2016 Kia Sorento

LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — We ran into real world winter weather conditions while here to test drive the new 2016 Kia Sorento. Wind gusts were up to 50 mph and sometimes more, precipitation varied between rain and sleet, and heavy snow was expected that night. We felt some relief when we were told that Kia had brought all-wheel-drive versions of the Sorento utility vehicle. Front-wheel-drive versions are available.

Although we were at altitudes that ranged from 5,000 to 7,000 feet, the roads were not narrow two lane affairs. Still, driving at those altitudes with not much room for error kept us more alert than usual.
Kia has completely revamped the Sorento. The utility has a longer wheelbase by three-inches; it is slightly wider, and a bit lower. Overall, it looks sleeker, the hood looks longer and it actually appears lower than the one half-inch that Kia claims.
The front end is more aggressive, the tiger grille seems taller. Its quad diode fog lamps are very distinctive and they are becoming the face of the brand, never mind the grille.
There are now three engine choices. New for the third generation of the Sorento is a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that makes 240 horsepower. The two other choices: a 2.4 liter normally aspirated four-cylinder that makes 185 horsepower and a 3.3-liter V6 that makes 290 horsepower.
Kia brought the V6 and the four-cylinder turbo for the preview. We sampled the turbo first. It ran smoothly, the engine is quiet and the six-speed transmission is excellent.

Torque is the secret at these altitudes. The turbo makes 260 pound-feet at 1,450 rpm while the V6 makes 252 pound-feet at 5,300 rpm. It makes a difference. The Sorento’s six cylinder engine, although making 30 more horsepower than the four-cylinder turbo, worked harder to get up and over the mountains and the transmission downshifted often searching for the right gear.
The turbo on the other hand was a more effortless drive. By adding the four-cylinder equipped with a blower to the lineup, Kia has given the Sorento a model choice for just about any terrain in the U.S.
The base four-cylinder Sorento can tow 2,000 pounds, the turbo 3,500 pounds and the V6 can pull 5,000 pounds. The towing figures are for all-wheel-drive version of the utility vehicle.
The ride attributes of both Sorentos were identical as well they should have been. The suspension has been revised, steering is relatively quick, for a utility vehicle the Sorento is fairly nimble, and a new “H” shaped subframe gives it a solid ride.
Overall, the Sorento is quiet, really quiet. That was surprising since the vehicle sits a bit higher than the average car. We felt the wind gust more than we heard it. The Sorento was so quiet we kept eyes on the tree limbs and branches to gauge how hard the wind was blowing.
Improved too was the interior of the 2016 Sorento as Kia tries to uplift it into the ranks of premium utility vehicles. Occupants can have a tactile experience with the soft touch surfaces especially the instrument panel, center console and door panels. The door grips are so soft they felt padded.

The Sorento has a 50-50 folding third row seat that is standard on the V6 and optional of the 2.4-liter four-cylinder. It is not available on the turbo. The second row is a 40-20-40 folding seat and the front row seats are heated and cooled, the second row seats are heated and the front row can be ordered with a 14-way power driver seat and an eight-way power passenger seat.
We got a chance to test the Sorento’s Clari-Fi audio technology during out afternoon drive. It rebuilds sounds that are lost as music is compressed for digital storage. In other words it will read the sound that is there and reconstruct the sound that got lost. The first application in a motor vehicle, Kia said the sound was cleaner, crisper, wider and more dynamic. We found it to be different and to sound better.
The Sorento’s UVO system continues to be improved. Apps can be downloaded from iTunes and Google Play. Content can include Soundhound, Pandora and iHeart radio.
There was satellite radio, voice controls and features like local weather, fuel prices and sport scores in our test vehicle. The Sorento like other contemporary vehicles can operate as a lap top computer on four wheels.
Safety features on our turbo four-cylinder as well as the V6 included an electronic parking brake, smart cruise control, surround view monitor, lane departure warning, forward collision warning, a rearview camera, a backup warning system and Bluetooth.
New does not necessarily always mean improved. But in the case of the 2016 Kia Sorento both meanings apply. Prices start at $24,900 and range up to $43,100.

— Frank S. Washington