Posted on December 16, 2020 by Car Critic Steve Hammes
2021 Kia Sorento X-Line SX Prestige AWD TEST DRIVE & REVIEW BY CAR CRITIC STEVE HAMMES
Kia’s smart approach to better differentiating their trim lines is the path to success. It started with the redesigned Soul, then the Seltos and now this all-new Sorento. It’s part of their “Kia For Everyone” philosophy and for the Sorento that means 4 distinct powertrains and an X-Line model that takes on the mantle of an off-road SUV.
The Sorento is one of Kia’s best-selling nameplates. It arrived in 2002 and has since grown into a 3-row segment heavy hitter, battling the likes of the Toyota Highlander, Honda Pilot and Nissan Pathfinder.
But with this all-new 4th generation model, Kia is giving the Sorento a fresh perspective. The V6 is gone, a pair of hybrids is in and this hero model takes the Sorento in a more premium yet rugged direction.
This X-Line SX-Prestige gets the “off-road look” with exclusive bumpers, unique 20” wheels and a bridge-type roof rack. There’s also a 1” increase in ride height, standard all-wheel drive with a center locking differential and hill decent control. So this is the Sorento you want if you have a more adventurous family.
And then inside, there’s real leather, heated and ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel, a disappointing Bose audio system, a Surround View Monitor with conveniently located console button, the big digital instrument cluster, parking assistance, paddle shifters for the 8-speed and a few other nominal upgrades. And this is the only model that receives a snow mode for the Drive Mode Select system and a 10-way adjustable passenger seat as standard equipment. But there is one odd omission at the lofty SX level; no wireless Android Auto or Apple CarPlay.
Yes, you get the bigger touchscreen navi but this unit doesn’t support wireless phone projection while the lesser trims do…Kia’s got to fix that. And while I’m on it; I find this system to be less user-friendly than in previous Kias. It looks great and it has fantastic features – I’m a sucker for these mood settings that create great ambience – but it’s a long reach from the driver and there aren’t any redundant buttons closer to you on the center console.
I’ve had this Sorento for a long weekend now and my initial impressions are still the strongest; for one, the turbocharged engine is an eye-opener. It’ll immediately grab your attention for how quick it steps off. 2) the cabin exceeds $40,000 expectations. I mean, this rust package looks great and the tech is sharp and robust in its offerings and lastly, it’s not a Telluride replacement – the drive just isn’t up to that level of finesse and for $3,000 more, it would definitely have me thinking.
With 281 horsepower and 311 pound-feet of torque, 0-to-60mph takes about 7.5 seconds but feels ever quicker with the aggressively geared dual clutch transmission. You have to go light on the gas pedal to avoid abrupt takeoffs. These manual-like gearboxes sometimes come with unwanted characteristics but not here…you’d never know this wasn’t a traditional auto.
And as compared with the outgoing model, gas mileage is improved by 20%, rated at 24mpg. That’s better than Toyota and Honda but if it’s MPGs you’re chasing then the Sorento Hybrid is where it’s at, rated at 37mpg. This new platform reduces weight and improves driving dynamics.
The various drive modes including a Smart setting and energetic Sport configuration work very well to change up the Kia’s demeanor and the cabin is whisper quiet but it’s even more impressive when driving on unpaved roads where the chassis soaks up uneven terrain and the locker works to keep all 4-wheels in play at all times.
It’s not for crazy trails but for runs to the lake or that off the grid camp it feels as rugged as it looks. Speaking of which, is it just me or does this design remind you of the Dodge Journey?
This generation also affords more interior space. I love how easy it is to rearrange these seats and the third row is a usable one. So whether you’re getting kids in and out of the rear or configuring for cargo, the mechanisms are easy and complete. There are USB ports build into the seats, an airy environment with the pano roof, lots of stretch out room and a hands-free liftgate with underfloor storage in the back.
Easy conversation tech that amplifies the driver’s voice and a sleepy time mode that kills the rear speakers are other cool family perks. There’s full driver assistance tech for keeping the Sorento safe and in its lane and even blind zone cameras when you trigger the turn signal. And the iconic Kia startup and exit music is now even more robust sounding. MSRP as-tested is $43,960.
It’s a short introductory loan this time around as the Sorento is just being launched but I’ve seen enough to know that Kia has another hit on its hands. Is it too close in price to the bigger Telluride? Time will tell.
2021 Kia Sorento X-Line SX Prestige AWD | TestDriveNow (c)