2011 Kia Sorento EX V6 AWD Road Test Review

Arv Voss - CAP staff
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For the 2011 model year, everything but the name is new for the Kia Sorento midsize Crossover Utility Vehicle (CUV), the first Kia to be built in the U.S. at the company's new Kia Motor Manufacturing Georgia facility in West Point, Georgia. The new Sorento is now based on the same platform as the Santa Fe from sister company Hyundai, a big change from the 4x4 capable body-on-frame design of the outgoing Sorento.

Two engines are offered in the Sorento for 2011, both more powerful than the Ford Escape's base powerplant and what's in the Honda CR-V. The base engine is a 2.4-litre in-line four-cylinder that develops 175 horsepower along with 169 pound-feet of torque. The other available engine is a 3.5-litre V6 that generates 276 horses and 248 pound-feet of torque. Both engines mate to a new six-speed automatic transmission – a proprietary design that was designed, engineered and built specifically for Kia vehicles, making the brand one of only three manufacturers to utilize such a transmission. Both powertrains may be coupled to either a Front-Wheel Drive (FWD) configuration or an All-Wheel Drive (AWD) setup that comes with a locking centre differential that evenly distributes power to all wheels while operating the vehicle at low speeds during more severe weather conditions where traction is an issue.

The Sorento's ride quality and handling is enhanced by a more compact and lighter MacPherson strut front suspension and a fully independent multi-link rear suspension.

From a design standpoint, this latest Sorento draws its design cues from Kia's KND-4 concept show vehicle unveiled three years ago at the Los Angeles Auto Show. It displays the same swept-back lines and dynamic presence as the concept vehicle. With an angled window line, large flared-back headlamps, prominent fog lamps and rounded nose, the all-new Sorento is readily identifiable with the Kia family's new DNA conveying a bold and athletic presence. The rear view showcases the same aggressive attitude featuring a rounded back and tail lamps positioned prominently within the rear liftgate.

The 2011 Sorento will be available in five distinct levels of trim: the $25,645 LX, a more upscale $30,745 LX V6, a much more upscale $31,445 EX, the $33,445 EX-V6 and the $39,645 flagship EX-V6 Luxury model. Seventeen-inch alloy wheels are standard with eighteens optional, and I won't even try to communicate the list of standard features, as it's much, much too long. Suffice to say that all the usual safety equipment is standard and then some, and the standard audio system gets XM satellite radio with a 3-month subscription to lure you in, Bluetooth connectivity, and comes iPod ready. Almost everything less the seats is powered, although those cloth seats get heated cushions up front.

Extras can include leather seats and trim, an eight-way powered driver's seat, dual-zone climate control, proximity sensing Smart Key access with push-button start, navigation with an integrated rear back-up camera, a panoramic sunroof, and of course all-wheel drive plus seven-occupant seating.  There are more options, of course, but this list gives you an idea of wall that's available.

The Sorento's overall length is 4,671 mm (183.9 inches) and the overall width measures 1,885 mm (74.2 inches). Essentially, the all-new CUV is longer, lower and roomier than the previous-generation Sorento, providing occupants a more spacious and comfortable ride.

The interior offers either five or seven passenger seating accommodations. Head and legroom have been increased for optimal comfort of occupants, with nearly a hundred and forty litres (five cubic feet) more in cargo capacity.

My 2011 Kia Sorento tester was in EX trim, powered by the 3.5-liter V6 with AWD. The exterior was finished in Ebony Black with a Black interior featuring leather seating surfaces.

Acceleration is more than adequate, the ride quality is comfortable, all around visibility is very good and the handling is precise and predictable. Add the control features such as Hill Start Assist and Hill Descent Control along with ABS and electronic stability control and the driving experience becomes even more positive.

The 2011 Kia Sorento in its longer, lower and sleeker packaging seems to fill the bill as a "perfect sized" CUV. With the seven passenger layout, V6 engine and AWD configuration, this latest Sorento makes for an ideal family transport at an affordable price – good for travel in any weather, particularly snow. Not bad for a company that began in 1951 as a bicycle manufacturer.

Sweetening the deal, the Sorento is covered by Kia's comprehensive warranty program, which includes a 5-year/100,000-km limited powertrain warranty, a 5-year/100,000-km limited basic warranty, 5-year/unlimited-km anti-perforation warranty, and a 5-year/100,000-km roadside assistance plan.

©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Crossover, SUV, Kia, 2010, Sorento, $20,000 - $29,999, $30,000 - $39,999,

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