Kia’s new Sorento: Revised styling, platform and powertrains

Kia Sorento updated

The new Kia Sorento features revised exterior styling atop an aggressively updated platform. (Click on photo to enlarge)

Updates from Kia come (seemingly) faster than position papers from America’s major political parties. With a new Rio and updated Soul now on showrooms, Kia has hinted at details of an all-new Forte and, more recently, released information on an aggressively revised Sorento CUV. The hits, as it were, keep on coming; and so, apparently, does the misspelling of ‘Sorento’.

Unlike so many model ‘freshenings’ that are little more than cosmetic updates, Kia will incorporate significant changes to the upgraded Sorento. Scheduled to debut at the Paris Auto Show in September, the Sorento will go on sale later this year in most global markets. These enhancements include a completely new platform for improved ride, handling and refinement; enhanced powertrains to improve fuel economy while lowering emissions; the addition of convenience and safety features (natch); and what Kia describes as a “fresh, new look” for the exterior.

When introduced in 2009 the second-gen Sorento was an abrupt about-face for Kia. The 1st-generation Sorento was a true SUV, boasting body-on-frame construction, a RWD or 4WD chassis and HD towing capability. And while successful in both the global and U.S. marketplace, its debut (in 2002) coincided with that market’s turn from traditional SUVs to car-based crossovers. The new-for-2009 Sorento hit the CUV sweetspot, offering a transversely mounted V6, easier interior access for driver and passengers, and the ubiquitous three rows for the highly prized – and highly fertile – 30-something demographic.

On this more successful – albeit less capable – CUV architecture Kia will reportedly introduce an upgraded platform, boasting more ultra-high-strength steel; improved front, side and rear impact protection; and greater torsional rigidity. Notably, the Sorento’s steering has also been revised (making it ‘quicker’), and an optional FlexSteer system will provide Normal, Sport and Comfort modes to better match the personal preferences of those behind the wheel. The available 4WD drivetrain is an ‘on demand’ system, delivering 100% of the engine torque to the front wheels unless slip is detected. When front wheels lose grip up to 50% of available torque can be transferred to the rear wheels. And if road conditions worsen the driver can select ‘Lock Mode’, which will distribute the torque equally to the front and rear axles on a full-time basis.

Outside, this newest Sorento will offer new front and rear bumpers, front grille and headlamps, and a revised tailgate with reshaped LED combination lamps. For those wishing to see both up as well as out, a two-part glass panoramic roof with roller blind shade will be an available option.

Inside, passengers will enjoy more soft-touch surfaces, a new LCD instrument cluster, new center stack with 8-inch LCD display screen and new center console. Available options – although not confirmed for the U.S. – will include powered, heated and ventilated front seats; heated second row seat cushions; Bluetooth hands-free system; and air conditioning for third row passengers.

Above and beyond those revisions you can see and feel are, of course, the ongoing improvements Kia makes to its lineup’s on-road behavior. While quality and reliability are quantifiable, the feel behind the wheel is less objective, more subjective. From what we’ve experienced behind the wheel of the new Rio and upgraded Soul, Kia’s engineering team is getting its collective arms around both what you can tangibly see and intangibly feel.

Specific information on the updated Sorento’s arrival in North American will be made available at a later date.