2016 Kia Sorento SXL AWD: Does it live up to our hype?

2016 Sorento SXL

Not that long ago, we spent a few really cold days in Tahoe, California, driving around in the new Kia Sorento. And while initial impressions are good, we like to get the vehicle back for an extended drive to see if what we liked the first time around holds up when we actually use for everyday driving and errand running.

2016 Sorento SXLIn the case of the new Kia Sorento, we still wholeheartedly agree with everything we said, and then some. CarBuzzard.com must really like this vehicle, because we’ve reviewed it nine times since 2012, and by no fewer than four staff writers. Not sure if we keep trying to find fault and not being successful, or we just like the Sorento so much, we keep wanting to drive it. Actually, of all the articles we’ve done on Sorento, the latest being this one from the Chief Buzzard John Matras, are favorable.

9716_All_new_2016_Sorento_right_and_2015_SorentoWhile we have plenty of experience with Kia vehicles (we have a long-term Kia Sedona), there are noticeable differences between the 2016 Sorento and our 2015 Sedona. The biggest difference is the AWD system, which instantly made the Sorento feel a lot heavier than our van. Our SXL AWD weighed in close to 4,300 lbs, since it had pretty much every feature including the SXL Technology package. The van, which has third-row seating and is longer, weighs only a few hundred pounds more. Now we know you might be saying, but wait! The Sorento also has a third row of seats. Yes, that would be correct, if you opt for the model with the V6, but our SXL came with the four cylinder and only two rows of seating for five occupants.

2016 Sorento SXLBecause it felt heavy on the road doesn’t mean the Sorento is lethargic. Quite the opposite. The 2.0-liter turbocharged I4 with 240 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque was impressive with its quick acceleration. Comparing it to the Sorento LX V6 specs, the four banger has slightly more torque (8 lb-ft), and it comes on at a low 1,450 rpm versus 5,300 rpm for the V6 engine. With numbers like this, we still don’t understand why people feel they must have a V6 engine when a turbocharged four will make them just as happy, and maybe even happier when it comes time to fill up at the gas station. We put almost 750 miles on the Sorento, and were averaging about 23 mpg, which is dang close to the EPA estimated numbers of 19/22 for the AWD version.

2016 Sorento SXLThe interior of this vehicle also makes us happy. We recently had a Volvo XC60 as a comparison vehicle, and even though the Volvo is considered a luxury crossover, and was priced about $10,000 more than the Sorento, the Kia’s interior felt more luxurious thanks to all the padded areas, the high quality of materials, the updated UVO connectivity system, and the ride quality overall. We know this is kind of an unfair compare, mostly because the Volvo XC60 is on an eight-year-old platform and the Sorento’s is new, but buyers will be able to see and tell the difference on a test drive, and the Sorento wins this one hands down. Now all bets are off when the new XC60 shows up, but Kia’s Sorento will still be able to hold its own even then.

2016 Sorento SXLAnother big difference we noticed between the Sorento and our Sedona is the improved UVO connectivity. It’s much faster, understands our voice much better, and has an easier way to input a destination. If we were electronics engineers we would have switched the systems like race car drivers used to do with rental cars and their showroom stock engines, but we’re just not that talented. And Kia might have noticed it. So we’ll continue to be envious of the system. We’re not envious of the awesome Infinity audio system, since we also have that in the Sedona. The Sorento’s system kicks out 630 watts of power, and includes 12 speakers and Clari-Fi technology, which makes crappy compressed MP3 files sound like a CD instead. Sound quality is awesome, and we can’t say enough good things about any audio system from Harman Kardon (who is behind the Infinity brand).

2016 Sorento SXLWhile we know that Kia has been making a great effort to use quality materials, offer a long list of safety features and myriad new technologies (forward collision warning, lane-departure warning, and more), we were around Kia when it started, and watching the prices climb, even with good reason, still comes as a shock to us. The Sorento’s base L model is a great value at $25,995 with destination, but our SX-L with AWD and the tech package hit $45,095 as tested. And a loaded Limited V6 will add a few thousand more to that price. Yikes! But technology, great styling, a wonderful warranty, excellent ride comfort, impressive handling, and more don’t come cheaply these days. The bottom line is that the Sedona is worth every penny.

Photography courtesy of Kia Motors America, Inc.