About this time last year, Kia debuted a significantly reworked 2014 Sorento CUV. No mere refresh or facelift, this popular mid-size CUV benefitted from an all-new chassis, a powerful more efficient Gasoline Direct Injected (GDI) V6 engine, a restyled interior with next-generation infotainment system, plus Kia’s first-ever Blind Spot Detection system. For reasons only Kia’s marketing folks can answer, the virtually identical 2015 models have been arriving at dealers’ lot….and similarities are so close that even pricing has remained status quo.
In trying to get a legitimate answer to the above query I turned to maybe the best source, local area Kia dealerships. The conscience seems to be when the second-generation Sorrento, a 2011 model, made its transformation from SUV to CUV, with an adaptation from body on frame to unibody construction. From that point on, the Sorrento has made its early mid-winter debuts ever since. However, last year made the most sense due the Sorrento receiving a major makeover disguised by mostly carryover sheet metal.
Manufactured in Kia’s $1billion West Point, Georgia factory, the Sorrento was the first US model to be built in the states. It is built alongside its sister model, the Hyundai Santa Fe.
The Sorrento rounds out as the top model in Kia’s two model CUV line up, with the smaller Sportage serving as the compact offering. However when identifying its competition, Kia points to the Chevrolet Equinox, Ford Edge, Mazda CX-5 and Toyota RAV4 as the Sorento's main adversaries. By definition of terminology, none of these contenders are considered mid-sized; in fact the Sorento's wheelbase is shorter than all but the RAV4. Despite that shortcoming the Sorento is the only one of the bunch offering seven-passenger seating, although the third seat is really only practical for smaller torsos. So in essence the Sorento is something of an anomaly, larger than a compact but smaller than most of the seven-seat CUV offerings, such as the Ford Explorer, Honda Pilot, Toyota Highlander, Nissan Pathfinder, Mazda CX-9 and Dodge Journey, even the Sorrento’s own platform mate, the stretched-wheelbase Hyundai Santa Fe.
However, that’s subject to change with the Sorrento’s next major redesign. Here the Sorrento could easy adapt to the longer wheelbase of the Santa Fe, since both share similar platform architecture. The conflicting nature of this early 2015 model hitting the market when an advanced prototype is being tested in Europe makes it difficult to pin down a date for the Sorrento’s third-generation debut. But as Kia continues its path up market it’s not all that inconceivable that an even larger, grander CUV is in the works. Sources have indicated that a production version of the Cross GT Concept, riding on the RWD Cadenza/Genesis platform is not out of the realm of possibility.
But focusing on the current Sorrento, the 2015 model continues in four distinct trim levels: LX, EX, SX and SX Limited. The base LX ($24,100) comes well equipped with standard amenities like remote keyless entry, bluetooth wireless technology with Steering Wheel Mounted Controls, heated outside mirrors, with integrated LED Turn signals. The V6 equipped LX ($26,500) adds 50/50 Split-Folding 3rd-Row Seats, Roof Rails (Silver Finish) and sound absorbing front windshield glass. The EX ($31,500) adds push-button start with smart key, heated front seats, integrated 2nd row window sunshades and 235/65R17 tires with 17'' chrome alloy wheels.
The SX ($36,500) adds Panoramic Sunroof with Power Sunshade, UVO eServices with Navigation, SiriusXM Traffic and 8'' Display, a programmable height-adjustable power tailgate and . 235/55R19 tires with 19'' chrome alloy wheels. The SX-L ($39,900) adds Nappa Leather Seat Trim, self-leveling Xenon headlights, a heated steering wheel and a heated middle rear seat and 235/55R19 tires with 19'' polished chrome alloy wheels
The panoramic sunroof, which is optional on the EX and standard on SX and SX Limited, does an admirable job of letting the outdoors in. It features a power shade cover. To enhance structural rigidity, Kia added additional strut tower bracing in the engine bay, new stiffer front and rear suspension sub-frames with larger bushings and new welding patterns that make the unibody structure 18-percent stiffer than before.
Of interesting note is that the SX-Limited is not available for the Canadian market, which makes the SX the top Sorrento model. This is confusing enough with the fact that Canadian sourced Sorrentos are built along with US-spec models in the same West Point, Georgia plant. But what’s even more perplexing is that desirable ‘heated’ features, such as a heated leather-wrapped steering are not offered. For some reason this feature was dropped on the Sorento SX from 2011-2013, yet has made its return on the US-only Sorento SX-Limited.
A 2.4-liter GDI I4, rated at 191-bhp at 6,300 rpm and 181 lb./ft. of torque at 4,250 rpm, is available on the LX only. All other models come with an all-aluminum Lambda 3.3-liter GDI DOHC V6, which produces a smooth 290-bhp at 6,400 rpm and 252 lb./ft. of torque at 5,200 rpm. Of interesting note, the Sorrento and Cadenza premium sedan are the only two models in the Kia model lineup that uses a version of this V6, although power output differentiate.
The I4 equipped with FWD is EPA rated at 20/27 city/hwy while the V6 delivers 18/24 city/hwy. AWD models loose an insignificant 1-mile gallon highway while still maintain the same city mileage. Tow capacity for the V6 is rated at 3,500 pounds.
A six-speed automatic gearbox comes standard with either engine, as does front-wheel drive; all-wheel drive being a $1,800 option. The AWD system uses an enhanced Torque On-Demand system that seamlessly directs power to the tire with the most traction.
As before, this on-demand system sends power to the wheel with the most traction, but starting with last years model, the system adds Torque Vectoring Cornering Control (TVCC) that Kia claims improves stability in certain situations. In addition the Sorrento features an electric motor driven power steering for improved efficiency, with quicker 2.95 turns of the steering wheel, lock-to-lock. Exclusive to the SX and SX Limited is Flex Steer™, allowing the steering feel to be adjusted between comfort, normal or sport.
The Sorento uses Kia's new corporate grille motif, known as the “tiger nose”, penned by Kia's design chief, Peter Schreyer. It’s now enhanced with an anodized silver metal or black mesh appearance. The lower valance has been opened to expose an aggressive cross-hatched intake. Front LED positioning lamps create dramatic eyebrows while projector-style headlights peer from behind tapered clear lenses. Available fog lights on all trim models are upended and pushed to the far corners of the front bumper for better forward and side visibility. Horizontally positioned rear LED combination lamps embrace the turn signal and back-up lights.
The Sorrento EX AWD featured for this review came in a Wave Blue exterior with a beige leather interior. Base MSRP was $31,700 in addition to $4,000 for the highly recommended Touring Package, which still kept the sticker at a reasonable $36,550 ($850 for designation charges included.)
For the EX the Touring Package includes Navigation system with 8-inch display, Infinity surround sound system, blind spot detection, Memory drivers’ seat and side mirrors
Power folding side mirrors dual ventilated front seats with 6-way power drivers’ and 4-power passenger, a 2-piece operable panoramic sunroof with power sunshade and programmable height adjustable power liftgate. One feature on our EX that was an obvious shortcoming was the lack of a heated steering wheel.
In my opinion the EX is the best of the Sorrento lot. Not only does it offer more value for the dollar, it offers colors not available on the more contented SX and SX Limited. Whereas the SX offers five distinctive hues, the EX, has eight in its palette. Even interior color selections are different, where the EX is offered in black or beige (depending on exterior color) while the SX is offered in either black or gray. The SX Limited is unique as it comes exclusively with Nappa leather interior (in black or gray) with an exterior color choice of either Snow White Pearl or Ebony Black.
The Kia Sorento EX V6 model earned an “Excellent” overall score by Consumer Reports’ July 2010 issue. The 2011 Sorento has been awarded the maximum 5-star safety rating from the crash safety experts, including 'Top Safety Pick' from Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
Kia offers one of the best warranties available, which includes a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty and a 5-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty with 24-hour roadside assistance.