathed life into the Track’ster, KV7 and Soul’ster concepts, and most recently the all-new production ’14 Forte sedan.

The Cross GT is powered by a 3.8L V-6 teamed with Kia’s parallel-hybrid system, a pancake-shaped electric motor sandwiched between the engine and transmission and packaged under the rear floor. This makes for a combination that delivers 400 hp and 500 ft.-lb. (678 Nm) of torque, with an electric range of 25 miles (40 km). It's teamed with an 8-speed automatic and all-wheel drive.

However, "We aren't wed to hybrid power" in a production model, Sprague says.

The Cross GT features dual rear-hinged doors, commonly referred to as "suicide" doors, for easy access to the rear bucket seats. The cargo compartment is accessed through a clamshell glass hatch and tailgate. A multi-paneled skylight with hexagonal-glass inserts lights the cabin.

"As witnessed by the introduction of the all-new Cadenza at the recent Detroit auto show, our customers are looking to the Kia brand to offer relevant vehicles in the premium segments that take value to new levels of sophistication," Sprague says.

"The Cross GT is the next logical step in that evolution. And while only a concept today, it signals one possible design direction we may explore for the future."

Kia also unveils the all-new, Forte 5-door hatchback at the show here, a companion to the Forte 4-door sedan that debuted in Los Angeles and is expected to go on sale in the third quarter. Pricing will be announced closer to launch.

“We received very positive feedback after the all-new Forte sedan made its debut at the 2012 Los Angeles show, and we expect the all-new Forte 5-door will build upon that success," Sprague says.

Asked if a 2-door would be added to the sedan and hatchback family, he says, "Come to the New York auto show and see. We have three more cars coming out this year.”

Also at the Kia preview, the auto maker unveils the new Optima Hybrid, signaling the continuation of its venture in teaming with DC Entertainment and Super Street magazine to create niche vehicles that reflect the iconic characters that make up the Justice League.

These include Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, The Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg. The 10-month design partnership is influenced by the artistry of comic book visionary Jim Lee.

The Optima show car has been widened with custom fenders and features an adjustable suspension system that can raise and lower the vehicle with the push of a button. The stylized color scheme on the hood spotlights Superman’s unmistakable chest emblem, while an eye-catching red paint design extends to the trunk, evoking the look of his crimson cape.

The beveled front grille resembles Superman’s belt, and the red headlights glow with the same intensity of his heat vision. And super-hero’s iconic "S" shield is integrated into the seats and steering wheel.