Kia says that it will offer a diesel-powered version of its Sorento crossover in the U.S. by as early as the end of 2018. When it arrives, it will be one of only a handful of sparkplug-less offerings in this market and it could significantly improve the Sorento's fuel economy ratings.
Kia’s vice presiden of product planning, Orth Hedrick, confirmed the news to Car and Driver last week at the Detroit Auto Show. According to Hedrick, the company is currently working on obtaining EPA certification, which he admits has increased in stringency in recent years.
That rigor has stemmed largely from Volkswagen’s widely publicized “Dieselgate” scandal, in which it was found to have installed cheater devices to fool government emissions tests in all its diesel cars sold over a six year period. Eleven million cars—500,000 of them sold in the US—were revealed to have been far grosser polluters than Volkswagen claimed them to be.
In Europe, where diesels comprised as much as 48 percent of the market, the scandal hit particularly hard. Gasoline-powered cars overtook diesels in sales last year, the first time since 2009.
Kia already sells diesel-powered cars in Europe, and the likely powertrain candidate for its Sorento is a 2.4-liter inline-4 rated at 197 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque. That would beat the current 2.4-liter inline-4’s 185 hp and 178 lb-ft. And while it doesn’t match the Sorento's optional 3.3-liter V6's 290 hp figure, it bests its 252 lb-ft of torque. The turbodiesel's hefty torque could allow for towing capacity increased from the current 5,000 pounds.
The Sorento's current turbo-4 engine will be dropped after the 2018 model year, meaning the turbodiesel could be its replacement.
Currently, the thriftiest Sorento is the base 4-cylinder with front wheel drive, which rates 24 mpg combined on the EPA cycle.