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RUGGEDLY APPEALING: 2021 KIA SORENTO SX PRESTIGE AWD X-LINE

There is a partial identity crisis going on with this latest generation of the Kia Sorento. It almost seems as if it’s not quite sure what it wants to be now that it’s all grown up. To understand where the Sorento originated from back in 2004, it was this sort of SUV that competed against the Toyota 4Runner and Isuzu Rodeo by offering a truck style body-on-frame, proper four-wheel drive and a V-6 engine that got terrible fuel consumption. Believe me, I should know, I owned one.

2006 Kia Sorento LX

Having gone towards the Mommy Wagon side of the tracks when it was later re-designed for 2011, it lost its way with the whole front-wheel drive, uni-body frame and premium comfort features. Obviously, a lot has changed since then and as we gear into its fourth generation, Kia is trying to bring back some of its original ideology. The new Sorento is quite bold with a lot more ruggedness than before – it’s handsome and modern with eye-catching esthetics – a kind of look that should age well overtime. All its missing is a beard and a flannel shirt to go with that chiseled jaw line.

A lot of its handsomeness carries fluidly throughout the interior – granted ours featured here is a top-trimmed SX Prestige with its exclusive X-Line Package. To get this absolutely stunning rust color interior, one has to opt for the X-Line exclusive Aruba Green that generates a beautiful contrast between the two colors. The finishing of materials throughout is very appealing, presenting a more upscale cabin and while the wood is fake, it is quite convincing of the contrary. The genuine leather is subtle with a quilted, stitch pattern on the seats that offer plenty of comfort and the rear seats are standard as captain chairs that helps avoid a Human Resources scandal when co-workers ride in the back.

There is plenty of tech behind the Sorento that will please just about anyone. The standard 8-inch touch screen is a pleasant display that doesn’t feel like one-cheap out by not opting up to a higher trim – the rich display however of the 10.3-inch is divine. But then Kia had to go and make things difficult with this larger screen option by equipping it with a soothing relaxation mood thingy that turns on every time we engage the Media application. Oddly enough while the smaller 8-inch screen offers wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, the larger screen requires us to manually plug our phone in.

Like we mentioned when we tested the all-new Hybrid variant of the Sorento, it is in a rather peculiar section of the market competing against similarly sized crossovers like the Ford Edge, Honda Passport and Chevrolet Blazer – all designed for the type of demographic not looking to expand their seating arrangement with a third-row option. Whereas the Kia Sorento comes standard with a relatively unappealing third-row that isn’t nearly as comfortable for adults as it would be for someone that hasn’t reached double digits in age. Fortunately, the seats do fold completely flat, hiding away any suggestion there is an additional seating back there.

For this new generation Sorento, Kia has officially dropped the V-6 – a bit odd considering most of its competition is harboring a V-6 powertrain – but it is the way of the times, I suppose. Continuing to move forward, they also dropped their old 2.4-liter engine for an all-new 2.5-liter, 191-horsepower four-cylinder for their entry LX and S models. The EX, SX and SX Prestige sees a brighter light of performance with a turbocharger bolted on to that 2.5-liter and increasing it to 281-horsepower. However, those aren’t the only two powertrain options available as the Sorento is available in that aforementioned hybrid that can see upwards of 40-miles to the gallon and will soon be available in an even sweeter, appealing plug-in hybrid.

This new turbo variant isn’t one to freight about after the demise of the V-6. Since it is slightly quicker to 60-mph, it takes about 6.5-seoncds with swift acceleration and snappy gear changes from its new eight-speed dual clutch transmission. This new performer really doesn’t have us missing the V-6 all that much. There is some noticeable turbo-lag at lower speeds, mostly during stop and go traffic. Most of the lag can be fixed by changing the drive mode in Sport, which is the Sorento’s most peachy setting. The additional drive modes Kia has set up can feel bit redundant as Comfort and Eco all feel alike and develop a noticeable hindrance in driving performance. It is claimed that the new turbo-four is supposed to be better on fuel economy – sadly, that was not our experience with our fuel consumption sticking within the teens, it certainly drank it fuel like a V-6.

Kia has done quite well with the engineering components underneath. The new Sorento feels a lot more solid and well-planted; the steering has a more connected feel and is nicely balanced. The suspension rides much more confidently with improved handling dynamics. Everything starts to feel right with the world with the Sorento, even the brake pedal they managed to nail down a good, solid feel to its application.

With pricing starting at $29,390 for the base LX in front-wheel, it’s easy to tell that Kia is learning a thing or two as they start to progress through the years. Taking a page out of Honda’s rule book, the Sorento doesn’t really have an options list – by offering five trim levels, each trim offers slightly more premium features than the one before it. There are really only two options that we’ll see – an $1800 Panoramic Sunroof available on the S and EX models and the $1800 All-wheel Drive option on all trims apart from the $40,590 SX Prestige – that trim jumps its AWD option to $2000 as it includes the exclusive X-Line Package. The X-Line Package does enhance its off-road spirit with a slightly higher ground clearance that improves approach and departure angels and offers a more sophisticated torque-vectoring AWD setup with Snow Mode. All all-wheel drive models even include a electronic locking center differential.   

The all-new Kia Sorento is a far cry from what it used to be – this new variant carries much more sophistication and poise throughout that it almost has a multi-personality disorder. Whether it’s a nice night out on the town or a back road country song, there is supreme comfort and confidence in the Sorento’s agenda that makes it quite an appealing crossover that has us pleased it carries an identity crisis. 

VEHICLE SPECIFICATIONS

Vehicle: 2021 Kia Sorento SX Prestige X-Line AWD
Base Price: $29,390
As-Tested Price: $44,285

PERFORMANCE SPECIFICATIONS

Engine: 2.5-liter Turbocharged Four-Cylinder
HP | Torque: 281-HP |311 lb-ft of Torque
Transmission: 8-Speed Dual-Clutch Automatic
Drivetrain: Torque-Vectoring All-Wheel Drive
MPG: 21 | 28| 24 (City | Highway | Combined)
As-Tested MPG: 20.3-MPG City (Highway MPG testing is currently suspended due to high fuel prices)
Fuel Range: 380 miles
0-60 MPH: ±6.5 seconds

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