2011 Kia Sorento LX V6 AWD Road Test Review

Alexandra Straub - CAP staff
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It says a lot about a car manufacturer when the supply isn't meeting the demand. That's the case with the last couple of vehicles Kia has come out with, including the Forte Sedan/Koup and Soul. The Sorento is most likely going to be next. The 2011 model year welcomes an all-new and completely redesigned Crossover Utility Vehicle (CUV) and it's better than ever.

With its noteworthy design cues and very strong visual appeal, the Sorento is, in my opinion, a good-looking vehicle. Its styling is rugged yet still graceful in order to appeal to the masses. The aerodynamic lines, along with the signature tiger nose grille, deep wheel arches, and standard 17-inch alloy wheels inside 235/65R17 all-season tires all work nicely together to create a hot commodity.

Things continue to get better in the cabin. A combination of soft touch materials on the dash plus decorative accents and a neatly finished centre stack are just a few parts of its interior that catch the eye. Not to mention the list of standard features and creature comforts the Sorento LX V6 AWD includes, such as heated front seats, Bluetooth, steering wheel mounted controls, push button start, and more.

And just when I thought the party had ended, it didn't. The lifeblood of the Sorento takes shape under the hood in the form of its new 3.5L, 24-valve, DOHC V6 that produces 276 horsepower and 248 lb-ft of torque. Believe me, this CUV is not underpowered. In fact, I was quite impressed with its acceleration and how quickly it got up to highway speeds. I wasn't, however, surprised as I saw the gas gauge needle dip lower and lower. The amalgamation of the V6 engine and new 6-speed automatic transmission (a 6-speed manual transmission is standard with the 175 horsepower 2.4L 4-cylinder model) was a great combo, and while the extra gears help fuel economy the V6 make it significantly thirstier than the four. While the four-cylinder with an automatic is good for an estimated 6.9 L/100km in the city and 9.7 on the highway, the V6 will use and estimated and rather optimistic 7.9 and 11.1, respectively.

Although the Sorento has traded its body-on-frame architecture in for a unibody design (it now shares the same platform with the Hyundai Santa Fe), that doesn't mean it's off-road DNA has been completely wiped out. After all, the previous-generation Sorento won numerous awards for its ability to venture off the beaten path. I experienced first hand how capable the new Sorento's AWD system is and how little effort it took to keep in control when the road was, needless to say, a little rocky.

My husband and I ventured into 'the bush' on one of the West Coast Gulf Islands, as we needed to access a rather remote location. The terrain was rock on one side and steep cliff on the other. Combine that with wet and muddy roads and it was an off-roader's delight! Our Sorento was being trailed by our escort, a Ford F150 (fully loaded at that), the driver of which, when we reached our destination, was baffled at how well the Sorento performed. I guess he hasn't been in a Kia lately. The Ford owner traveled that particular road quite often and gave kudos to the Korean car manufacturer. I couldn't ask for anything better. I was tempted to tell him how the Hill Ascent Control (HAC) and Downhill Brake Control (DBC) had a hand in my/our performance, but I'm sure he will find out on his own.

Whether I was descending down the rocky hill or running errands, the suspension and handling of the unibody CUV was most impressive. I recall the last generation Sorento was more suited to trails than the road, as I wasn't exceptionally fond of how it rode on pavement. This generation is totally different and is a great combination of both mediums. Its front MacPherson strut and fully independent multi-link rear suspension give great results at both highway speeds or at a snail's pace. Overall, it's just what I would look for in a vehicle in its midsize CUV class.

As mentioned, the Sorento shares its "platform" architecture with the Santa Fe, but doesn't share the Santa Fe's lack of room for tall people inside. When in the cabin, there is plenty of head and legroom for individuals who are vertically inclined or for those who have longer legs, since the Sorento is now longer and roomier. There is also a generous amount of cargo room in the trunk at 258 litres (9.1 cubic feet), for all the tall people stuff. Just kidding. But seriously, the only problem I had with the trunk was a lack of a cargo cover. There is a storage bin built beneath the cargo area's floor, but I would prefer a cover.

When pricing out the Sorento, I was again impressed at its very reasonable point of entry. The LX V6 trim has an MSRP of $32,745, which includes the AWD option plus destination charges. That also includes standard safety features like 4-wheel disc brakes with ABS and EBD, Traction Control (TCS), Electronic Stability Control (ESC), and more. So not only is Kia giving its customer more bang for their buck, it's doing it with a list of standard safety and convenience features plus one of Canada's best warranties at 5 years or 100,000 km comprehensive, 5 years or 100,000 km powertrain, and 5-years or 100,000 km Roadside Assistance.

Kia continues to deliver exceptional products and the 2011 Sorento further solidifies this statement. Whether it's trekking through the backcountry or heading to the grocery store, I enjoyed its versatility and personality in all settings. I think Kia has another winning vehicle on its hands.

©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Crossover, Kia, 2011, Sorento, $20,000 - $29,999,

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