The Kia Sorento moves from a truck-based SUV platform with two rows of seats to a car-based crossover platform with up to three rows. This also marks the first year the Sorento will offer a four-cylinder engine. In Kia's lineup, the Sorento sits between the compact Sportage crossover and the three-row, truck-based Borrego. It competes roughly with smaller crossovers that also offer a third row, like the Dodge Journey, Toyota RAV4 and Mitsubishi Outlander.
Trim levels include the base, LX and EX. Base models come with a stick shift and the four-cylinder. The LX and EX have a standard automatic, and the EX offers an optional V-6. All-wheel drive is optional on the LX and EX.
The 2011 Sorento's creased lines and Acura-like headlights follow Kia's recent styling, with a clear resemblance up front to the Forte and Optima sedans. In back, the Sorento's taillights recall the larger Borrego's.
Seventeen-inch alloy wheels are standard on the base and LX; EX models add fog lights, a rear spoiler and 18-inch alloys.
Like the Forte, the Sorento's dashboard houses each gauge within a separate portal and places major audio and climate controls on an elevated central dashboard section. The second row folds flat into the floor; so does the optional third row. A third row isn't offered on the base Sorento, but it's optional on the LX and EX four-cylinder and standard on the EX V-6.
Major standard features include basic power accessories, air conditioning, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls and a CD stereo with USB/iPod compatibility. Dual-zone automatic climate control, a 12-speaker Infinity stereo, a navigation system, heated leather seats and a panoramic moonroof are optional.
Cargo volume behind the rear seats is just 9.1 cubic feet; behind the second row, it's 37.0 cubic feet. With both rows folded down, the maximum cargo volume is 72.5 cubic feet.
Under the Hood
The standard 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine makes 175 horsepower and 169 pounds-feet of torque; it uses a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. EX models offer an optional 3.5-liter V-6 that makes 276 horsepower and 248 pounds-feet of torque. It uses only the automatic. Four-wheel drive is optional with either engine, though with the four-cylinder it requires getting the automatic transmission. Kia's system offers a lockable center differential to route constant power to both axles, should you need to get out of some heavy snow or mud.
Maximum towing capacity is 3,500 pounds; that's less than the outgoing Sorento's 5,000-pound maximum, but competitive with the field.
Antilock brakes, traction control and an electronic stability system are standard. So are six airbags and active front head restraints.
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