Quick spin: 2017 Kia Sorento SX Limited AWD [Review]

We take another look at Kia\'s big CUV.

One day, people will speak of 2016 as a time when a person could walk from New York to San Francisco touching only the roofs of crossover utility vehicles.

In this sea of people-movers, standing out isn't easy. Some do it by offering sporty characteristics (Mazda); others take the rough-and-rugged angle (Dodge, GMC). For those manufacturers who are still seeking identities of their own, it can come down to something as simple as value.

This is the space Kia has occupied for quite some time, but with the brand's advancements in quality and craftsmanship over the past decade, price creep has started to rear its ugly head.

Last year, when we drove an EX model that was touching the $38,000 price point, we were worried that Kia was pricing itself out of its own customer base. This year, we're driving one that is nearly ten grand more dear than that one. Has our opinion changed? Read on to find out.

What is it?The Sorento is Kia's largest crossover. Available in both two- and three-row configurations, it seats either five or seven passengers. Our tester is a three-row SX Limited model (or "SXL") which means it's about as loaded as it gets.

In addition to the bells-and-whistles parade that is the Limited trim, our tester was equipped with the Ivory Nappa leather option. The perforated white leather is quite attractive, but if we had our pick, we'd pair it to a more interesting exterior finish--maybe blue?

The Sorento's 3.3L V6 makes 290 horsepower at 6,400 RPM and 252 lb-ft of torque at 5,300 RPM. It's paired up with a conventional six-speed automatic and with all-wheel-drive it is rated at 18 mpg in the city, 25 on the highway and 21 combined.

What's it up against?The Sorento faces off against a robust and still-growing segment of three-row crossovers. Key competitors include the Toyota Highlander, Honda Pilot, Ford Flex, Chevrolet Traverse, Nissan Pathfinder, and Mazda CX-9, among others.

How does it look?Our tester came painted in "Titanium Metallic" (read: dark silver) and, thanks to the up-trim spec, boasted 19" chrome wheels. It's a relatively sedate look, all things considered, and despite the brightwork on the wheels, we actually find them more appealing than the two-tone examples we found on the last one we drove.

The Sorento is probably the best execution of Kia's CUV/SUV styling. It wears the bull-nosed front end better than some of Kia's smaller crossovers (we're looking at you, Sportage) and overall, the proportions really work. We'd even venture to say that it's nicer to look at than the Honda Pilot.

And the inside?We mentioned the Ivory Nappa leather before, but it deserves another nod. The Sorento's interior is very comfortable and attractive and we were pleased by the infotainment system's responsiveness and feature offerings.

We also quite liked the Sorento's adjustable second-row seat backs and easy-access third row/cargo area. The second row is comfortable for adults, but the third--as is typical--should only be occupied by children or those with whom you're not on the best of terms.

Or both.

But does it go?The 3.3L V6 does an admirable job of keeping the Sorento on the pace, but this is a car that is far more composed on a highway cruise than it is on back roads.

The Sorento's six-speed automatic doesn't appreciate being rushed, nor is it particularly eager to drop gears when called upon to do so.

For this reason, the Sorento can be somewhat frustrating to drive briskly on a back road, where the transmission finds the highest gear possible almost immediately and then takes its sweet time kicking down for more oomph.

Fortunately, where the Sorento shines, it really shines. Get it on the highway and the ride is smooth (we think the not-too-large-wheels were a good call on Kia's part) and the drive predictable.

The Sorento's steering feel and response are not abundant but there's enough information coming through that it's easy to relax on a long drive without worrying about where its nose is wandering. We don't love driving it, but we don't hate it either.

Leftlane's bottom lineThe 2017 Sorento SXL is a lot of car for a lot of money. This loaded-up Limited may be the most attractive and feature-rich way you can get a Sorento, but we question the value proposition. A Mazda CX-9 or GMC Acadia it is not, but the Sorento continues to check the boxes buyers in this segment care about.

2017 Kia Sorento SX Limited AWD base price, $45,700; as tested, $46,595Destination, $895

Photos by Byron Hurd.

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