Kia is the latest automaker to revise a model so substantially that it has completely changed market segments. The outgoing Sorento was a truck frame-based SUV, capable of serious off-road duty and impressive hauling and towing capability. The new 2011 Sorento is still a decent tow vehicle, it’s now unibody, like a car, and has no low gear range and less ground clearance to traverse rocky or muddy terrain. Buyers looking for value in a crossover SUV should put the 2011 Kia Sorento at the top of their shopping list. With so much to offer, including room for seven and a fresh, modern driving experience. The 2011 Sorento is available in three trims: base, LX and EX. The third-row 50/50-split-folding seat is an available option on the LX and four-cylinder EX, while being standard on the EX V6.
The new Sorento just might be the best midsize crossover available today from an entry-level brand, or at least right near the top. Handling is superb and the Sorento’s top-line powertrain is ultra-smooth and plenty powerful. The new Sorento, however, feels like a sports car in comparison to the old.
Sorento featured a silky 3.5-litre V6 that puts out 276 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque, ample for spirited launches from a standstill and superb passing performance. The Sorento’s six-speed automatic operates with seamless shifts and, unlike so many others, has the brains to know when to hold gears (uphill) and when to upshift for fuel economy. The engine and transmission are ideally paired to offer both performance and economy, returning estimated EPA ratings of 19 mpg city/26 mpg highway and 21 mpg combined.
The Sorento’s exterior styling delivers the tough SUV look that crossover shoppers seem to appreciate, though in reality the Sorento is, of course, a “soft-roader.” One thing it’s not is a “cute ute,” even though it’s priced like one. This should make it even more appealing to those who might otherwise be tempted to buy a bigger rig. Inside, the Sorento’s dashboard is simple but sleek, and the subtle faux-wood trim piece that bisects it is a welcome upscale touch. The plastics are all hard, but they look good and are certainly class-competitive.
The interior design is pleasant, with a three-ring instrument panel and a center stack that projects out from the dash, making it easier to reach the audio, climate control and navigation system. The nav system screen is high on the center stack, making it easy to see. While EX V6′s all-black interior lacks visual interest, there are a number of interesting features worth pointing out. For example, keyless ignition/entry is standard. A cleverly designed (yet not overdesigned) tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel features integrated controls for audio/cruise and Bluetooth, all standard. Also standard is dual-zone climate control with flow-control vents built into the B-pillars for the second-row passengers, as is an auxiliary/USB/iPod jack at the base of the center stack.
A comfortable eight-way power driver seat is standard, but leather upholstery will cost extra. Also found the second-row seats more than generously proportioned, and a rear-entertainment DVD system with headphones is optional. Standard EX V6 items include seventeen-inch alloy wheels, XM Satellite Radio, Bluetooth and iPod connectivity, leather seats and trim, an eight-way powered driver’s seat, dual-zone climate control, proximity sensing Smart Key access with push-button start, a rear back-up camera integrated into the rearview mirrors, and much more.
While rear-mounted sonar parking aids are standard, our pre-production Sorento EX V6 sneaked into the press fleet with a mishmash of optional items, some of which are part of larger packages. Without much fanfare or marketing (yet), Kia appears to have produced a truly class-leading midsize crossover. For the time being, the 2011 Kia Sorento EX V6 is nipping at the heels of one of the best in the world, the Toyota RAV4 V6. And, yes, were this a true comparison of midsize crossovers. We’re impressed with the polish, poise and performance of the all-new 2011 Kia Sorento. It continues to prove that Kia and Hyundai have earned the right to be considered a big-time car company. The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.