Keeping the neighbors nervous.
– Montreal, Quebec
'Disruption' is a word that gets used a lot in the tech industry, but it definitely has its tendrils deep in the automotive world as well. One of the greatest shakers of the status quo in recent years has been Kia, which has blanketed the business from end-to-end with affordably-priced models that punch well above their weight in terms of features and style - a perfect example being the redesigned 2016 Kia Sorento mid-size SUV.
There are only a handful of three-row sport-utility vehicles outside of the luxury segment that can claim to be fashion-forward, but the Kia Sorento is definitely one of them. Even base models - which retail for a modest $29,000 - offer looks that wouldn't be out of place at the valet station alongside much pricier rides. This attention to detail continues inside the vehicle, which in higher trim levels boasts a sleek mix of leather-wrapped seats, smooth and soft dashboard texturing, and well-distributed controls that are easy to use in both warm weather and when wearing gloves during the winter.
Stretching the wheelbase of the Sorento 3 inches versus the previous-generation model has paid dividends.
Of course, stretching the wheelbase of the Sorento 3 inches versus the previous-generation model has also paid dividends when it comes to the vehicle's interior dimensions. The second row in particular benefits from additional space to stretch out your legs, and there's a hint of extra cargo room too, although the 2,095 litre total measure isn't as big of a bonus when compared to the outgoing edition. If you choose to haul humans over gear, then an available third row folds up out of the floor relatively painlessly, but as with all mid-size seven-passenger rides, any adult sequestered back there for an extended road trip might not be as friendly on the way out of the Kia as they were on the way in.
On the road the differences in the 2016 Kia Sorento's updated platform make themselves known by erasing any of the roughness or rattling that drivers might have experienced in the past. Stiffer, but more importantly better-tuned than ever before, the Sorento feels smooth, composed, and quiet at all speeds, again enhancing the impression that you've shelled out much more cash for the mid-size SUV than you actually had to. You won't lament leaving your sport sedan behind in the driveway at home, but you will appreciate how competently the Kia eats up the miles on longer road trips.
All three engines can be paired with all-wheel drive.
There are three engine options available for 2016, two of which carry over from the year before. The entry-level 2.4-litre 4-cylinder is good for 185 horsepower, while a new turbocharged 2.0-litre four slides into the middle spot with 240 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque on tap. Keen eyes will notice the latter figure actually eclipses the 252 lb-ft offered by the Sorento's range-topping 3.3-litre V6, although face is saved by way of its 290 hp rating. All three can be paired with all-wheel drive, and a six-speed automatic transmission handles the shifting duties across the board.
My tester was equipped with the V6, and after having previously spent a significant amount of time piloting the Kia Sorento turbo I was surprised at how little performance difference there was between the two models. The fat powerband of the turbocharged 4-cylinder helped it to keep pace with the V6 in almost every situation, and while the 3.3-litre was no slouch, buyers should know that the extra grunt comes with a fairly noticeable fuel efficiency penalty. With all-wheel drive, the vehicle I drove was unable to match its official 11.6 L/100 km rating, coming close to doubling that in heavy traffic.
Large families are locked out of experiencing the turbocharged edition of the SUV.
In fact, I'd go so far as to recommend the turbocharged four-cylinder over the V6, were it not for two crucial details. The first is minor - the SX+ trim is restricted to the six-cylinder Sorento, which leaves turbo buyers with the SX as their ceiling. The second point isn't quite so easy to dismiss, because Kia has decided to bar the turbo from the seven-passenger party. That's right: if you want the available three rows of seating, you have to either stick with the weaker four-cylinder or embrace the V6. It's a strategy that no doubt protects the profits associated with moving as many loaded SX+ Sorentos as possible, but it leaves large families locked out of experiencing the turbocharged edition of the SUV.
Still, if you can stomach the extra fuel costs, then the 2016 Kia Sorento V6 is hardly a consolation prize. Able to slide in comfortably alongside other seven-passenger options like the (also-new) Honda Pilot, Mazda CX-9, and the Toyota Highlander, but at a price point less likely to make you wince, the Sorento continues Kia's streak of turning up the volume on each of its vehicles just enough to get other brands nervously peering out the front window, wondering if they should call the cops.
Photos: Benjamin Hunting