As the first Kia built in the United States at a very pricey new North American plant, the 2011 Kia Sorento had to be pretty darn impressive to make all that expense worthwhile. Unlike the last version it had to be the right size to fit your average super-sized American and it had to have cupholders large enough to carry our big gulps.
Since Americans also love to always be prepared the Sorento absolutely had to be designed with a third row of seats just in case someone forgot their kids at Little League and you had to shuttle them home. Towing capacity? Off-road ability? Nah, we dont care about that so long as it looks cool and doesn't handle like a truck anymore. The old Sorento was a body on frame design with a stellar tow rating but people now prefer unibody crossovers that handle like cars. The 2011 Sorento is now a more common unibody design
While some may call the 2011 Sorento a tad unadventurous when it comes to styling, I say it reminds me a bit of a Mercedes ML SUV from the rear. And if owners of the Sorento can trick their friends into thinking their Kia is more expensive than it is then perhaps this model will finally break public perception that Kia is only a "value" brand. It only takes one unique car to break a perception that has gone on for years and I think the Sorento could be that vehicle.
Our very own wizened car guru/editor Marty Padgett even gave the 2011 Sorento a 7.8 out of 10 in a recent Bottom Line road test on TheCarConnection.com
. While I agreed with him that the legroom for the third row seats would relegate it to kid only status, I disagreed with his critique of the faux-wood trim the Korean manufacturer was using. When I first saw the Sorento at the 2009 Orange County Auto Show I felt that Kia had finally gotten a knack for integrating passable faux-wood trim after the nightmare that was the dashboard of the Amanti luxury sedan.
Besides, when most versions are going to be leaving dealer lots fully loaded under $30,000 you can deal with small issues like that. To be honest, I actually liked the way the faux-wood looked in Limited models with the black leather.
I think the car designers who really need to have a look at some real trees actually work over at Lexus. Have you seen the light birch wood trim in the Lexus RX? Yikes, it is orange. And last time I checked a Lexus still cost more than a Kia.
Other than that Kia has really done its homework with the 2011 Sorento. Basic models come with a frugal 2.4-liter 175-horsepower four-cylinder while up-level trims are treated to a 3.5-liter V-6 with a class-leading 276 horsepower. Finally it looks like someone figured out the recipe that makes the RAV4 so special. In downsizing times like these you always have to give people engine options.
Surprisingly, however, the 3.5-liter V-6 actually isn't all that much less economical than the four cylinder version. Its city and highway mileages are just two mpg down from the four at 20 mpg city/26 mpg highway. So if you can convince your better half that you just need to have that extra power you won't wind up paying for it at the pumps. And isn't that real luxury?