2011 Kia Sorento SX AWD

Matt Tierney

I spent the weekend with our Sorento and confirmed my previous impressions: this is a capable crossover but nothing more. There's nothing wrong with it, but there's nothing special about it, nothing to set it apart from the crowded field of 7-passenger, 3-row crossovers. It certainly does not meet the dynamic standards set by the class leader, the crisp Mazda CX-9. That said, the Sorento rides smoothly enough, it handles well enough, and it has more than sufficient power. I did an evasive maneuver the other night to avoid a skunk crossing the road, and the Sorento did not become unduly unsettled. Our test car has more than 10,000 miles on it and it seems to be aging well.

Having pulled my back this weekend doing something stupid in the yard, this morning I was grateful for the lower back lumbar inflator in the Sorento's driver's seat.

On Saturday I drove the Sorento to our local Costco, where it joined a sea of other crossovers, SUVs, and minivans, and it looked right at home. It easily swallowed my $431 worth of purchases, as you can see in the photo.

Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor

If you want to see the incredible impact a clear design philosophy can have on a brand, take a look at the Kia Sorento and Sportage. The Sportage practically radiates character, sending a strong and consistent message from the shape of its badges to the graining of its interior surfaces. The older Sorento, in contrast, is well executed yet completely generic. There are no awkward proportions or disruptive lines but neither is there anything that makes it stand out in a sea of competent crossovers. That pretty well describes the way the Sorento drives. It demonstrated no bad habits over my admittedly short commute, with plenty of power from the 3.5-liter V-6. That will, no doubt, be enough to satisfy many a buyer in this segment. I, however, would wait for the first refresh, which will likely bring a dash of the panache that Kia is quickly becoming known for.

David Zenlea, Assistant Editor

Overall, this Kia Sorento is a perfectly respectable three-row crossover. Our test example looked good with its shiny black paint, 18-inch alloys, and the SX-specific body kit. The Sorento is easy to drive in the city and easy to maneuver, and there is plenty of power from the 3.5-liter V-6.

That's all well and good, but the upgrades included with Kia's SX trim level ruin this specific vehicle. The fake carbon-fiber interior trim looks like it came from a J.C. Whitney catalog, while the leather-wrapped steering wheel feels cheap. Worse yet, the suspension tuning leads the Sorento to crash and flex over Michigan's omnipresent potholes. Perhaps that's why, with only 10,435 miles on the clock, our tester already has interior squeaks and rattles. The Sorento is a decent crossover and it may be fine in any other trim level, but this SX version just isn't for me.

Jake Holmes, Associate Web Editor

Based on the way this Kia Sorento smacks and jostles its way over imperfect roads, I was certain that the sportier SX trim included unique, more aggressive suspension tuning compared to its lesser LX and EX brethren. I was wrong.

The rough-riding Sorento left me scratching my head. I attended the introduction of the all-new 2010 Sorento and remember a palatable if not particularly distinctive crossover. Sure, the roads were better in Atlanta, but the Sorento I drove gave no hints that the suspension was this stiff. It turns out that just a year after the Sorento went on sale, Kia introduced an update that lowered the ride height and replaced the dampers. On paper, the new dual-flow dampers sound great: four distinct damping behaviors to accommodate the varied road surfaces we all encounter. The actual result is not so great.

Below 40 mph, small breaks and potholes are magnified into road imperfections twice their size and dips and rises toss your upper body around. At higher speeds, the ride becomes more tolerable but there's an unusual amount of tire slap. And like Jake, my mind created a connection between the abrupt impacts, the irritating rattle just next to the driver's left ear, and the unbearable squeak from the center stack. Does anyone really want a crossover that rides this harshly? That was my thinking when I still believed this Sorento SX has a sport-tuned suspension. Knowing that this is standard fare shocks me even more. Maybe the LX models -- with 17-inch wheels -- ride better, but it's safe to say that the Sorento's natural habitat is somewhere with much better roads than Michigan.

Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor

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