2016 Kia Sorento SXL AWDPosted on August 13th, 2015
Redesigned crossover for active families
By Nina Russin
Despite the growing number of entries into the midsize crossover segment, the stylish Kia Sorento remains a leader of the pack. Simply put, it’s a great package, with a redesigned 2016 model that includes a new two-liter turbocharged engine, revised exterior and interior styling and some appealing new infotainment features. With available seating for up to seven passengers, the Sorento is a great option for families with active lifestyles who don’t need a full-size sport-utility vehicle.
The sporty SX Limited test car comes with the two-liter engine, six-speed automatic transmission and full-time all-wheel drive with a lockable center differential for enhanced traction on wet, snowy or unimproved roads. Base price is $41,700 excluding an $895 destination charge. Standard comfort and convenience features include keyless entry and start, dual-zone climate control, satellite radio, Bluetooth interface, UVO infotainment with apps, rearview camera, Nappa leather seating, panoramic sunroof, power liftgate, roof rails and heated outside mirrors.
A technology package adds xenon headlamps, lane departure warning, forward collision warning, surround view monitor, adaptive cruise control and an electronic parking brake. Final MSRP is $45,095.
Test drive in Phoenix
Mid-August in Phoenix is the height of monsoon season, when changes in the Jetstream bring torrential rainstorms from the Gulf of California north to our state. Since there is less traffic in the summer, it’s also the season for road construction. When heavy rainstorms pass over construction sites it can be a lethal combination.
During my test drive of the Sorento, this is exactly what happened, with several microbursts passing through the east valley. Fortunately, my travel routes skirted the worst areas, but I was none-the-less grateful for the Sorento’s standard blind spot monitoring and other active safety features.
The Sorento has been a meat-and-potatoes model for Kia since it was first introduced as a four-by-four sport-utility vehicle in 2003. Families with active lifestyles found a lot to love in the Sorento due to its value and versatility. As the market veered away from truck-based sport-utility vehicles in favor of unibody crossovers, the Sorento evolved as well. The crossover has also moved upscale, with higher trim levels carrying entry luxury price tags.
But Kia has remained true to its core mission of value for the money. The Sorento offers buyers more for the dollar than its competitors: more style, more performance, and more content. It is a mid-luxury car with an entry luxury price.
During the test drive I put about 150 miles on the test car, including driving through 110-degree heat, heavy rain, after dark and in bright sunlight. Driving routes covered surface streets and highways in Scottsdale, Phoenix, Tempe and Chandler, Arizona, including some rush hour traffic.
The new turbocharged engine has a surprising amount of power for such a small block, developing 240 horsepower and 260 foot-pounds of peak torque as low as 1450 rpm. Accelerating off the line and into high-speed traffic performance is indistinguishable from a V-6. The six-speed automatic transmission progresses smoothly through the gears with no noticeable shift shock. Drivers can manually select gears for more aggressive performance.
The standard rearview camera makes it easy to monitor cross traffic in crowded parking lots, while the surround view monitor picks up obstacles around the entire perimeter of the vehicle. Optional xenon headlamps on the test car project a longer, brighter beam of light than halogen for better nighttime visibility.
Engineers enhanced the car’s torsional stiffness for better feedback from the electric power steering system. A revised four-wheel independent suspension offers a smoother ride without feeling overly soft in the corners. The all-wheel drive system automatically sends engine power to the wheels with the best traction, splitting power 50/50 between front and rear axles when necessary. Torque vectoring applies the brakes to prevent understeer if the driver takes a corner too quickly.
Four-wheel disc brakes stop the Sorento in firm, linear fashion.
Living in the Sorento for a week, I was able to appreciate features I didn’t see when I first drove the car at the media preview in Tahoe last fall. For example, when the driver starts the car a graphic indicator will tell him if he needs to straighten out the steering wheel. I also had a chance to put the cargo area to the ultimate test, carrying several six-foot tall floor lamps home from a furniture store. With the second-row seats folded flat, they fit in back perfectly.
The keyless entry feature automatically folds the side mirrors flat when the driver leaves the car and unfolds them as he approaches, assuming he has the key fob in his pocket. Nappa leather is a comfortable and attractive seating surface, although it might not be the most practical choice for endurance athletes heading home after a hot weather run or trail ride.
Both the gauge cluster and center stack screen are easy to read in bright sunlight and after dark. The center stack screen displays a split screen image, enabling the driver to see both
navigation maps and audio system displays.
I found the power driver’s seat easy to adjust for good lower lumbar support and a clear forward view. Dual-zone climate controls keep both front row occupants comfortable in temperature extremes.
According to Kia, the Sorento with the turbocharged four-cylinder engine can tow up to 3500 pounds, meeting our ALV minimum-towing standard. Roof rails enable owners to add a gear rack or cargo holder up top.
The Kia Sorento SXL comes with front, side and side curtain airbags, antilock brakes, traction control, stability control, blind spot monitoring, hill start assist and tire pressure monitoring.
Kia builds the Sorento in its West Point, Georgia assembly plant.
Like: An attractive, versatile crossover vehicle with available third-row seating and available all-wheel drive.
Dislike: High MSRP may keep some traditional Kia buyers out of the showroom.
Model: Sorento SXL AWD
Base price: $41,700
As tested: $45,095
Horsepower: 240 Hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 260 lbs.-ft. @ 1450 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy: 19/25 mpg city/highway2016, Luxury 2016, Active Lifestyle Vehicles, auto review, Kia, performance, pricing, standard safety