The 2019 Kia Sorento SXL is a marked improvement over older models of the machine
By Isaac Bouchard
I can remember when the Sorento had the dubious distinction of being the worst driving vehicle I reviewed over a 12 month period. It went around corners “Like a rhinoceros on a wet clay bank” (to quote legendary car reviewer Tom McCahill), yet seemed to magnify every bump it trod over. It was cheap inside, yet its sticker was higher than many better 7-passenger SUVs. But Kia has demonstrated how seriously it takes competition in the segment by honing and polishing this crossover year after year, and the result for 2019 is a thoroughly competitive machine.
The Sorento has always looked good, especially in top flight SXL trim; great proportions, appropriate wheel size and sophisticated detailing give it a very upmarket air. Paint quality is beautiful too, something the Koreans seem able to achieve wherever they build their vehicles, but which oft eludes domestic manufacturers.
Inside the design is pleasing if a bit innocuous. While interior material quality has improved substantially over earlier models, it wont trouble class leaders like the Mazda CX-9. The interface is an 8in touchscreen that is really intuitive and fast responding, and which also offers Android Auto and Apple CarPlay—many worthy rivals like the Mazda and Toyota Highlander don’t have the former. Harmon Kardon sound is standard on the SXL, as is every modern driver aid. The adaptive cruise control in particular is nicely calibrated to make stop-and-go traffic much less frustrating. The seating is comfortable and roomy in the first two rows, tight in the rear. That’s not a knock; this “5 + 2” arrangement—shared with the Highlander, CX-9 and GMC Acadia—is excellent for many families and leads to a vehicle that is wieldy in traffic and easy to park in tight confines, which is enhanced by the standard “around view” cameras.
The SXL is powered exclusively by a refined 3.3-liter V6, whose outputs of 290hp and 252lb-ft of torque are class competitive, if no more. Routed through a smooth 8-speed automatic and updated AWD drive system that features torque vectoring and a lockable center differential, the Sorento hits 60mph in the mid-7 second range, tows up to 5,000 pounds and earns competitive EPA ratings. The Kia’s ride quality is substantially improved so that the daily grind of urban driving is no longer painful. Road and wind noise are well suppressed and body control at least as good as the Honda Pilot and Toyota. All in the Sorento combines a very compelling group of attributes into an attractive package. While no longer the value leader in the price, it has earned the right to be judged on its merits.
EPA Ratings: 19/24/21mpg
0-60mph: 7.2sec (indep test)
Price as tested: $
Here is what Kia has to day.
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