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2016 Kia Sorento: Silent Contender

By Frank A. Aukofer, January 31st, 2015

The first thing you notice about the 2016 Kia Sorento is what you don't notice: Ambient noise. In an age when many cars, crossovers and trucks have reached new depths of silent running, the Sorento stands out.

Sure, there are muted sounds that make their way through the chassis and insulation, but they're mostly from the lousy urban streets and freeways that are the inevitable result of lack of maintenance. But place the new Kia 2016 Sorento on newly paved asphalt and even those sounds are nearly nonexistent.

Of course, there's a lot more to the Sorento than tomb-like silence. American-made in West Point, Ga., it is a fresh, all-new design that follows a template cut by its South Korean corporate partner, Hyundai, which owns 38 percent of Kia. The two brands share powertrains, but offer distinct styling and chassis tuning.

Hyundai's similar offering (starting in the 2013 model year), was the critically acclaimed Santa Fe, a three-row, seven- or eight-passenger midsize crossover utility vehicle. Its garage mate is the Santa Fe Sport, which has two rows of seats for five passengers.

Kia does much the same thing with the Sorento but distinguishes them by engine size. There are three engines: 185-hp, 2.4-liter four-cylinder; 240-hp, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder; and 290-hp, 3.3-liter V-6. Four cylinder models carry five passengers; the V-6 models can be equipped for seven or eight.

Because of this, the Sorento is something of a mugwump: the classic entity with its mug on one side of the fence and its wump on the other. The Sorento not only competes against a host of midsize five-passenger crossovers, it also bumps against three-row crossovers like the Santa Fe, Toyota Highlander, Honda Pilot, Ford Explorer and Chevrolet Traverse.

strong>There are five trim levels: L, LX, EX, SX and SXL. We drove an SX with the V-6 engine, all-wheel drive and seven-passenger seating. With a starting price of $40,595, it came attractively equipped, with the exception of such features as adaptive cruise control, an around view monitor and lane departure warning. Those items are available on the top line SXL.

The SX came with an array of safety equipment, including blind spot warning, cross traffic alert and hill start assist, as well as leather upholstery, automatic climate control, navigation system, Bluetooth connectivity, satellite radio, a 14-way power driver's seat, memory settings for the driver's seat and outside mirrors, and a 110-volt power inverter.

The five-passenger L model, with FWD and cloth upholstery that sheds dirt and stains, starts at $25,795. All-wheel drive adds $1,800. At the top of the line is the $42,195 SXL AWD V-6. With that many choices, a variety of customers should be able to tailor a Sorento to their needs.

With 143 cubic feet of space for passengers, the Sorento SX has ample space for front and second row passengers. Even the third row can accommodate a couple of adults but it's a torso twisting chore to crawl back there so it should be reserved for athletic youngsters.

Cargo space is limited to 11 cu.-ft. with all three rows up. Fold the third row and it expands to 38 cu.-ft., and 73 cu.-ft. with the second row also folded. Third row seats split 50/50 for cargo carrying versatility.

On the road, as noted, the tested Sorento SX was a serene long distance cruiser with steady straight line tracking and competent handling around curves as well as a compliant ride.

The near absence of mechanical, road and wind noise was augmented by comfortable, well bolstered seats up front. Quality materials and workmanship with classy piano black trim characterize an interior in which instruments and controls are well located and intuitive in use.

The V-6 engine is a smooth, quiet performer with good low rpm torque and strong acceleration. Power gets to all four wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission that shifts unobtrusively. It has a manual shift mode operated by paddles mounted on the steering wheel. So in a crowded field of midsize crossovers, Kia's 2016 Sorento deserves serious consideration.

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