2019 Kia Sorento SXL First Test: Korean Pilot


After redesigning the Sorento for 2016, Kia revealed the refreshed version of its popular midsize crossover late last year. Following three years on the market, that was probably a smart decision. But unless you park both versions next to each other, you probably won’t be able to tell the difference. The question is, though, does the new Sorento drive any differently than it did before? We brought in a 2019 Kia Sorento SXL with a V-6 and all-wheel drive to find out.

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Granted, the Sorento was already a solid midsize crossover. With the 2016 original, we appreciated the extra 3 inches of length the engineers added, as well as its more attractive design and comfortable ride. The long features list, slick infotainment system, and a nicely designed cabin were added bonuses. It could possibly have used more room in the third row, but that will become less of an issue next year when the larger Telluride launches.

For 2019, Kia focused more on refinement than making major mechanical or design changes. Seating for seven is now standard, as is a 7.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support. Higher trim levels now come with nicer materials, more driver-assist features, and a premium Harman Kardon sound system. Beyond a few tweaks here and there, the exterior design stays about the same.

But just because powertrain updates weren’t Kia’s top priority doesn’t mean the Sorento didn’t see a few changes under the hood, too. The 2.0-liter turbo-four has been cut, and the two remaining engines get better transmissions. The base four-cylinder gets an upgraded six-speed auto, and the optional V-6 engine now uses the Cadenza’s eight-speed auto. The all-wheel-drive system has also been improved, now offering a locking center differential and better torque vectoring.

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Typically, you’d expect a car with a new transmission to be a bit quicker than before. In our testing, however, that wasn’t the case. Our Sorento SXL hit 60 mph in 7.6 seconds and ran the quarter mile in 15.8 seconds at 89.8 mph. Compared to the 2016 V-6 model we last tested, its 0-60 time was 0.4 second slower and its quarter-mile time was almost identical (15.7 seconds at 89.6 mph).

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