2011 Kia Sorento SX AWD: Major League

January 6, 2011

When Kia redid its Sorento crossover SUV for the 2011 selling season, it took a rather long-in-the-tooth machine and gave it current currency: a swoopy and attractive body, excellent road manners, a luxurious interior and all the accoutrements anyone would want at a fraction of what the competition charges.

The result, at least with the 2011 Kia Sorento SX V-6 AWD driven here, is an excellent crossover vehicle with viable off-road capabilities, one that will excite for many years to come.  Even with the switch to a car-like unibody construction, the Sorento feels rugged enough to conquer snow banks this winter.

The new Kia Sorento is offered in many guises: there is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine available but the vehicle driven here is the top-of-the-line Sorento SX with a 276-horsepower (at 6300 rpm) V-6 engine giving 248 ft-lb of torque at 5000 rpm.  It’s mated to a floor-shiftable six-speed automatic transmission that moves cleanly and quickly from one gear to the next with automatic and manual shifting.

Kia places MacPherson struts at the front and multiple links at the rear to keep the Sorento SX firmly planted; there are stability bars front and rear as well.  Hydraulic power-assisted rack and pinion steering is extremely tight and has no slop, while anti-lock front and rear brakes stop this 4000-plus-pound vehicle with no problems at all.

While the 2011 Kia Sorento starts just under $20,000, with the SX V-6 AWD version the asking price is quite a bit higher – and worthy of the price at $34,690 including freight.  There was a solitary option on this vehicle: a one-touch tilt/slide panoramic sunroof for $1200, bringing the total to $35,890.  That means the Kia Sorento SX V-6 AWD is mighty well equipped right from the factory.

In fact, there are so many standard features it’s tough to list them all:  leather seating for the interior, navigation with backup camera, six-CD changer, Sirius satellite radio on the Infinity surround-sound unit with 10 speakers, dual-zone automatic temperature control, push-button start with smart key, eight-way driver’s power seat (passenger’s is manual), 60/40 second row seats that recline, 50/50 third row folding seats with air conditioning flow, heated front seats, auto-dimming rear mirror with Homelink, auto lighting control, an excellent cruise control, tilt/telescope steering column and an Eco-minder indicator to know when you’re saving fuel.

Speaking of fuel, the Kia Sorento SX AWD is rated at 19/25 mpg and uses regular unleaded in its 18-gallon tank.  With jaunts around town and just a few over the road, our average on a vehicle that had well over 8000 miles in hand, amounted to 20-mpg-plus, so the figures are correct.

This Kia is a mid-size crossover SUV that is 183.5 inches long, 74.2 inches wide, standing 68.3 inches tall on a 106.3-inch wheelbase.  Because it’s a unibody and not body-on-frame, ingress and egress are easy with little climbing.  As a particularly short person, I appreciate the fact that it’s easy to reach the handle on the hatch to re-close without asking for help. 

While Kia lists the cargo space as a miserly nine cubic feet with the cargo cover in place, pull down the two rearmost rows of seating and there’s a massive 72.5 cubic feet available, more than enough for the chair that followed me home Christmas eve.  There is a lack of three-quarter visibility with a wide “C” pillar, but the mirrors adjust well enough not to get the driver in trouble.

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