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2022 Kia Sorento PHEV Road Trip Review By Steve Purdy


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2022 Kia Sorento PHEV to Newport, RI for the Audrain Concours
By Steve Purdy
Senior Editor
THE AUTO CHANNEL


When my pretty field producer begins looking for a destination where we might generate a good travel story to accompany our car reviews she favors places we’ve not visited. In this case (an early fall jaunt) the winner is Newport, Rhode Island, best known for early 20th century mansions along the Atlantic shore where tourists from around the world come to bask in the opulence of the Gilded Age.


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Shortly after booking the trip we discovered that Newport is also the home of the Audrian Car Museum, host of what appears to be a first-rate Concours d’Elegance (invitational classic and collector car show) and it just happened to be scheduled while we were to be there. “Frosting on the cake,” is the metaphor that comes to mind.

Of course, we expect more discoveries. There always are.

Our review car for this adventure is the new Kia Sorento Plug-in Hybrid (gas/electric) crossover, a remarkably stylish and efficient family hauler with three-row seating and a transitional powertrain – one that can act like a full electric if you drive less than 35 miles/day, or run on just gasoline if on a road trip, or any combination thereof. The small, 1.6-liter turbo augmented by a substantial electric motor, acting through a sophisticated 8-speed transmission, makes a total 261 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque - plenty since both are integrated and balanced with algorithms to maximize efficiency within any driving environment. It’s rated at 79 MPGe (a complex, standardized rating system) and 34 mpg on gas only.

We formed first impressions of the Sorento PHEV SX-Prestige AWD (all-wheel drive) on the 13-hour drive from our Michigan HQ to Jamestown, Rhode Island – essentially, I-90 most of the way, turning south just short of Boston toward the Atlantic coast. Front seat and driving environment get high marks. The driver’s seat range of adjustment is better than most even accommodating our 6-foot 5 1/2-inch son of substantial girth (like his ol’ man) who bought a new Sorento (not a hybrid) a few weeks before our trip.


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Info displays, controls, navigation system, HVAC, and audio caused little consternation as most are conventional and well thought out. A few of the icons, and there are a lot of 'em, are a bit obscure - like the cruise control "resume" button - but we adjusted to most of it in the first couple hundred miles as we hit the first of three intense rainstorms near Buffalo. We hit the third and worst storm as we approached Boston resulting in some standing water in the road as visibility shrunk to a hundred yards or less. The Sorento’s all-wheel drive engages whenever needed giving us a good level of confidence, but I did not feel it come into play. The adaptive cruise control, lane keeping and other nanny functions worked quite well together.


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We arrived at a lovely old inn in Jamestown, just across the narrows from Newport, well after dark where we had a dramatic view of Lower Narragansett Bay. Dozens and dozens of boats, mostly sail boats, bobbed in the bay just outside our third-floor window. Less than a mile north along the shore the Newport Bridge loomed high above the channel lit up as if it were holiday time. Bridge toll is $4 each way and most of our week’s activities appear to be in Newport. (By the way, if you’re a Midwesterner with an IPass, it works for all the tolls along the interstate and even the Newport Bridge.)


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Our first exploration was of Conanicus Island, where the charming little village of Jamestown sits just inside the mouth of Narragansett Bay. We found dozens more marinas and mooring places and hundreds more boats around the island as well as an old, old fort and battery now used as a local park with a fishing quay, an event space, shelter for picnics and open-air yoga. A couple of well-appointed state parks bless the little island with quiet spaces - so welcome around these densely populated areas. And, we find here, like Newport, huge, beautiful houses, many accurately described as mansions, around nearly every corner.


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Another exploration took us along the coast each direction from Newport east and west. As with most of coastal New England, it’s all about the sea – fishing villages, resort towns, beaches, rocky outcroppings, and stone construction. I’ll bet there are more boats per-capita here than just about anywhere. Many of the small towns have been carefully preserved according to the most stringent historical preservation standards. Newport, particularly, was saved by Jackie Kennedy, Doris Duke and their pals resulting in old New England-style architecture, narrow streets (barely wide enough for two carriages to pass), and few modern structures to spoil the ambiance. Parking was an expensive scramble in Newport, not so much elsewhere.


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Ocean Avenue near Brenton State Park, at the tip of the island south of Newport, presented a lovely spot to take a few images of the Sorento and admire the styling and design. Each generation of cars from Kia, and cousin Hyundai, becomes more style-intensive, allowing them to keep up with trends in the industry and usually add something to the aesthetic conversation as well. About the only styling details that carry over from the last gen Sorento is the shape of the C-pillar and just a hint of the chipmunk grill. Our test car is a vibrant white with very little chrome trim and lots of black details. A small white accent punctuates the large side glass just behind the rear door for an artsy touch.


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Our Kia’s navigation map kept us on track and revealed routes that allow us to keep close to the coast. Traveling south along the west shore of the bay we soon came to the broad public beach at Narragansette where young folks were stooping over the rocks at the intermittent outcroppings harvesting what we thought might be the famous Little Neck clams. As it happened, we found an upscale bar/restaurant just around the corner from the beach with Little Necks on the menu. Fortunately, I ordered a seafood pasta with the clams, scallops, shrimp and a couple other sea creatures, because I was disappointed in the clams – really tough and gristly.


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As we live with the Sorento we’re finding a plethora of USB ports, cubbies, pockets and bins that would make this a great vehicle for family travel, but we’re just by ourselves on this trip. Second row ?captains’ seats will accommodate two with easy ingress and egress. Third seat access, though, is tough and might best be left for little ones. With second and third row folded we have a good 75.5 cu-ft of cargo space which puts it in the larger range of mid-size crossovers.

THE AUDRAIN CONCOURS AND MOTOR WEEK


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The good news is, Mother Nature held off the rain Sunday for the Audrain Concours.

The bad news is, she did so by steadily pushing the wet remnants of Hurricane Ian out into the ocean off the southwest-facing cliff known by the world as home to the elegantly opulent “cottages” where families of robber barons played from the 1880s through the Great Depression. The dry cold front from the north manifested itself with temps in the 50s and 30 mph winds - gusts to 45 mph, I contend. It was a glorious show for this Midwesterner who loves cool and cloudy weather. It was at times, though, difficult to control my hat and my balance against the buffeting wind as I slowly soaked up the ambiance of an ultra-high-end car show covering this mansion’s lawn on the bluff looking out to sea. My lovely field producer even loved this show but ended up in the media tent with a field heater.


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We were not far inside the gate when the magnitude of the show revealed itself. A big, dark-red Daimler reflected the kind of soft, dissipate light a photographer loves. It was a contender in the Post-WWII Luxury class that included a couple of Bentleys, a Rolls-Royce, Citroen, Delahaye, a few Mercedes and even an Iso Rivolta. Beyond these beauties, rows and rows of significant, rare, expensive cars surrounded the vast front lawn of “The Breakers,” most-famous of the cottages, built by the Vanderbilts with their endless railroad money. Looking across the lawn the barely discernable horizon and dark clouds stayed 20 miles out to sea as swarms of well-dressed, though bundled up, show-goers wandered among this remarkable gathering of classic and collector cars.


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Wandering among the early brass era cars, early European and American luxury cars, CCCA full classics, classes for Ferrari, Aston Martin, Jaguar, R-R Silver Ghosts and Cadillac, and even classic motorcycles – two dozen classes altogether – I couldn’t imagine the task of determining the ultimate “Best of Show” winner. A panel of 65 judges from five countries were tasked to do that, and to determine three winners each of each of all those classes. Most of the car owners at a show like this are profoundly competitive as they seek respect for their particular car.


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Chosen from the European Luxury 1920-1930 class, the show winner was the 1930 Bentley Speed Six owned by William Metcalf of Vintage Bentley. Like most luxury automakers of the day, Bentley built the chassis and powertrain, then a coachbuilder created the body and interior, usually to the customer’s specifications. In this case the Bentley’s 6.5-litre, 180-hp chassis was bodied by Martin Walter and was one of only two built. Coachbuilder Martin termed it a “Folkestone close-coupled sedan.” This car’s body and chassis had been separated at one time, and Mr. Metcalf brought them back together some years ago to become the car as delivered to the first owner, the 10th Duke of Manchester. Every car, like every person has a story, of course, but some stories are way bigger than others.


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“Motor Week” is part of its name because they host events for four days - informal shows, venders of luxury goods, a Saturday cruise, receptions, dinners and seminars. Considering this is just their third Concours event we’re amazed at the level of elegance they’ve achieved in sponsorship and particularly in the quality of cars brought to the Audrain Concours. Bravo!


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Now, back to the Sorento:

We put about 2,500 miles on the Sorento this week, so we got a good feel for her. We were not able to take advantage of the hybrid powertrain since we had no place to plug it in. Google said the only public charging station within five miles was at the bridge maintenance facility a mile up the road. The guy there, taking a smoke break, told me the charger was out of service, that it was an old-style charger, and they weren’t sure it could be fixed. The old inn had no reachable outside standard plugs, so we were out of luck in that regard, and the next closest charger is across the bridge in Newport – again, toll $4 each way.


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It does generate some of its own electricity, though, but not enough to fill the batteries, so we ran on only gasoline most of the time averaging just about 30 mpg. I’ll offer the disclaimer that my driving style is, at no time, focused on hypermiling.

Our top of the line PHEV SX-Prestige with AWD shows a bottom line on the sticker of just under fifty-grand. You can get the basic Sorento for just under thirty. Ours is loaded with just about everything but sunroof including 19-inch alloy wheels, navigation, 360-degree monitor, 10 ¼” touch screen and all the driver assist features you can think of.


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Kia continues to offer the best-in-the-industry 10-year, 100,000 power train warranty with 5-years, 60,000 miles bumper-to-bumper.

I still encounter people who think of Kia and Hyundai as cheap, underdeveloped cars, and I always remind them how outdated that image is. For many years now, the brands have been at or near the top of the J.D. Power Initial Quality ratings and provide more content for the price than most of their competitors, not to mention what many would agree is up-to-date, and even forward-looking, design.


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Ours went back to Kia when we got home, of course, but our son will have his for years. He might be well within the Sorento’s target market – married with a couple kids, lots of lifestyle toys, exurban home with big yard, and always up for a road trip. Like me, the PHEV wouldn’t fit his needs, but with the efficient conventional powertrain the Sorento is a great choice.

Urbanites might be right in Kia’s sweet spot with the PHEV.


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© Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions LLC

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Shunpiker Productions, LLC
Founder and President: the Automotive Heritage Foundation
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