2017 Kia Sorento SXL AWDPosted on October 28th, 2016
Midsize crossover simplifies busy lifestyles
By Nina Russin
For eleven months out of the year my life is pretty simple: writing about cars, spending time with my husband, friends, family, a very spoiled cat named Goober and riding my bicycle.
For the month of October leading up to the annual Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year program, simplicity goes out the window. As the event organizer, I become a professional schlepper, carting around everything from luggage to traffic barriers and extremely large tureens of coffee. It takes a special vehicle to carry this sort of stuff and offer the versatility to drive on paved and dirt roads, through a variety of weather conditions, night and day. That vehicle is the Kia Sorento.
As any schlepper knows, bigger isn’t always better. It’s hard to park a Bluebird bus next to an airport terminal. As out-of-town journalists arrive having endured hours in too-small airplane seats, they expect a modicum of comfort. The Sorento delivers that, with eight-way adjustable front seats and plenty of hip and legroom in the second row.
A premium Infinity sound system kicks out the tunes in a pleasantly quiet interior. Keyless entry and start and hands-free power liftgate make it easier to get people and their luggage in and out of the car when time is of the essence.
The test car is the upscale SX Limited priced from $45,700. To simplify the buying process, Kia includes the convenience and safety features the car’s buying audience is looking for: from Nappa leather upholstery to dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats, satellite radio, Bluetooth interface, a panoramic sunroof, blind spot monitoring, around-view camera, navigation and autonomous emergency braking.
Options on the test car include white pearl exterior paint and special interior trim. Final MSRP including the $895 destination charge is $48,990.
Test drive in Southern Arizona
It was kismet that the Sorento arrived in our driveway at the same time journalists began landing at Sky Harbor Airport. Sky Harbor is by no means the largest airport in the US but it isn’t the smallest either. Traffic flow is more a consequence of growth as opposed to a master plan, so it isn’t unusual to have to move from the far left to the far right lane in order to go straight.
Active safety features such as blind spot monitoring and cross traffic alert were made for situations such as this. As I found myself taking ramps to nowhere in parking garages while watching the window of time before each passenger arrived shrink, I was grateful for the Sorento’s rearview camera with cross traffic alert.
While the person might not think much about lift-over height loading groceries, it makes a bigger difference with large luggage and athletic gear. The fact that my back isn’t sore is a tribute to Sorento’s good ergonomics.
Power for the test car comes from a 3.3-liter V-6 direct injection gasoline engine and six-speed automatic transmission. The engine has plenty of pep off-the-line and in the 20-to-50 mile-per-hour bracket that drivers utilize merging into highway traffic. Once up to speed, passing slower vehicles is a non-issue.
The larger of two available engines also gives the Sorento more towing capacity: up to 5,000 pounds for the all-wheel drive model.
A four-wheel independent suspension consists of MacPherson struts up front and a multi-link system in back. Stabilizer bars on both axles keep the chassis flat in the corners.
Engineers mounted the steering box for the electric power steering system on the rack for the sporty SX grade, improving the driver’s on-center response at speed. Low-speed assist is plentiful. A 37.3-foot turning circle makes it possible to perform U-turns on wider suburban roads with ease.
Four-wheel disc brakes stop the car in firm, linear fashion.
Engineers did an excellent job of minimizing noise intrusion to the interior so both rows of passengers can converse on the highway or enjoy the audio system.
At night, high intensity discharge headlamps project brighter beams of light that are closer to daylight than halogen for better visibility. The headlamps react to steering inputs, lighting corners of the road that would remain dark with traditional systems.
Inside, the Sorento SX has all the comforts of home. I found the power driver’s seat with adjustable lumbar comfortable for trips over an hour in duration. Temperature and audio controls are easy to reach from either front seating position and intuitive to operate.
A split screen center stack display enables the driver to view navigation maps and audio settings at the same time, while a thin-film-transistor display in the gauge cluster displays tire pressures at all four wheels. Both are easy to read in bright sunlight and after dark.
A spacious cargo area is bicycle friendly, and had plenty of room for multiple pieces of luggage and cartons containing everything from food to trophies.
The Kia Sorento comes with front, side and side curtain airbags, antilock brakes, traction control, stability control, hill start assist and tire pressure monitoring.
Kia’s ten-year/100,000-mile factory warranty protects owners from breakdowns due to manufacturing and also includes five years of roadside assistance, up to 60,000 miles.
Kia builds the Sorento in its West Point, Georgia manufacturing facility.
Like: All-wheel drive crossover combines a high level of comfort and active safety features with a spacious cargo bay, ideal for buyers with active lifestyles.
Model: Sorento SXL
Base price: $45,700
As tested: $46,990
Horsepower: 290 Hp @ 6400 rpm
Torque: 252 lbs.-ft. @ 5300 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy: 17/23 mpg city/highway2017, Luxury 2017, Active Lifestyle Vehicles, auto review, Kia, performance, pricing, Sorento, standard safety