First Drive – 2016 Kia Sorento SXL, AWD Big-Body CUV with Slick Performance

by Tony West and Sommer Thornton

The 2016 Kia Sorento could wreak havoc on the CUV segment. As the class grows more competitive, the new Sorento gives buyers an alternative a typically shrimpy crossover; a wider more aggressive stance, advanced dynamic driving technology and a more spacious lux interior. The 2016 Sorento also boasts 4 grades; the base L, the Sorento LX, EX, and SX Limited – with 3 engine options available.

Maneuverability isn’t compromised by the Sorento’s new bulky frame. Though longer and widened overall to 74.4 inches, the AWD whip corners outstanding with Cornering Brake Control, and has major suspension upgrades. And along with a suite of advanced safety technologies standard on the Kia Sorento, AWD adds standard Rollover Mitigation.

We reviewed the top of the line 2016 Kia Sorento SXL AWD with the 3 liter V6 engine and a well-balanced, athletic efficient road character.


Stylish Exterior Big and Brawny

I was taken aback at first glance of the new Sorento. It’s bigger, longer, and wider then I remember. And the 2016 Sorento has a big pretty new grille with LED headlights, and LED fog lights. Sitting below the headlights, the lower intake is more prominent, creating a sportier appearance. Stainless steel trim on the bumper styles out the front and rear fascia.

The more rugged stance makes the Sorento ready for outdoor adventure whether it’s a day at the beach or camping in the forest with it/s spacious multifunctional cargo areas.

2016 Kia Sorento SXL
2016 Kia Sorento SXL

New swag comes in the form of 17, 18, or 19 inch alloy wheel designs and a new panoramic glass sunroof. The SXL Sorento has 19 inch chrome alloy wheels.

Also cool are the chrome side sills, illuminated scuff plate with “Sorento” inscribed, chrome roof rails, oval exhaust tips, and body-color power folding side mirrors with LED turn signals. Xenon HID headlamps are standard with the $2,500 SXL Technology Package.

The Sorento SXL boasts cool standard features CUV buyers typically pay extra for like a power tail gate, acoustic glass on the front and sides, and a power rear sunshade. The dope programmable power liftgate allows drivers to just stand behind the Sorento to activate and open the rear cargo space.

Kia’s SXL design pushes the boundaries of the crossover SUV and gives luxury and dynamic driving features for less than some mid and full size SUV’s.


Premium Interior with Advance Tech

The stepped-up Sorento interior takes some style cues from Kia’s popular swagmobile, the K900. The SXL model has premium Nappa leather seats for the 1st and 2nd rows, wood trim, and soft-touch materials on the instrument panel, center console and door panels. Plus all 3 rows have increased headroom and legroom with 44 inches in the front, 39 inches for the second row, and 31 inches of rear legroom. Drivers have a 14-way adjustable power seat heated and ventilated. While passenger have a heated and ventilated 8 way adjustable power set.

2016 Kia Sorento SXL interior
2016 Kia Sorento SXL interior

The 2016 Sorento comes with standard 40/20/40 second row folding five passenger seating for 4 cylinder models or 50/50 third row seven passenger seating with the V6 model. Also cool is the thigh extension for the driver’s seat, and 4-way adjustable headrest.

Cargo volume has increased in the Sorento to 74 cubic feet while cargo volume behind the 3rd row increases to 11 cubic feet. And thanks to a clever lever in the luggage area, the second row can be easily folded without opening the rear door. Dual zone automatic climate control is standard on all models.

I love everything about the Sorento’s interior, the luxurious Ivory Nappa perforated leather seats, the piano black and wood accents, the premium functionality and the advanced infotainment. Driving this smooth whip feels like I’m whippin a full-sized SUV. And the driver-focused cockpit gives premium comfort to all passengers.

The 7 inch dash in the Sorento’s cockpit houses the odometer, speedometer, fuel and coolant gauge, plus a lot of helpful info like the outside temp, center differential lock setting, a tire pressure monitoring system, cruise control data, forward collision warnings and the rear cross traffic alert warning. Driver’s also have a dope heated leather –wrapped steering wheel that has controls for phone, cruise control, media, center differential, and the multi information display.

I also like that even though I’m in a CUV, I’m sitting up high in the cockpit with controls for the MID, the center 8 inch touchscreen and the Drive Mode Selector at my fingertips. The whip is comfy for women and men thanks to the thigh extension and the big center console.

The layout of the Sorento’s interior is clean, stylish, and highly functional. Infotainment from the UVO system and advanced safety technology is icing on the cake. The Sorento offers a standard 4.3 inch TFT color touch screen with Bluetooth and UVO voice recognition system. The Sorento SXL has an 8 inch capacitive-touch screen with navigation, Sirius XM Satellite radio, and 360 degree camera display. And all models have a push button start, a USB port, and a 110 volt outlet.

Though the interior ambient lighting is helpful, the small LEDs above the front seat are annoying and I hope there’s some way to turn it off. The panoramic roof is great in the fall and spring, but brutal in the summer. Even when I enjoy it open, I have to pull the shade completely back to open the sunroof. So rear passengers will get a skylight whether they like it or not. And with the new panoramic roof, I can no longer tilt the sunroof. If the panoramic roof’s shade is left open on a hot day the car turns into a broiler.

The only other drawback to the luxury interior is its minimal 3rd row. Up against bigger mid-size SUV’s like the Toyota Highlander, the Sorento doesn’t stack up.

2016 Kia Sorento SXL
2016 Kia Sorento SXL


Both navigation and the sound system in the Sorento is pristine. For 2016 the Sorento’s UVO eServices now feature 4 new services, Geo-fencing, Speed Alert, Curfew Alert, and Driving Score. Other UVO technology includes Siri Eyes Free, Local Google searches, Sirius XM Travel Link, and traffic, weather, fuel prices, sports, stocks, and movie times. Yelp, iHeart Radio, Soundhound, and Pandora are preloaded. And the Kia app store allows for free downloads from iTunes or Google Play. UVO also includes safety services like roadside assistance, onboard diagnostic testing, and a car finder service.

A 12 speaker Infinity stereo system features an 11-channel amplifier and Clari-Fi technology.

The premium tech-advanced cockpit offers drivers the spaciousness and functionality of a luxury SUV even offering carpeted floor mats.


Dynamic Performance with Advance Safety Tech

One of most impressive features of the Sorento is its surprisingly athletic and versatile powertrain. Three engine options are offered: a 2.4 liter inline-4 GDI, a 3.3 liter V6 GDI, and a new 2.0 liter inline-4 GDI turbocharged engine. The 2.4 liter engine, with new Electronic Intake Continuously Variable Valve Timing (-CVVT) delivers 185 horsepower.

The Sorento SXL we reviewed boasts a V6 with 240 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. The V6 features direct injection, dual continuously variable valve timing and aluminum block and heads. And with all-wheel drive, the V6 has a tow capacity of 5,000 lbs.

The new turbocharged I-4 has 240 horsepower with a balanced fuel economy. All three engines are matched to a 6 speed electronically controlled transmission with Sportmatic shifting.

The balanced clean performance of the Sorento is ideal for a family car, with upgraded suspension and enhanced all-wheel drive. But thanks to the drive mode selector, the whip offers an Eco mode, Normal mode and Sport drive modes.

In eco mode, the whip is ultra-efficient. And in sport mode, steering is more fluid and torque is on deck ready to burn up the highway. And the whip feels lighter.

2016 Kia Sorento SXL
2016 Kia Sorento SXL


The 2016 Sorento has advanced front independent MacPherson strut front suspension and independent rear multi-link suspension with dual flow dampers that make the CUV nimble and responsive. And all Sorento models have power steering with available rack mounted motor-driven power steering that has the electric motor mounted on the steering rack to enhance steering and handling. The whip handles fantastic over bumps and craters, better than most of its peers who have more choppy suspension.

The road character of the Sorento is brawny, swift, aggressive and well-balanced with some of that attributed to its rugged body that’s 53% advanced high strength steel. Use of industrial strength adhesives, dual-seal lip joints as well as large diameter and laser welding techniques combine to make the 2016 model the most robust Sorento ever built. By combining a strong body with acoustic enhancements, NVH is effectively reduced and a more comfortable quiet cabin is achieved no matter the road condition.

The Sorento bends corners and swerves like butta with full control of its brawny body. The Sorento’s all-wheel drive system harnesses the power of the Torque Vector Cornering Control system to direct power to the front or rear for more effective cornering and maneuverability. The full-time all-wheel drive system also features a locking center differential.

I also dig the optimized safety technology offered standard in the 2016 Sorento like ABS, EBD, Traction Control, Brake Assist System and Hill-start Assist Control. New safety tech available includes the Vehicle Stability Management System, Forward Collision Warning System, Smart Cruise Control, Blind Spot Detection Rear Cross Traffic Alert, and the Surround View Monitor. The cool surround view monitor has a 360 degree view of the whip, with different angles selectable for parking.

The Blind Spot Monitor is a bit annoying in the Sorento because it blinks for cars more than 30 feet behind the car’s blind spot. So when I’m changing lanes, it startled me when I looked to my blind spot and saw nothing there.

Braking the Sorento is also no bueno. Front and rear power assisted disc brakes, though 12 inches can’t stop the 4,000 lb SXL behemoth effectively. Most times braking felt like hard braking jerking me forward.

The 2016 Kia Sorento is a sleeper hit for the CUV segment. Other whips like the Mazda CX-5 and the Toyota Rav4 don’t offer nearly as much inside or under the hood. But 2016 Kia Sorento costs about $10k more. With an MSRP of $43,100 the Sorento offers much more, plus an advanced steering and suspension system. Fully loaded, the SXL costs $46,000, a bit pricy. The $46k sticker price puts the Sorento up against lux whips like the Toyota Highlander and the Hyundai Santa Fe. But the Sorento holds its own even among the mid-size SUVs.


Check out more pics from our First Drive with the 2016 Kia Sorento SXL on our Facebook Page!