When putting a new vehicle to the test, there’s nothing better than experiencing it through a diverse array of conditions to get a true grasp on how it functions under real-world conditions. Attending the National Press Introduction of the all-new 2016 Kia Sorento last month in California, I had a chance to take two models of the new Sorento (AWD Turbocharged 4-cylinder, AWD V6) through multiple climates and altitudes through the legendary Sierra Nevada mountain range, out through the plains and into the Nevada desert. What the Sorento delivered was an impressive and powerful combination of style, performance and comfort that rivals all other competitors in the increasingly crowded crossover class, warranting a serious look for families that are ready to rock the road.
With the Ritz-Carlton in Lake Tahoe chosen as a base of operations, Kia was confidently (and rightfully so) showing off that their new Sorento is a grown-up version of what’s come before, and a capable vehicle for handling not only the terrain, but the cargo as a choice for both families and more traditionally upscale drivers looking for what’s touted as “the perfect getaway vehicle.” Sure, it can be your daily driver to run around town, but it’s also perfectly-suited for hauling people and goods for those travel adventures… wherever you may roam.
Kia continues the unified styling of the brand under the leadership of former Audi designer Peter Schreyer, with the 2016 Sorento immediately recognizable as a sibling to other vehicles in the Kia lineup. The lines are sharp, and the increased length and width of the wheelbase gives the car a beefier, more aggressive stance that provides for a roomier interior, while complimented by a stylish front grille and foglamps and a rear spoiler that’s now standard on all models. The available 19″ wheels (available on higher trim levels) fill out the Sorento nicely, adding to a look that’s already both sporty and stylish.
The interior of the Sorento is is about as comfortable as you can get, with premium features including Nappa leather seating available, along with the must-have panoramic sunroof. Everything is laid out perfectly with comfort and function in mind, and the Sorento just feels right – with everything at the perfect spacing for both driver and passenger alike. The four-cylinder turbocharged model features two-row, five person seating, while the V6 offers a folding third row for 7-passenger seating.
Function & Performance
With plenty of room for families, the Sorento is a worthy choice in lieu of a minivan (including the recently-released 2015 Sedona “multi-purpose vehicle”), though I’m generally not a fan of third-row seating in the crossover segment, as the folding third row tends to be a tight squeeze for grownups like myself. The 8″ touch screen for the UVO infotainment system is top-notch, with Kia consistently including one of the most user-friendly technology packages available, with an exceptional GPS system and safety enhancements. The sound system powered by Infinity by Harman Audio is fantastic, and the available Clari-Fi Music Restoration Technology is a unique feature geared toward audiophiles like myself. You can get up to an available 630-watt 12-speaker system with all the features you’d expect like SiriusXM, bluetooth, etc.
Superb handling on the Sorento was put to the test while conquering the challenging turns of the mountains, while both the 4-cylinder and V6 models soared through all terrains and weather conditions. The turbocharged 4-cylinder impressed with it’s zippiness, as did the V6 for power (there’s three engines available, including a basic non-turbo 4-cylinder).
The Price & Style Range
There is a notable weirdness and possibly confusing level of different trim levels and options available for the 2016 Sorento, with eight different levels to choose from (L, LX, EX, SX-LIMITED, LX V6, EX V6, SX V6, SX LIMITED V6) and a base MSRP of $24,900 on the low end, with $43,100 on the high – nearly a $20K difference from top to bottom. Potential buyers will really have to take a solid look at what features they really need or want within the different price ranges. While we hit the road in vehicles that are essentially “fully-loaded,” the average buyer will likely go for something less feature-packed.
The Bottom Line
On a personal level, I often feel that in doing vehicle reviews I’m also holding auditions for what could become our next car – the next evolution of The Rock Father’s Suburban Assault Vehicle™. With a crossover in our fleet of daily drivers right now, it’s likely that there will one day be another crossover in our future, and if I needed to buy a new one today, the 2016 Kia Sorento would absolutely be at the top of my list. It hits on all the right elements that I look for in a family vehicle, and I’m hoping to revisit it here at HQ in Illinois for a test with the whole family – my girls in the back and my wife behind the wheel. Could there be a Sorento in our driveway at some point? Magic 8 Ball says “outlook good,” and as Batman and I would both want to know, “yes, it comes in black.” Ebony Black, to be specific.