2014 Kia Sorento EX AWD Review By Carey Russ


PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2014 Kia Sorento


DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD
WITH CAREY RUSS

Reviewed Vehicle : 2014 Kia Sorento EX AWD

…Kia is one of the fastest-growing automakers around, and the 2014 Sorento shows why.

Since the second-generation Kia Sorento made its model year 2011 debut early in 2010, one would expect that the 2014 version would be due for a styling refresh and perhaps reordering of trim levels and options. Such is the usual way in the auto industry.

One would be very wrong by making those assumptions.

If the styling looks freshened but not significantly changed, nearly everything under the skin is new. The chassis has been redesigned for increased torsional rigidity, all the better for improved ride quality and better handling. The 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine found in the entry-level LX was the uplevel offering there last year, with direct fuel injection and other enhancements for more power -- 191 bhp and 181 lb-ft vs. the 175 hp and 169 lb-ft of the older version. The V6 in the EX, SX, and SX-L trim levels is all-new. It's smaller in displacement, 3.3 to 3.5 liters, but offers more power -- 290 hp and 252 lb-ft vs. 276 hp and 248 lb-ft. Transmission for all is a six-speed electronically-controlled automatic with Sportmatic manual-shift mode. As is the norm for crossovers, front-wheel drive is standard. The optional all-wheel drive system has been upgraded with Torque Vectoring Cornering Control (TVCC) for optimum traction and stability in inclement conditions. The interior has been revamped, with new instrumentation that takes advantage of recent developments in electronics. Safety updates include an available sonar-based blind-spot monitoring system, a first in the Kia lineup. It's also the first Kia to offer the next generation of UVO eServices voice-activated telematics system.

After a week with a new all-wheel drive Sorento EX equipped with the comprehensive "Touring Package" option group of navigation system, audio upgrade, blind-spot system, panoramic sunroof, and other upscale amenities, I found it to be a comfortable, capable, and well-equipped midsize crossover. It was pleasant to drive, easy to park, and, with a 21-mpg average, none too thirsty for unleaded regular despite energetic performance. It holds four or even five people comfortably, has the usual crossover cargo-passenger versatility, and handsome looks both inside and out. Kia is one of the fastest-growing automakers around, and the Sorento shows why.

APPEARANCE: At a glance, you can be excused for not thinking much has changed. Kia has a distinctive design language, all the better for easy identification. The shape is tastefully conservative, and the kind of design that should age very well. Kia is not likely to do any major change to that anytime soon. So if the overall shape is familiar, most of the details are different. There are minor differences to the grille and headlights (with new LED positioning lamps) and the lower front air intake has been restyled and the foglamps redesigned. LEDs are found at the back, too, used for combination taillamps, turn signals, and backup lights.

COMFORT: Inside, the new Sorento is pleasant and spacious. Two-row seating is standard, with comfortable and supportive buckets in front and a 40/20/40 split folding rear seat with adjustable back angle. Leather covers the seating surfaces. A third row is an option at EX level and above; as in any mid-size crossover or SUV, don't expect much room there. Without that, Kia cleverly gets extra space under the rear cargo floor by putting the space-saver spare in the traditional SUV spot -- outside and underneath.

At EX level, the driver's seat is power-adjustable. Expect power adjustment for everything but the steering wheel -- and that is manually-adjustable for both tilt and reach. It has controls for audio, cruise, phone, and information systems. Vehicle information is displayed on a TFT screen between the brightly-lit speedometer and tach. Instrument visibility is very good, as is control placement. Sirius satellite radio (free 3-month subscription), Bluetooth® connectivity, and a jack and USB port provide audio options to AM/FM radio and the CD player. Interior accent illumination and carpet floor mats, options in some competitors, are standard fare here. The panoramic sunroof, part of the Touring Package, adds light and an airy interior experience with a good upwards view, especially from the rear seat. The front part tilts for ventilation. With just over seven inches of ground clearance, the Sorento presents no difficulty for access.

SAFETY: The 2014 Kia Sorento has the usual front, front-seat side, and full-length side curtain airbags, antilock four-wheel disc brakes, traction control and electronic stability control as standard equipment. At EX level and above a backup camera is standard. Blind spot monitoring, with an audible beep and display in the relevant outside rearview mirror, is an option in the EX and standard above that.

RIDE AND HANDLING: On the road, the 2014 Sorento is composed and quiet. The MacPherson strut front, multilink rear suspension is compliant, but firm enough for better than average crossover handling and a pleasant driving experience. Credit increased unibody rigidity and a new front subframe and standard strut-tower brace for much of that. The brakes work well, and the electric motor-assisted power steering is not too light. The 7.3 inches of ground clearance may not work for serious off-road use -- which was never in the design spec -- but will be useful on improved forest roads as well as the usual urban potholes and road repairs. The new AWD system vectors torque to the wheel that can best use it, for control and traction, and is a full-time system. Unusually for a single-range AWD vehicle, there is a center differential lock to better deal with real slippery conditions like snow and ice.

PERFORMANCE: More power with no more appetite for fuel? You can't fault that. And despite the high specific output -- maximum 290 horsepower at 6400 rpm, with 252 lb-ft of torque at 5200 rpm from 3.3 liters/204 cubic inches -- the DOHC, 24-valve V6 feeds happily on unleaded regular. Direct fuel injection is the secret, allowing a high 11.5:1 compression ratio for increased efficiency. Continuously variable cam timing on both the intake and exhaust sides also help there. The six-speed automatic transmission helps both performance and economy, with low lower gears for acceleration, especially at around-town and highway merging speeds, and high top ratios for economical highway cruising. An "Active Eco" mode changes engine and transmission response to improve fuel economy. I didn't notice it making a huge difference in driving characteristics, and so kept it on most of the time. It must have done something, as I averaged 21 mpg for the week, not bad for a midsize crossover. Need to tow? With the V6, the Sorento is rated for 3500 pounds, enough for a small boat, personal watercraft, motorcycles, or a small camping trailer.

CONCLUSIONS: Kia continues to surprise with its Sorento crossover.

SPECIFICATIONS
2014 Kia Sorento EX AWD

Base Price			$ 31,700
Price As Tested			$ 36,550
Engine Type			aluminum alloy 24-valve DOHC V6 with
				 dual CVVT and direct fuel injection
Engine Size			3.3 liters / 204 cu. in.
Horsepower			290 @ 6400 rpm
Torque (lb-ft)			252 @ 5200 rpm
Transmission			6-speed automatic with Sportmaticâ„¢
				 manual mode
Wheelbase / Length		106.3 in. / 184.4 in.
Curb Weight			3894 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower		13.4
Fuel Capacity			17.4 gal.
Fuel Requirement		87 octane unleaded regular gasoline
Tires				235/60R18 103H m+s Kumho Venture Premium
Brakes, front/rear		vented disc / solid disc,
				 ABS, TCS, ESC standard
Suspension, front/rear		independent MacPherson strut /
				  independent multilink
Ground Clearance		7.3 inches
Drivetrain			transverse front engine, all-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE
EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed		18 / 24 / 21
0 to 60 mph				est 7  sec
Towing Capacity				3500 lbs.

OPTIONS AND CHARGES
Touring Package -- includes:
  navigation system with 8" display, Infinity Surround Sound
  audio system, ventilated front seats, blind-spot detection,
  4-way power front passenger seat, panoramic sunroof with
  power sunshade, memory driver's seat and mirrors, power
  folding outside mirrors, power liftgate		$ 4,000
Inland Freight and Handling				$   850
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