First Drive – 2019 Kia Sorento SXL AWD

by Tony West and Daryl Payne

Capable, functional family SUV – now with a slimmer body, refined cabin and upgraded powertrain adds power and fortitude

The Kia Sorento may seem like an underdog, but it’s a powerhouse in the segment. Fan’s love the spacious omni-functional leather cabin replete with customizable tech. For MY2019 designers give the SUV a slimmer frame and a more powerful V6.

The Sorento has been one of Editor Sommer’s top family SUVs under $50k since the 2016 redesign, and this rendering takes things to the next level. We reviewed the same model back then as this past winter, the 2019 Sorento SXL AWD.

2019 Kia Sorento SXL AWD

2019 Kia Sorento SXL AWD

The 2019 Kia Sorento is available in the base Sorento L, LX, EX, SXL and the top-of-the-line Limited model. Each trim has optional FWD or AWD.

Slim & Trim adds New Athleticism

A slight makeover helps the Sorento gain a sporty edge. The boxy 7-passenger SUV is slimmer with a 109 inch wheelbase. The front has been updated with a gloss black grille, and  rear fascia has a redesigned bumper for a sharper look.

LED headlamps, fog lamps and tail lamps are standard on the Sorento SX and SXL. And the rear has also been enhanced with a revised power liftgate, sportier muffler lip and sleeker tail lamps.

2019 Kia Sorento

2019 Kia Sorento

Nineteen-inch chrome alloy wheels are standard on the Sroento SXL while 17 and 18 inch wheels are standard on the lower trims. The Sorento’s new muscular look could attract more professional men looking for a cool dad mobile. While parents chill in the front with heated and ventilated seats and a multifunctional center touch screen, kids can spread out in the rear with 39 inches of 2nd row and 31 inches of 3rd row legroom.

The cabin maintains a premium look thanks to an array of upgrades including a new heated leather wrapped steering wheel, new leather shifter knob and revised instrument cluster. The air vents and center console have also been redesigned. The SUV also has refinements like a power sunroof, smart power liftgate and easy folding lever for added lux comfort. Drivers can adjust ambient lighting brightness and color via the instrument cluster.

2019 Kia Sorento

2019 Kia Sorento

The 2019 Sorento cabin seems more macho with subtle luxury. The SXL has soft perforated Nappa leather seats in available Terracotta and Mahogany. With a recessed dash layout, front passengers have 44 inches of legroom, ample head and hip room. With the front seats way back, 2nd row can passengers still stretch out. Drivers have 14-way power seats with memory, thigh extensions and a 4-way headrest. Front passengers have an 8-way power seat. The Sorento also offers a 2-way power lumbar support for the front passengers on the SX and SXL trims.

The 2019 Sorento upgraded their overall volume now with standard 40/20/40 2nd row folding seats and 3rd row 50/50 folding seats. Max cargo behind the 3rd row is just at 11 cu.ft, with 38 cu-ft with the 3rd row folded, and 73 cu-ft. with the 2nd and 3rd rows down.

2019 Kia Sorento rear tailgate

2019 Kia Sorento rear tailgate

The 2019 Kia Sorento’s’ technology is top-notch with a digital instrument cluster displaying important driving info like range, average MPGs, the Driver Attention Warning and settings for many of the big-body’s safety features. The layout of the dash is similar to previous models, but the big gauges and easy to customize multi info display keep the driver’s eyes on the road. 

New for 2019 is the Driver Attention Warning that monitors the driver’s eye movement and will display a warning if the driver has been driving for an extended period of time and their eyes trail from the road. Other safety tech configurable with the MID controls include the lane departure warning, the lane keeping assist, the blind spot collision warning, rear cross traffic alert, forward collision warning and smart cruise control reaction to slow, normal or fast.


Check out the abundant customizations available via the instrument cluster.



There’s more tech settings in the 8 inch center touch screen that houses navigation, a pristine rear camera and Sirius XM Satellite radio. Bluetooth, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard as is the UVO eServices. A standard surround view monitor displays multiple views of the Sorento at the press of a button.

Push button start, Smart Key and dual zone climate control are also standard on the 2019 Sorento SXL. The Sorento SXL boasts a 630-watt 10-speaker Harman Kardon sound system with Clari-Fi and QuantumLogic surround sound.

2019 Kia Sorento cabin center touchscreen

2019 Kia Sorento cabin center touchscreen

Seated high in the Sorento’s driver’s seat feels like you’re the king the world with optimal comfort and infotainment at your fingertips. A detailed Heads Up Display can show everything from speed to lane departure status and navigation. 

The 2019 Sorento gets a lot right with this stylish uber-comfy cabin. There were just a few drawbacks. Like the panoramic roof only having a fabric sunshade. In the frigid Midwest winter the Sorento is artic after sitting overnight, so there’s no putting the babies in first. A standard remote start and heated 2nd row seats on the Sorento SXL would be ideal since it takes longer to heat up.

Storage is just average in the 2019 Sorento. With such expanded legroom there could be some additional storage, or more with the 3rd row erect.


Smooth Well-Balanced Powertrain Now with Versatile Spunk

The 2019 Sorento comes equipped with 2 available powertrains – a 2.4 liter inline 4-cylinder and 3.3 liter V6 engine in the Sorento SXL we reviewed. While the 2.0 liter turbo I-4 engine is no longer offered, a diesel options is in the works.

The carryover 2.4 liter engine and the V6 have aluminum block and heads and boasts dual continuously variable valve timing and gas direct injection. The 4-cylinder in the Sorento L and Sorento LX has 185 horsepower and 178 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm, and is matched to 6 speed automatic transmission.

The powerful V6 in the Sorento SXL has 290 horsepower at 6,400 rpm and 252 lb-ft of torque at 5,200 rpm. It’s matched to an 8 speed automatic transmission, the same trans in the premium Kia Cadenza. The new Smart Shift & Drive feature across all trim levels auto adjusts to the optimal drive mode to Eco, Sport, or Smart modes based on driving behavior.

2019 Kia Sorento

2019 Kia Sorento

The advanced all-wheel drive system includes 4-wheel drive lock mode to split power evenly between front and rear and Torque Vector Cornering Control (TVCC) that corrects understeer. Electric power steering is fluid and responsive. Available rack-mounted Motor Driven Power Steering (R-MDPS) features direct mounting of the electric motor on the steering rack, enhancing steering response and improving handling.

The 2019 Sorento SXL’s powerful and more fortified performance is for Sommer and Daryl its greatest innovation. The whip rides awesome, brawny like a turbo truck, but smooth like a CUV. Acceleration is always smooth, whether punching the gas or cruising city streets. Straight-line drivability is on a first-class sedan level. With a tap of the gas the Sorento can jet ahead like a lightweight whip. Though the ride isn’t a truly turbo powertrain it’s clean, well-balanced and aggressive.

Sport more offers instant throttle power and more responsive steering. Robust suspension is agile and braking is on a dime in this big-body SUV. In Eco mode the Sorento saves even more fuel to enhance its 21 mpg fuel economy (19 mpg city / 24 mpg highway.)

All Sorento models offer standard safety features including traction control, brake assist, hill-start assist control, electronic brakeforce distribution and ABS. The Sorento AWD offers Roll-Over Mitigation and Cornering Brake Control. Sommer loves the Auto Hold function.

2019 Kia Sorento

2019 Kia Sorento

Kia’s suite of Advance Driver Assistance Systems are standard on the Sorento EX and higher trims. Advanced technology like the Forward Collision Warning System, Lane Keeping Assist, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Blind Spot Collision, and available Driver Attention Warning rely heavily on sensors and the 360-degree camera.

Most of the refined safety tech is awesome- except the new Lane Keeping Assist that’s quite OCD. It forcefully pushes the big-body back in its lane via the steering wheel and tires and sometimes too harshly.

The 2019 Sorento has a base price of just $26k, and the SXL AWD retails for $46k. Up against segment leaders like the Toyota Highlander and the Honda Pilot, the Sorento soars ahead. But the whip can compete with some of the less expensive premium SUVs from Infiniti, Lexus and Jeep.

Seeing the Sorento on the roads every day, we understand why buyers would pick this car over higher priced luxury SUV’s. Fully-loaded the $48k Sorento SXL AWD triumphs with premium brains, brawn, power and athleticism.

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