Kia Motors has always been known as an innovative, if somewhat quiet, power-player in the global automotive industry. While not as immediately recognizable as other marquee, many will be surprised to learn that it is the fourth largest automaker in the world as of 2010. The Kia Sorento is one of the fine examples of how the Korean brand manages to quietly insert an amazing product into a market already saturated—and still manage to capture the hearts and minds of consumers in the United States.
2002-2008: The Silent Success
The very first Kia Sorento was a traditional truck-based big SUV—very capable off the road with its full four-wheel drive system. An optional sport-package included a 5-speed manual transmission, powerful fog lamps, alloy wheels, step bars, and remote keyless entry. Those that came out in North America came with dual side airbags. Coming in either 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic, and a 3.5-L 24-valve DOHC V6 capable of 192-hp at 5500 rpm, the early Sorento was a dream to drive—powerful yet economical.
In 2007, the Sorento got a brand new engine: a 3.8-L Lambda V6 that doubled both its towing ability and horsepower output. Lighting was improved significantly—high-beam projectors were added up front. The only transmission available at this point was a 5-speed Sportmatic, tip-tronic automatic—this became the standard. In just the few short years since it came out, the Sorento was already making waves: earning the highest rating possible for safety with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
2009-future: The Middle SUV That Could
By 2009, the Sorento was a car-based SUV—therefore tagged as a crossover—and was the very first Kia model to be produced in the United States. The 2011 model marked a shift into the future for the Kia crossover. The frame was fully unibody, the engine was transverse, and the suspension upped into an all-independent version. The shift in design sensibilities meant that the newest Sorento was a good 425 lbs. lighter—leading to improvements in performance and fuel economy.
As of 2011, the Kia Sorento continues to be a bestseller, available in three models. The SX is top of the line of the three with a hefty 3.5-L 276-horsepower V6 engine. The other two, the LX and EX, come with a more subdued Inline-6, but either can be upgraded to the full V6. As before, the main point of pride for the Kia Sorento was its amazing safety record. This same year, it was awarded the maximum 5-star rating from major crash-safety experts. In fact, in the United States, it got the ‘Top Safety Pick’ award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
The 2012 version is showing a lot of promise in the market and seems poised to continue the trend towards success blazed by its predecessors. This one gets a new Lambda II 3.5 MPI engine capable of 280-horsepower—a balance of speed, towing power, and economy—and is certainly far more model in look and feel.