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2011 Kia Sorento SX Review
High-grade Sorento SX adds style, luxury features and delivers a more engaging drive
By Ken Glassman, Photography by Kia, Jan. 06, 2011

The 2011 Kia Sorento is the second generation of the Korean utility vehicle. But rather than the new generation being an evolutionary product, it’s more revolutionary.  The first Sorento was a truck-like body on frame vehicle, with all the negative qualities that come with that set-up, while the new Sorento is a crossover unibody set-up with much more car-like qualities.

FAST FACTS

1. The Sorento SX gets custom front and rear bumpers, LED taillights, chrome exhaust finishers and roof rails, 18-inch wheels, a 10mm lower suspension with upgraded shocks, navigation with a backup camera and a 10-speaker Infinity audio system.

2. SX models come exclusively with a 276-hp 3.5L V6 and 6-speed automatic.

3. Pricing for the SX model starts at $32,195 or $33,895 for AWD.

SX MODEL SOLD EXCLUSIVELY WITH V6

The new model comes with a choice of a new 175-horsepower, 2.3-liter 4-cylinder engine, or a gutsy 3.5-liter V6. There are six trim levels to consider, from the base front wheel drive with the 2.3 engine, up to the SX model, with All-Wheel-Drive and the V6 – like our test car. 

Starting with the drivetrain, the 3.5-liter V6 puts out 276 horsepower and 248 ft-lbs of torque. And even though the AWD Sorento pushes two tons, acceleration is brisk. Power comes on smoothly, and the motor is willing to rev.  It’s also quiet and has both a refined feel and sound.

There is a green Eco light on the speedometer to let you know when you are driving in the most economical way. And if you are, it won’t be hard to hit the EPA-listed 19-mpg city number, although the 25-mpg highway number is a mile or two too optimistic. 

UPGRADED SUSPENSION KEY TO CHANGING SORENTO’S FEEL

A new 6-speed manumatic transmission works flawlessly in the normal Drive mode.  Manual shifts do come at a lazy pace, but this isn’t meant to be a sportscar. The AWD system does come in handy (especially in a Chicago snowstorm), and really adds a major degree of confidence when the traction is poor. Along with AWD, the Sorento also has a push button locking center differential for particularly sticky situations, which coupled with a rather generous 7.1-inch ground clearance makes this a great performer in the deep stuff.

Also aiding in the Sorento’s competence are all the electronic goodies like Traction Control, Electronic Stability Control, and the 4-wheel disc ABS brakes with Electronic Brake Distribution, and Brake Assist. And while the Sorento may not be rated for off-road Rubicon trail riding, it does have Hill Assist Control and a push button Downhill Brake Control for those times when you wish to leave the paved tarmac.

The ride quality is surprisingly good thanks to upgraded shocks. There’s plenty of suspension travel and damping to tackle pot-holes, and still offer a solid quiet ride. On the highway the only intrusion into the cabin comes from the tires. Steering is light and quick, and the Sorento has a tight turning circle. Cornering is surprisingly good with a 10mm lower ride height compared to the standard model resulting in body lean that is better than most vehicles in this class.

A NEAR-LUXURY INTERIOR

The cabin is quiet, with very little wind noise. The appointments look rich, with the standard heated leather seats that are both wide enough to be comfortable, yet bolstered enough to be supportive. The driver gets 8-way power seats with lumbar support, while the passenger seat is manual.

The center stack is dominated by the standard Navigation Screen that’s easy to operate and includes a back-up camera. The steering wheel puts the Infinity 10-speaker sound system, cruise control, and Bluetooth telephone controls at your fingertips, while dual zone heating and air controls are operated by large round dials and easy to use push buttons. At the base of the stack is a large storage bin with dual 12-volt outlets to plug in any accessories you have, plus there’s an iPod plug to run your MP3 player through the radio system, and store it right there. And while it’s hard to recall testing a car with a sound system that can be classified as being poor quality, this one stands out as being exceptionally good. 

The second row offers good comfort with supportive seats and reclining seatbacks for relaxed riding. The fold down armrest is equipped with dual cupholders. Legroom is good, and so is the headroom. The middle seat passenger will feel cramped, but it will work in a pinch.

CRAMPED 3RD ROW

The SX model has third row seating for two munchkins, however, you can only get to the third row seat from the passengers side. Of course it’s always safer to load the kids back there on the sidewalk side of the vehicle, but if you’re putting them into the car from your driveway, it’s a pain to have to walk around the car to do it.  There is, however, a fan control for the HVAC system back there and outlets for air flow. 

Cargo room with the third seat up is a minimal 9.1 cubic feet, with a few bags of groceries being the only thing you can put back there. But with the seats folded, you get a more spacious 37 cubic feet, and if you put all the seats down, 72 cubic feet are at your disposal. 

Styling is aggressive with a big grill and lower air intake, plus integrated fog lights.  Viewed from the side, the Sorento looks sleek, and has a rising beltline and tapered side windows to give the illusion of a sloping rear roof section.  But the roof doesn’t slope as much as it appears, so the Sorento retains the headroom for second and third row passengers.

The Kia Sorento is much like its Hyundai Santa Fe cousin in that it’s loaded with features at a reasonable price. What makes the top line SX different from the well equipped EX is 18-inch wheels, roof rack rails, the Infinity Sound System, the NAV system with back-up camera and real time traffic, interior accent illuminations, auto dimming rearview mirror with Homelink, and leather trimmed and heated front seats. And there are a host of other amenities that come standard including a 10 year/100,000 mile powertrain warranty and 5 year/60,000 mile warranty on the rest of the car. 

THE VERDICT

Along with the added features, the 18-inch wheels and upgraded suspension make the Sorento SX more fun to drive, and when equipped with AWD it’s also perfectly suited to northern climates.

The test car was priced at $33,895, and the only option was the Panoramic Sunroof over the rear seats at a cost of $1,200.

Compared to the rest of the Sorento lineup the SX trim seems pricey, but option out an EX trim model with all the same goodies and you’re looking at paying roughly the same. And besides, with Kias already competitively-priced compared to rivals, even a high-zoot model comes off as a bargain.

LOVE IT
  • Strong engine
  • Excellent All-Wheel-Drive system
  • Great value
LEAVE IT
  • 3rd row only accessible from right side of car
  • Tight 3rd row legroom
  • No electric tailgate lift

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