2013 Kia Sorento V6 AWD - Long Term Test of a Fine SUV
We've just concluded a 12,000 mile test of the 2013 Kia Sorento LX AWD, a 7 seat mid-sized SUV equipped with the 3.5 litre V6 and a six speed automatic transmission. The Sorento LX V6 AWD stickers at $27,400 but the price climbs significantly in EX and SX trims.
Kia offers a lot of features on their full-time AWD models, including hill descent control and an electronic center differential lock. These are features often found on high cost SUVs, and it is nice to see them on a budget priced SUV.
12,000 miles is ample time to grow appreciative of a vehicle's strong suits and contemptuous of its faults. We're happy to report that the Sorento is a fine SUV, with above average driving dynamics, excellent fuel economy and some thoughtful features. We'll be sorry to see it go.
Drivetrain - The Kia's 3.5 litre V6 uses variable valve timing and regular fuel to generate a healthy 276 hp and 248 lb/ft of torque. It's a fine mill, smooth, quiet and frugal. It moves the large Sorento with surprising enthusiasm and willingly revs to the 6,800 RPM redline with a refined, pleasing exhaust note. The six speed automatic shifts smoothly, and the shift map is well tailored to the V6 - with full throttle shifts occuring close to engine redline.
The full time AWD system operates seamlessly in the Sorento, with no perceptible driveline noise, lash or bind in tight turns.
We experienced about 24 mpg in mixed driving and sometimes achieved near 30 mpg on highway trips, but only when Ms. Gyrhead was driving. Hey, we don't call her Ms. Daisy for nothing..
The Kia is quite quick, particularly for an SUV, with 60 MPH coming up in the low 7 second range and the quarter mile in 15.7 at 90 MPH.
Chassis - Unlike most Kia vehicles, we really liked the chassis dynamics in the Sorento. The ride is slightly truckish, but quiet, smooth and capable on imperfect road surfaces. This was appreciated on a fishing trip to northern Maine where the fully laden Sorento easily handled frost heaved paved roads and deeply potholed logging roads.
Rear axle chatter and hop on rough terrain is minimal, due to the Sorento's independent rear suspension.
For a large SUV, The Sorento corners well with modest body roll and fairly accurate, linear steering. Like most Kias, there isn't a lot of steering feel, and the steering is vague both at and just off center, but at least the steering doesn't feel overboosted or like it's got a random ratio steering rack.
The Sorento exhibits fairly neutral handling until pushed beyond the bounds of typical SUV operation, at which point it begins to push wide. Apply a bit more throttle and the full time AWD copes with the push - and brings the Sorento back into line. We seriously doubt that most Sorento owners would care to push their vehicle this hard however.
About the only quibbles we've got with the Sorento's handling is that at higher speeds the Kia's rear suspension can get unsettled. This creates the sensation that the rear wheels are steering the vehicle. This tendency is exaggerated whenever the Kia is subject to cross winds (like when passing a large semi-truck) but fortunately it is rare. Additionally, Kia's standard stability controls are aggressive and heavy handed. On one highway on-ramp we intentionally pushed the Sorento hard and accidently invoked the stability controls which killed engine power completely and abruptly. It seemed to take 5-6 seconds for the intervention to end at which point we'd coasted down to about 20 MPH and had a line of angry motorists stacked up behind us.
The Sorento's brakes are effective, but pedal travel is long and the pedal does get squishy in high speed panic stops.
Exterior - The Sorento styling is innocuous if reasonably handsome with clean lines, tasteful body cladding and properly sized wheels. Unlike the Sportage - in which frivolous style trumps function - the Sorento is not gimicky.
Interior - We generally liked the interior of the Sorento. It is straightforward in design with good ergonomics and clear analog controls. The dash and most of the interior trim is hard plastic, but fit is good and the plastics don't look overly down-market.
The height adjustable seats are only mediocre, with flat, hard cushions and limited side bolstering. The Sorento is notionally a 7 seat SUV, but the folding third row seats are vestigial - cramped and with poor egress - suitable only for children and then only for short trips. The third row seats are very easy to open and stow - requiring one pull on a strap.
Exterior visibility is excellent in all directions owing to a properly tall greenhouse and generous side mirrors.
Cargo space with the rear seats up is decent, but expands significantly with the seats folded flat.
The stereo sound quality is only fair, with poor bass response. The bluetooth pairs easily and the hands free phone works simply and well. For some reason, the hands free phone defaults to a low volume setting every time it is used, and it's a bit annoying having to increase the volume for each call.
The steering wheel is equipped with simple and intuitive bluetooth, audio and cruise control buttons.
Kia provides auxillary and USB jacks - but once again, Kia's USB is incompatible with standard Apple cables. We'll continue to disparage Kia's electronics until they abandon wanton profiteering and decide to make the USB conform to the standard.
Interior fit and finish was good, but by the end of the test, the Kia had developed some pesky squeaks and rattles in the area of the center console. Additionally, an underseat AC duct came loose as did the dash cover for the fuse box/OBD port. This is a bit worrisome.
There are some perplexing omissions on the Sorento LX, further evidence that Kia designed it to a price point. The steering wheel is hard plastic, rare these days, and not pleasing in feel. The center dash vents have no on/off switch, and most oddly - there is no exterior thermometer. Weird.
We give the Sorento a strong B+ grade and we will be sorry to see it go. Its a comfortable, powerful, feature rich, fuel efficient SUV that is quick and fun to drive. In comparison with the Kia Sportage, Hyundai Santa Fe and Chevrolet Equinox which also we've driven recently - the Sorento is our top pick, particularly factoring in the features and low MSRP.
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