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2007 Kia Sorento EX 4x4 Review

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2007 Kia Sorento EX 4x4

You know how there are restaurants and vacation spots that are remarkably good and great values but for whatever reasons are also almost completely unknown? In an automotive vein, Kia is like that.

Case in point, the Kia Sorento. In a class dominated by a few big-name vehicles, it's likely to be overlooked. It shouldn't be. I first drove one in 2003, when it was new, and was very pleasantly surprised. Previous Kias had been mostly forgettable, but the Sorento was far better than any of its forebears. It was equal to anything in its class in all respects, and better than most on price. But that was four years ago, and competition in the midsize crossover SUV class has gotten much tougher since then. Kia has risen to the challenge.

At a quick glance, nothing seems to have changed. Yes, there are the usual mid-product cycle minor styling changes, but those are barely noticeable, which is no problem as the Sorento's styling is still fresh-looking. The big news is under the hood, where the old 3.5-liter, 192-horsepower V6 has been replaced by a 3.8-liter V6 with 262 horsepower that puts the Sorento near the top of its class in power output - and it makes that extra power with no increase in fuel consumption. Towing capacity has gone from 3500 pounds, good for a crossover, to 5000.

As before, the Sorento is offered in LX and EX trim levels, with two or four-wheel drive. Unlike most "4x4" crossovers, which are basically front-wheel drive with part-time single-range four-wheel drive systems, the Sorento is a rear-wheel drive vehicle in 2WD trim, and 4WD models have a dual-range system for additional traction in foul weather or light-duty off-road situations. The standard equipment level in the LX is as high as is expected in its class, with power windows, mirrors, and locks (with remote keyless entry), air conditioning, a tilt-adjustable steering wheel, plenty of storage spaces, and four 12-volt power points among the high points. The EX being a bit fancier. Safety ratings are very good.

My week with a fully-equipped 4x4 Sorento EX was quite pleasant. It fulfilled all of its duties in comfort and style. With its real, dual-range four-wheel drive system with automatic all-wheel drive mode and 5000-pound towing ability, it's more of an all-road, all-weather, tow-the-toys vehicle than most crossovers, with no loss of civility. And the added power of the 2007 models is a benefit without any drawback.

APPEARANCE: With pleasant proportions to its two-box SUV shape and chiseled styling that is neither overly conservative nor outrageously overdone, the Sorento has withstood the test of time. By never trying for the "sport-cute" or "rugged macho" extremes, it still looks good today. The headlights, grille, front and rear bumper fascias, foglamps, taillights, and some external trim have been changed a little, to positive effect, but the Sorento's basic character is unchanged. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

COMFORT: Like the outside, the Sorento's interior strikes a good balance between conservative and liberal, with a pleasant, restful design accented by just a little flash. Most importantly, the vehicle is both functional and spacious for its size. Standard fare in both trim levels is fabric seating, but leather is available in both. My EX had leather, with heated front seats, as part of the comprehensive "Appearance Package", which also included dual zone climate control and a premium audio system in its interior upgrades. So-equipped, the Sorento was not exactly bargain basement-priced, but Kia is selling on far more than price these days, and is still compares very well to its major competitors. Front seat comfort was good, with the driver's seat power-adjustable and the passenger seat manual. In the EX, the tilt-adjustable steering wheel has a leather-covered rim and cruise and auxiliary audio controls. The main instrument panel, center stack, and console have been redesigned. LX trim is "metal grain", while the EX gets woodgrain. Instruments are readily visible, and all controls are intuitive and easy to use. No luxury over-complexity here, thank you. Second-row seat design and legroom have both been improved this year, and with a near-flat floor, passenger comfort is very good, even for the center position. The rear seat is split 60/40, and each part flips and folds for cargo. A cargo shade hides items behind the rear seat from view, and there is a useful storage space under the load floor. A full-size spare lives outside, underneath the rear of the Sorento, pickup-style.

SAFETY: The 2007 Kia Sorento has received a five-star rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in both driver and front passenger frontal and side impact tests. Four-wheel drive models get a four-star rating for rollover performance; 2WD models get three stars. Dual front, driver's knee, and full-length side curtain airbags are standard. So are four-wheel ventilated disc brakes with antilock and electronic brake force distribution, and electronic stability control.

RIDE AND HANDLING: The Sorento is a standard crossover SUV in its construction, with a car-like rigid unibody chassis structure and fully independent suspension by double wishbones in front and a multilink system in the rear. The tuning is soft, for comfort on pavement or even light-duty dirt and gravel, but spring and shock rates are well-matched for good control. It's quiet and comfortable inside. As mentioned, four-wheel drive models have real dual-range four-wheel drive, and with the Appearance Package, the EX gets the upgraded "Torque on Demand" system, which has a full-time all-wheel drive mode for improved traction on all surfaces, in all conditions.

PERFORMANCE: More power, equal (or slightly better) fuel economy. What's not to like there? The 2007 Sorento's 3.8-liter twincam, 24-valve V6 produces 262 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 260 lb-ft of torque at 4500 rpm, significant increases over the old 3.5's 192 and 217. Yet its EPA ratings of 17mpg city, 22 highway (for 4WD, 17/23 2WD) are an improvement over the old engine's 15/20 (or 16/22) - and acceleration for passing is noticeably better. The five-speed automatic has manual-shift "SportMatic" mode, but the engine/transmission combination is strong enough that manual shifting is really only an entertainment option. Good brakes make deceleration as good as acceleration.

CONCLUSIONS: A new engine keeps the 2007 Kia Sorento current.

2007 Kia Sorento EX 4x4

Base Price			$ 26,195
Price As Tested			$ 30,065
Engine Type			dual overhead cam, 24-valve V6
Engine Size			3.8 liters / 231 cu. in.
Horsepower			262 @ 6000 rpm
Torque (lb-ft)			260 @ 4500 rpm
Transmission			5-speed automatic
Wheelbase / Length		106.7 in. / 180.7 in.
Curb Weight			4462 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower		17.0
Fuel Capacity			21.1 gal.
Fuel Requirement		87 octane unleaded regular gasoline
Tires				P245/70 TR16 Michelin Latitude
Brakes, front/rear		vented disc / vented disc,
				 ABS and electronic stability control
Suspension, front/rear		independent double wishbone /
				  independent multilink
Ground clearance		8.2 inches
Drivetrain			front engine, part-time dual-range
				 4-wheel drive

EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed		17 / 22 / 18
0 to 60 mph				est 9  sec
Towing capacity				5000 lbs.

Appearance Package - includes:
  body-colored cladding and wheel arch trim,
  16-inch machined alloy wheels, sunroof, leather package,
  heated front seats, automatic dual zone climate control,
  premium audio system, chrome outside door handles,
  full-time torque-on-demand 4WD system			$ 3,000
Rear spoiler						$   200
Destination charge					$   670