2019 Kia Sorento first drive: a subtly better crossover

March 9, 2018

The 2019 Kia Sorento is not a German crossover SUV. It’s far from Teutonic.

But the 2019 Sorento Kia assembles in Georgia is beginning to feel less like a cut-rate Audi and more like a real one. Tweaks made to the three-row crossover’s steering and suspension for the 2019 model year provide it with among the most natural, fluid handling found on any crossover capable of hauling seven passengers. It's not any roomier than last year's model, but it's a lot better to drive.

MORE: Read our 2019 Kia Sorento review

I found myself in the shadow of Mount Crested Butte in Colorado hustling a Sorento over a curvy road that turned from grippy, if pockmarked, pavement to loose gravel with little warning other than a faded “Pavement Ends” sign. Though heaving pavement gave way to gravel, the Sorento made short work of the change.

Kia is quick to credit former BMW engineer Albert Biermann, who joined the Korean automaker’s ranks and heads up development of its vehicles in Germany. Biermann’s name is regularly tossed around when Kia discusses its Stinger sports sedan, but the engineer spent at least a lunch break or three tweaking the Sorento’s steering and its suspension. Last year’s model wasn’t sloppy, but the revisions are noteworthy.

Fundamentally, the 2019 isn’t much different than last year’s model. Its styling changes only slightly with new bumpers front and rear that might be the envy of the carpool line—or might go unnoticed. The basic two-box shape carries over with its healthy dose of curves. Revised wheel designs on most trim levels are similarly subtle. Inside, the crossover now comes standard with three rows of seats in all configurations, has a new steering wheel (with optional heating) that appears to have been cast from an old Audi mold, and can be ordered in a warm brown shade on certain trim levels.

Under its hood, the Sorento comes standard with an underwhelming 2.4-liter inline-4 that proved breathless in last year’s model and carries into 2019 unchanged. The vast majority of Sorentos Kia builds in West Point, Georgia, leave the factory with a 3.3-liter V-6 rated at 290 horsepower. A turbo-4 that added some spice to last year’s model is gone, but Kia isn’t sure anyone will notice. The V-6 was by far the best-seller, and to celebrate Kia has swapped out last year’s 6-speed automatic for a new 8-speed in V-6 versions.

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