2011 Kia Sorento SX AWD

Matt Tierney

Whoa there, Nelly! The initial throttle tip-in is too aggressive and makes it difficult to pull away smoothly from a stop. I know that Kia wants its SX models to have a sportier feel than other trim levels, but give us progressive throttle response, please. Compared with lesser Sorento models, the SX gets its own body kit, which includes gaping fog-light openings, which I don't care for, and LED taillights, which I do: a slim ring of diodes serve as running lights, and the diodes within the ring illuminate under braking. It looks very cool.

Kia did a good job tuning the dual-flow dampers, which help this two-ton crossover stay surprisingly flat if you're pushing the Sorento hard on twisty roads. The well-bolstered seatback helps keep you in place during aggressive driving, but the seat bottom is too flat for skinny guys like me.

The Sorento is cheaper than the Toyota Highlander and the Honda Pilot but more expensive than the Hyundai Santa Fe and the Dodge Journey (though not by much). What really sets it apart from those competitors, though, is its sporty suspension, which adds some athleticism to this midsize family hauler.

Donny Nordlicht, Associate Web Editor

Depending on how you look at it, the Sorento represents the last bit of old Kia product or the first indication of what the brand is capable of delivering. Personally, I see the Sorento as being the warning shot to other automakers that Kia would be a serious player in the mainstream automotive segments. The current Sorento debuted in late 2009 and the big change was moving from body-on-frame to unibody construction, which transformed the Sorento from an SUV into a crossover and much more compelling vehicle.

Though no aspect of the Sorento's interior or exterior design is breathtaking, it certainly elevated the Kia brand from bargain basement look and feel to just generically bland. And bland isn't a bad thing in the crossover segment. The real surprise was Kia's new infotainment system that offered great iPod and Bluetooth connectivity without a convoluted set of commands or controls to use the device of your choice.

It would be foolish to expect a real revelation in driving dynamics from any three-row crossover, let alone a Korean interpretation of the segment, but the Sorento SX strikes a decent balance between ride quality and comfort. It feels confident at highway speeds and isn't difficult to maneuver though crowded parking lots, which is all that really matters in this segment.

Anyone familiar with the new Sportage and Optima will be a little let down by the Sorento, but those unfamiliar with Kia's current standards in design and interior quality will be pleasantly surprised by the Sorento.

Phil Floraday, Senior Web Editor

Apparently U.S. car buyers have a love affair with three-row crossovers, even if that third row is impractical and inaccessible. At least with the Sorento, unlike its competitors the Toyota Highlander and the Honda Pilot, the buyer can opt for a two-row version. Having said that, the first thing I did when preparing to spend the weekend with the Sorento was to lower the third row, because with the it in place there's a scant 9.1 cubic feet of cargo volume. At least lowering the rearmost seats is very easy - just pull the canvas strap on the seatbacks to collapse the seats forward.

The Sorento's cabin is pleasant but nothing to write home about. The ergonomics are mostly good, but I really had to stretch to reach some of the controls on the center stack - yes, my arms are short. This Sorento has the panoramic roof, which is a very nice option that lets a lot of light into what would otherwise be a much darker space (this model has a black interior).

The 276-hp V-6 makes plenty of power, which I was able to put to use on my way in to work on Monday morning. I was driving down the freeway in the left lane when I noticed a Grand Cherokee on my right with manufacturer plates. And who was it behind the wheel? Don Sherman, former technical editor of this magazine. Nothing like seeing Sherman to make me want to put the pedal to the metal, which I did, leaving him in the dust. (Actually, he exited about a quarter-mile later, but I like to think I dusted him.)

Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor

I completely agree with Phil, this is the last vestige of the old Kia. It's decent enough, but the materials need improvement. These materials, while visually appealing, feel very much old Kia and, well, cheap. After being in the new Optima, I eagerly await Kia's update of the Sorento.

Kelly Murphy, Creative Director

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