2016 Kia SorentoPosted on December 15th, 2014
Kia debuts the newest version of its best-selling crossover
By Nina Russin
There are few places on the planet more beautiful than Lake Tahoe. The second deepest lake in the United States straddles the Nevada/California border, surrounded by the majestic Sierra Nevada Mountains. Kia chose Tahoe as the location for the 2016 Sorento media preview to send home the message that its popular midsized crossover is a car for all seasons and lifestyles.
Available in five trim levels with front or all-wheel drive and a choice of three engines, the Sorento competes against a wide range of products, from the Toyota Highlander to the Jeep Grand Cherokee. Buyers can choose two or three-row versions seating five-to-seven passengers.
Inspiration for the exterior redesign was the Kia Cross GT concept that debuted at the 2013 Chicago Auto Show. Inside, designers incorporated luxury finishes from Kia’s K900 full-sized sedan the newest version of UVO infotainment, available Nappa leather and dual-pane panoramic sunroof.
A new two-liter turbo engine is the same block used in the Hyundai Santa Fe Sport and Kia Optima but tuned for this platform. To keep the weight down, product planners limited the turbo block to five-passenger cars.
Base price for the new Sorento that rolls out in January is $24,900 for the front-wheel drive L grade. The upscale SX-L V-6 all-wheel drive starts at $41,300. All-wheel drive is an $1800 option.
Test drive in the High Sierras
Our drive route began at the base of Tahoe’s Northstar ski resort, snaking down the hill to the town and lake before heading east towards Reno, Nevada. Lack of rainfall made most of the route devoid of snow with the exception of a few crusty patches on the sides of the road. Temperatures in the mid 40s worked in Kia’s favor since the cars were fitted with the OE all-season radials as opposed to winter-specific tires.
Although Kia’s trend over the past five years has been upmarket, the brand remains true to its original mission of value for the money. This value is evident in the high level of comfort and safety features throughout the lineup, premium finishes inside the car and world-class styling.
Peter Schreyer, who is hands-down one of the best designers in the industry, heads up both Kia and Hyundai’s global programs. Kia has invested in a new stand-alone design studio is Korea that opened this year, collaborating with its Orange County, California facility.
Changes to the exterior design are in keeping with the new car’s mission, i.e. evolution as opposed to revolution. The grille is bigger and bolder, the stance slightly wider, tail lamps more aggressive and the beltline more distinctive.
The car structure is more robust, thanks to widespread usage of high strength steel, boosting torsional rigidity by 14 percent. The new car is about three inches longer, with a 3.1-inch longer wheelbase for more second and third-row legroom.
Both the 2.4-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine and 3.3-liter V-6 have been retuned for better horsepower. The six-cylinder Sorento now tows up to 5,000 pounds. All cars come with a six-speed automatic transmission.
I had the opportunity to drive the all-wheel drive V-6 and five-passenger turbocharged models. The different engines and seating configurations gave the two test cars completely different characters: the first a large, capable family vehicle and the second a more nimble, sportier crossover for singles and couples with active lifestyles.
We started the route in the V-6 model, on two-lanes roads that cut through the Ponderosa pines. The scent from the pine trees filled the air, while white clouds rolled across the sky in advance of a storm that would hit the area the following day.
The six-cylinder car doesn’t feel like a dramatic change over what it replaces: no surprise considering the success of the outgoing model. Instead, it’s a refinement, with more power and more room on the inside.
New for this model is a drive select mode that includes normal, eco and performance settings, varying throttle mapping and shift points accordingly. An optional torque-vectoring feature on all-wheel drive models prevents understeer when the driver is turning by applying the brakes and reducing engine power to bring the car under control.
The four-wheel independent suspension now includes an H-shaped subframe up front and different shock absorbers. Engineers mounted the electric power steering system on the steering rack for better response. On-center response is still a bit soft, but the driver should have no problems performing emergency evasive maneuvers.
Engineers did a good job of minimizing noise intrusion to the interior so occupants can enjoy the new available 630-watt Infinity surround sound audio system.
Visibility around the perimeter is pretty good considering the car’s narrow greenhouse. Blind spot monitoring and a new around-view monitor make it easier for the driver to back out of a slot in a crowded parking lot.
Turbo model delivers the goods
Performance buffs will most likely gravitate to the new turbocharged engine. For those who don’t need the third row of seating, the turbo block has the advantage of better low-end torque and than the naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine and better fuel economy than the V-6.
Turbocharging reduces parasitic power loss at altitude: something for buyers in mountainous regions to consider. Driving the V-6 and turbocharged four-cylinder car in the Sierra Nevadas back-to-back, the turbo was by far the more spirited ride.
Acceleration was more robust throughout the power band, making the Sorento feel more like a passenger car than a largish crossover. Heading back up the hill between the Nevada state capitol of Carson city and the resort at Lake Tahoe, the Sorento ate up the pavement, making quick work of the ascent.
With upscale grades climbing into the $40,000 range, it was important for product planners to imbue the new Sorento with a premium feel. They certainly succeeded, with attractive soft-touch materials throughout the interior, a large, easy-to-read center stack screen and nicely designed gauge cluster.
Owners can download a variety of apps from the Kia app store including Yelp, Google search, Pandora and Siri eyes-free. It is surprising that product planners did not add a mobile hot spot, since that is rapidly becoming the price of admission in the segment.
Features such as heated and ventilated front seats and heated second-row seats will appeal to those cross shopping the new Sorento with comparably priced products. Keyless entry and start enables the driver to enter the car and fire the ignition without fumbling for the key fob.
A smart liftgate opens automatically when the driver stands behind it for about 15 seconds as long as he has the key fob on his person. The feature makes it much easier to load large cargo such as bicycles, skis and snowboards in back. Both second and third-row seats fold flat, so the Sorento easily meets our bicycle-friendly standards.
The Kia Sorento comes with front, side and side curtain airbags, antilock brakes, stability control, tire pressure monitoring, hill start assist and active front headrests. The factory warranty covers repairs due to faulty manufacturing for up to ten years or 100,000 miles.
Kia builds the Sorento in its West Point, Georgia manufacturing facility.
Like: A versatile spacious crossover vehicle with up to three rows of available seating, available all-wheel drive and three fuel-efficient engines.
Dislike: Wi-Fi connectivity is unavailable
Base price: $24,900
As tested: N/A
Horsepower: 290 @ 6400 rpm (V-6), 240 Hp @ 6000 rpm (turbo)
Torque: 252 lbs.-ft. @ 5300 rpm (V-6), 260 lbs.-ft. @ 1450 rpm (turbo)
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Towing: Yes (V-6 model only)
Fuel economy: N/A2016, Best Value 2016, Active Lifestyle Vehicles, auto review, Kia, performance, pricing, standard safety
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