Tom Crosby: 2017 Kia Sorento SXL has luxury in abundance

Tom Crosby

Tom Crosby

Kia’s Sorento, a big mid-size crossover SUV that received a major makeover last year, has added technological advances and safety features this year to help boost sales in a red-hot SUV sales market fueled by yearlong low gas prices.

Bigger vehicles are safer in a crash and Sorento has earned top crash safety ratings from government and insurance industry crash tests. We test drove the top-of-the-line SXL all-wheel drive, seven-seater Sorento, with a luxurious interior and powered by a 3.3-liter direct injection engine.

The SXL includes standard lower trim options, like navigation, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, plus automatic emergency braking and adaptive headlights, both new this year.

Front and back seats are heated and a panoramic sunroof covers two rows of seats. The ride was always composed, regardless of driving mode (sport, normal or eco) or road conditions. Handling was sharply responsive with a decent turning radius. Ground clearance is a decent 7.3 inches but this is not a heavy-duty off-road ride, although the locking center differential will help in slippery conditions. All Sorentos use a smoothly reactive six-speed automatic transmission with manual slide shift option. On a 1,200-mile journey – mostly interstate – we averaged 23.6 miles per gallon – better than EPA’s highway estimate.

Our SXL’s two-tone interior used soft-touch ivory-colored Nappa leather on lower door panels and seats, contrasting with a black leather dashboard and black trim elsewhere, creating a starkly simple but classy eye-catching look.

Top safety features included rear cross traffic alert, blind spot detection, lane keeping assist and adaptive cruise control – great for interstate travel although it became inoperable on three occasions after a car cut sharply in front of me and I had to reset after parking and turning the engine off. Little design touches are pleasing, like mirrors folding when the engine is off (good in a tight parking space), extendable visors, debris catching net with sunroof open, nicely sized map/cup holding pockets in all four doors, easily foldable seats, tie-downs in the cargo area, spare tire and coverable tray under the 8-inch elliptical dashboard screen with 120 EV, auxiliary and USB ports.

Third row seats are tight but okay for kids. Kia’s award-winning UVO (short for Your Voice) enables additional voice-activated apps and functions and commands are interpreted better than some competitors. Towing capability is 5,000 pounds and the warranty is among industry best.

Likes: Handling, ride, luxury interior, versatility, price.

Dislikes: adaptive cruise control, tight third row.

Bottom line: Sorento’s popularity continues to grow as sales climb.

SORENTO SXL AWD 2017

Base price w/destination fee: $46,595 (same as tested, no options).
Vehicle curb weight: 4,101 lbs.
Wheelbase: 109.4 inches.
Length: 187.4 inches.
Width: 74.4 inches.
Engine specs: 3.3-liter, DOHC, 24-valve, V-6, direct injection.
Horsepower: 290 hp at 6,400 rpm.
Torque: 252 ft.-lbs. at 5,300 rpm.
Transmission: Six-speed automatic w/Sportmatic.
EPA rating: 17 mpg city and 23 mpg highway.
Range: 18.8-gallon tank, regular.
Performance: 0 to 60 just over seven seconds.

Tom Crosby is a former journalist and communications director for AAA Carolinas. He has been reviewing cars since 1996, and has been active in traffic safety issues for more than 30 years.

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