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Review Of The 2016 Kia Sorento: Remind You Of Something?

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On: Sat, Jan 9, 2016 at 10:11AM | By: Lou Ruggieri

Review Of The 2016 Kia Sorento:  Remind You Of Something?

It seems that life is, in fact, a circle that does keep on turning. It usually takes everyone (yours truly very much included) to realize this fact, but after a while, it's impossible not to see it. High-waist 1980s-style jeans are back in fashion, as is blue or purple hair. The same goes for skinny ties, Transformers, and even Fireballs have come full circle to become an adult treat to those of us old enough to remember what they were originally. In the past, startup car companies like Honda and Toyota were the smaller tykes trying to play on a professional field. They were faced with impossible odds, and had one or two models to start with as their entrants into the American sales landscape. But, they didn't falter, and, in fact, succeeded beyond anyone's expectations. They were the Rudy trying out for Notre Dame or the Rocky getting a shot against the Apollo. They were runty pups that came from almost nothing to become the top dog or dogs of the automotive world.  

Fast forward several decades, and now Honda and Toyota are at the top of their game, or at least closer to the top than the bottom depending on the year. Around the mid-1990s, another little startup company that was big in Japan came overseas to try their hand at car making for the US, the company was called Kia. Thanks to the Asian financial crisis of 1997, Kia, unfortunately or fortunately, declared bankruptcy and a year later was bought by another rags-to-riches role model that even Biggie Smalls would be envious of, a little company called the Hyundai Motor Group. Hyundai most likely saw in Kia what they had done themselves, and slowly helped Kia build its name as a reputable car company above and beyond the shaky start they had up until then. Fast forward another decade or two and the first car that Kia launched in the US, the Sorento, has been the company's flagship and biggest success to date. It was the first Kia to break 100,000 models in annual sales, and continues to thrive. For 2016, Kia wanted to pump up the volume in as many ways as possible, and tried to make the Sorento a formidable foe for anything that resembles an SUV, no matter what class or price point they were in, and did a pretty impressive job.

The Sorento makes you forget that it is made by an entry-level car company very quickly. Overall length and wheelbase are both up three inches from the outgoing model, helping the Kia move into legit SUV territory and take on big dogs like the Ford Explorer and Toyota 4Runner. Rear cargo room is up 2.0 cubic feet in the rear and 1.5 cubic overall. The look of the new Sorento is much more sleek, muscular, and evokes a more powerful and competent demeanor than the outgoing model. So not only does it look like an upscale truck, once you're inside it, it's hard to remember that you're not driving an SUV made by BMW or Lexus… okay, at least maybe Nissan or Honda for sure. Options include Nappa Leather seat trim, a 14-way power-adjustable driver's seat (with 4-way adjustable headrests), and available heated and ventilated seats, as well as a heated steering wheel (with wheel mounted controls). There is also an optional panoramic sunroof to open up the entire sky to front and backseat passengers. A power lift gate, an 8-inch UVO Infotainment screen, and rear camera display round out the tech aspect of things. And to power the tech you might bring on board, there are up to eight outlets (yes, outlets), four 12v outlets, two available USB rapid-charging ports, an AUX/USB port, and even a 110v inverter in various places around the interior for anyone to use, anything, whenever they want without ever having to bother to learn what sharing means. Not too bad for a car company that used to sell microwaves, huh?

The Sorento has what feels like an unlimited number of trim levels, but, in actuality, it's only eight. In their respective class order, they are from basic to luxurious: The L, LX, LX V6, EX, EX V6, SX V6, Limited, and Limited V6. Under the hood, the Sorento gives you a choice of three different engines. The base engine is a 2.4-liter DOHC inline-4 that produces 185 horsepower and 178 pound-feet of torque that powers the L and the LX, the second is a new 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 that pumps out an impressive 240 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque that powers the EX and Limited, and the third is a 3.3-liter DOHC V6 that muscles up 290 ponies and 252 pound-feet that powers (you guessed it) the LX V6, SX, V6, and Limited V6. All engine combinations are available with either front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. The V6 AWD model's towing capacity is up 1,500 pounds versus the outgoing model. All engine models are backed up by the same six-speed automatic transmission. Fuel mileage is best classified by engine type more so than trim level. The 2.4-liter four gets 21/29 city/highway mpg, the 2.0-liter turbo four gets 20/27 city/highway, and the 3.3-liter V6 gets 18/26 city/highway. Those numbers will drop slightly if you opt for the AWD versions. Curb weight comes in anywhere between 3,700–4,340 pounds, depending on trim and options, which plays a big part in those EPA numbers.

In terms of performance, the Sorento is a reasonable capable truck. While you might mistake it for a low-end X5 on the inside, you won't confuse it for an SRT8 Grand Cherokee when you hit the gas. Much like the EPA numbers, acceleration numbers keep within the confines of the engine choice, and come out as expected given the differences in horsepower. 0–60 mph for the NA 2.4-liter I-4 is 9.1 seconds, the 2.0-liter turbo I-4 does the same feat in 9 seconds flat, and the 3.3-liter V6 is the quickest of the bunch at 7.2 seconds. Quarter mile times range from 16.9 seconds @ 82.7 mph for the 2.4-liter, 16.8 seconds @ 83.4 mph for the 2.0-turbo, and 15.7 seconds @ 89.6 mph for the V6. Braking from 60–0 mph ranges from 122–130 feet depending on model type and drivetrain choice, and lateral acceleration hovers around 0.78 g on average for all models and trims, making the Sorento a competent performer around the track, comparatively speaking.

The ride inside the Sorento is very sophisticated feeling indeed. Its torsional stiffness is up 14% this year, giving the SUV a very solid, stable feel. The better motors for the Sorento are either the turbo four or the V6. The NA four is nice, but only as a cost-cutting option. There is only a hint of lag in the 2.0 turbo off the line, while the V6 provides plenty of power out of the gate, but, cruising at highway speeds, the turbo seems more at home. In either case, this Kia has grown up quite a bit. The only real issue we have with the new Sorento is twofold. The first is the overwhelming number of options available to the consumer; it might actually border on intimidating. There is so much to choose from that nailing down a single model with the desired options you want may seem like an impossible Rubic's cube (are those back yet?) to solve. In that sense, it feels a bit like a page out of BMW's handbook, where just about everything is an option, or included in an option group. The other issue is the cost of those features. Admittedly, we have been singing the praises of the 2016 Sorento, but that was until we saw the price tag. It seems that while the car itself has matured quite a bit, and is trying to offer upscale options, this options have a cost, and it is way beyond what someone might be willing to pay for a car that's still a Kia. While the base price for the entry level L trim level is a fair $24,900, base prices continue to climb through the eight trim levels all the way up to the Limited V6's starting price of $41,300. Forty grand for a Kia is still a tough pill to swallow. That kind of money buys you a very nice Honda, Jeep, Ford, and is only about a grand off of the base MSRP for a Lexus RX 350.

So while the updates for the 2016 Sorento are fabulous, they will cost you. It just depends on how much you want to spend. But even for a hefty price tag, it's amazing to see how far Kia has come. Ten years ago, telling someone a Kia would run them $40,000, they might ask you if they were getting two cars for that money. And although Kia's stigma as an entry level car company still may make a few of us cringe at the sight of those price tags, the truth is you are actually getting a very impressive car for your cash regardless of where it's coming from. So maybe in another ten years, we won't blink an eye about a $37,000 Kia, because by then Kia might just be on top of the hill. The wheel keeps spinning, and nothing would surprise us anymore. Hey, maybe by then grunge and Thundercats will be back in style too. We can hope, can't we? Keep spinning, wheel of life, keep spinning.

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James Roberts | 10:56AM (Mon, Jan 11, 2016)

It's a nice looking ride with tons of high end features!

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