Kia is quick to mention the current Sorento family hauler is only three years old, and for good reason: while the trucklet was only due for a modest mid-cycle refresh, it received, instead, a comprehensive reworking that goes much deeper than bumper covers and infotainment systems.
Take a look at the 2014 Sorento and you'll see the modest changes immediately: the front end is lightly changed for the new year. The headlights -- which now house LED running lights -- are taller, as is the "tiger mouth" corporate grille. The horizontal foglights are flipped upright in the new model, and the entire bumper cover is body color (as opposed to the 2013's two-tone design). The rear fascia is similarly changed with a wider stance and refreshed taillights.
But the biggest changes to the Sorento aren't strictly visual: the 2014 Sorento reportedly uses 80 percent new parts and rides atop an all-new platform, which explains why Kia scoffs at the "mid-cycle refresh" terminology. The new platform, which also underpins the Hyundai Santa Fe, is 18 percent stiffer, which allowed engineers to soften the Sorento's firm ride. The front suspension cradle is stiffer -- which allows for better tracking -- and Kia promises that a revised multi-link setup out back is more compact (read: offers more cargo space), and quieter than before.
Like the Santa Fe, the Sorento also features a new engine. The old Sorento's base engine -- a 2.4-liter I-4 -- is out, and in its place is a 2.4-liter direct-injected I-4 (previously an option in the Sorento), which makes 191 hp and 181 lb-ft of torque. The old 3.5-liter V-6 is out in favor of the Hyundai Azera's 3.3-liter direct-injected V-6 engine, which makes a respectable 290 hp and 252 lb-ft of torque; that engine is standard fare on LX V6, EX V6, SX, and SX Limited trims. All Sorento models come with standard six-speed automatic transmissions, and both engines are available with all-wheel drive (FWD is standard) which adds brake-based torque vectoring to maintain stability in a turn. While it may not necessarily improve handling, the Sorento is one of the first Kias to include Hyundai's electric-power-assist steering rack with three-way adjustable steering effort.
Predictably, the new Sorento's interior is heavily revised. Cars of the EX trim level and above have an all-new gauge cluster that mixes physical/analog instruments for engine revs, fuel level, and engine temperature with a seven-inch LCD screen that displays a digital speedometer, trip computer, and readout for the optional GPS navigation system.
In case that a seven-inch screen wasn't enough digital real estate for you, the Sorento's center stack boasts an optional eight-inch touchscreen that controls the optional Infinity surround-sound audio system, optional GPS navigation system (with SiriusXM traffic), and standard SiriusXM satellite radio/USB/Bluetooth audio sources. In a nod to most of its competitors, the Sorento is also the first Kia to offer a blind-spot warning system.
Following the Optima's lead, the Sorento will be the second Kia to offer a top-spec SX Limited trim level. Like the Optima SX Limited, the Sorento gets chrome wheels (19-inchers) and red brake calipers, as well as HID headlights and Nappa leather seats. The SX Limited's wood-trimmed steering wheel is heated, as are the second-row seats, and the interior boasts a "soft-touch headliner." The Sorento LX, EX, LX V6, EX V6, and SX will reach Kia dealers nationwide in the first quarter of 2013, with the SX Limited following a couple of months later.