Shop for a midsize SUV and you have more choices available to you than you can count on your two hands. To differentiate product line, manufacturers must develop ways to set their products apart. In Kia’s case, the automaker has gone with an extended wheelbase platform to deliver both two- and three-row versions under the same model name.
The Sorento is the name of this versatile midsize SUV, offering standard seating for five and available space for seven. Completely overhauled for 2016, the 2017 model offers a pair of new safety features — automatic emergency braking and adaptive headlights. Also newly available is Android Auto and Apple Car Play integration.
2017 Kia Sorento
The 2017 Kia Sorento shares its platform with the Hyundai Santa Fe, but unlike the Hyundai version there is no short wheelbase model (the Hyundai counterpart is marketed as the Santa Fe Sport). This means Kia also offers a greater number of powertrain choices, three, than Hyundai. Indeed, a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine is standard, while a 3.3-liter V-6 and a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder are also available. All three engines are paired with a six-speed automatic transmission.
Kia offers five standard trims with the 2017 Sorento: L ($25,400), LX ($26,700), EX ($31,500), SX ($38,600), and SXL ($43,900). There are also a pair of interim trims LX V6 ($28,990) and EX V6 ($33,100) bringing in an engine upgrade.
Both the L and LX are powered by the base 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine making 185 horsepower and 175 pound-feet of torque. The EX is the only trim powered by the 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder engine making 240 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. All other trims are powered by a 3.3-liter V6 engine making 290 horsepower and 252 pound-feet of torque.
Front-wheel drive is standard across the model line, except in the base L trim. All-wheel drive is an $1,800 upgrade elsewhere.
Fuel economy for each front-wheel drive model is as follows. The base model makes an EPA-estimated 21 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway. The turbo is rated at 20 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway. The V6 is rated at 18 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway. For all-wheel drive models, your fuel economy will drop by two or three mpg.
Standard exterior equipment includes projector beam headlights, heated side mirrors with embedded turn signal indicators, positioning lights, a rear window wiper and washer, a rear spoiler, and 17-inch alloy wheels.
Upgrades include high-intensity discharge headlamps (SXL), dynamic bending lights (SXL), illuminated door handle pockets (EX), a panoramic sunroof with power sunshade (SX), smart power liftgate (SX), roof rails (LX), and a shark fin antenna (LX V6). Upgraded 18- and 19-inch alloy wheels are available, the latter available with chrome.
All Sorento L, LX and EX models seat five; the other trims seat seven. Behind the front bucket seats is a 40-20-40 split-folding bench seat. In models equipped with a third row, a 50-50 split folding seat is present.
Equipment levels vary greatly from base to SXL trim. Nevertheless, all models are equipped with remote keyless entry, a tilt and telescopic steering wheel, power windows and door locks, air conditioning, an overhead sunglasses holder, dual illuminated visor vanity mirrors, and an under rear cargo floor storage compartment. Push button start is included at the EX level and above.
Cloth seats covered with water- and stain-resistant YES Essentials fabric is standard on the L and LX trims. Leather seat trim is standard elsewhere, except the SXL model comes with premium Nappa leather trim.
The driver’s seat is manually operated in L and LX trim and features 10-way adjustment and lumbar support for the EX level and 14-way adjustment from the SX level. The front passenger seat is manually operated on all trims.
Heated front seats appear on the EX trim. Ventilated front seats and heated front seats are standard with the SXL and available with the SX. Other high-end features are introduced at the SX or SXL trim levels and include a heated steering wheel, carpeted floor mats, aluminum door sill scuff plates, stainless steel liftgate trim, and stainless-steel pedals.
The 2017 Sorento has 38.8 cubic feet of cargo space behind the second-row seat. Fold both rear seats and you’ll enjoy 73.5 cubic feet.
Key Technology Features
All models except for the base trim comes with a rearview camera. A seven-inch touch-screen color display with Android Auto and Apple Car Play shows up at the EX level.
A standard audio package with satellite radio gives way to a 10-speaker Infinity Surround Sound audio system at the SX level. All models come equipped with USB/auxiliary input jacks and 12-volt power outlets. A 110-volt power inverter is standard at the SX level.
Opting for the Infinity system provides improved sound balance throughout the cabin, along with the clarity you’d expect with a premium audio package.
On the Safety Front
Safety is a big deal for manufacturers and no less so for Kia. The 2017 Sorento is equipped with a suite of airbags, traction and stability control, brake assist, and hill-start assist.
As part of an advanced technology package (LX $1,500), you can get autonomous emergency braking, forward collision warning, lane departure warning, advanced smart cruise control, and an electronic parking brake with auto hold.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has given this model high marks, specifically its Top Safety Pick+ rating for the 2016 model. That score should carryover for 2017. The IIHS recognized the Sorento with a superior score for its available front crash prevention technology.
On the Road
Our test vehicle was an all-wheel drive SXL edition, priced from $46,990. That means the V6 engine was present, one of the most power-dense engines of its kind. It is the best pairing for this model as it offers excellent off-the-start acceleration and keeps delivering copious amounts of power as you accelerate.
The all-wheel drive Sorento stays planted with minimal body roll detected while tackling twisty roads. One of the nice things about this engine is as soon as you work your way out of a curve, ample power is at the ready. Credit the fully overhauled suspension system and stiffer body of the current generation model for imbuing driver confidence and overall control.
Front-wheel drive and both four-cylinder models have a 3,500-pound towing capacity. Choose the V6 with all-wheel drive and your towing limit climbs to a competitive 5,000 pounds. Braking is firm to the touch.
I can’t comment directly on the other engine choices, other than the new turbo four and my opinion is based on what my colleagues have stated. Bengt Halvorson, deputy editor for Internet Brands’ Automotive Group says the turbo “feels perkier in most types of driving—in all but off-the-line acceleration.” He sensed more turbo lag with this engine in the Sorento than when found in the Optima and Sportage. On the plus side, Halvorson noted peak torque is reached at 1,450 RPM, ideal for quick moves in traffic.
The Kia Sorento makes a compelling case for itself. And it has to as the Toyota Highlander, Buick Enclave, Mazda CX-9, Volkswagen Touareg, Dodge Durango, Ford Edge and Explorer, Nissan Pathfinder, Chevrolet Traverse, GMC Acadia, Jeep Grand Cherokee, and the Honda Pilot are counted amongst its competitors. All 12 of its direct competitors plus the Hyundai Santa Fe operate in the same sphere, although only the Mazda, GMC, and Honda are as new as the Sorento.
The SX V6 all-wheel drive model may offer the best bang for the buck. Include the advanced technology package with your favorite driver-assist safety features and your cost comes in at $43,690. Fortunately, Kia dealers offer discounts. And with careful research and strong negotiation on your part, a $40,000 final price before taxes seems possible.
One other benefit Kia has that few other manufacturers can claim is a minivan. We reviewed the Kia Sorento earlier this year and found it ideal for families. This front-wheel drive only model offers space for up to eight and is powered by the same V6 engine found in the Sorento. Consider the Sorento and Sedona a strong 1-2 punch from this Korean automaker.
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