2021 Kia Sorento X-Line AWD: Class leading crossover
The all-new 2021 Sorento represents the improvements Kia has made in all of its vehicles over the past decade.
When it was first introduced in 2009, the Sorento was an unexciting but affordable truck-like midsize SUV. Today, the fourth-generation version is a class leading three-row crossover with bold styling, a premium interior, advanced tech and a wide range of engine choice — but still at a remarkably affordable price.
In fact, the 2021 Sorento is not only heads and shoulders above most other affordable midsize crossovers, it competes well against genuine luxury alternatives. Our well-equipped X-Line model featured a punchy turbocharged and intercooled 2.5-liter engine, an advanced all-wheel-drive system, a full leather interior, and practically every available automotive comfort, convenience, infotainment and safety feature available — all for around $45,000.
All of Kia's cars and crossovers have seen similar improvements in recent years. But the new Sorento is important vehicle for Kia because the three-row midsize crossover market is so hot these days. The company is pouring a ton of money into advertising that portrays it as a rugged adventure vehicle. While most AWD crossover owners don't ever go off road, our Sorento was better equipped than most to do so. It is one inch higher than other models, the front air dam was high enough for steep grades, and the AWD system included a "snow" mode, and a locking center differential for additional traction.
But the real question is, how well does the 2021 Sorento perform around town, which is where it will usually spend most if not all its time? Here the answer is a bit of a surprise. The engine and eight-speed transmission are well matched for smooth driving and better-than-expected passing speeds, especially in the Sport mode. But the suspension is actually a little stiff, which makes rough rides a little jarring. Fortunately, it includes a Comfort mode that takes the edge off, even though it dials back the performance. Toggling back and forth between the modes is easily done with the dial that includes the locking differential control on the center console, however.
The Sorento is available with either front-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive. The base engine is a normally aspirated 2.5-liter four that produces 191 horsepower and 181 foot-pounds of torque. An optional turbocharged and intercooled 2.5-liter engine pumps that up to 281 horsepower and 311 foot pounds of torque. A hybrid version is also available that provides 227 horsepower and 258 foot-pounds of torque and delivers an EPA estimated 37 miles per gallon. It is only available with FWD, however. A plug-in hybrid version is also in the work.
The Sorento is offered in four increasingly better-equipped trim levels — LX, S, EX and SX. Our test version was an SX that included something new this year, an X-Line appearance package that adds special front and rear bumper fascias, 20-inch matt finished alloy wheels, exclusive roof rails, special leather seat trim, a 12.3-inch digital instrument display, a Bose Premium Audio system and more. It was painted Aruba Green, a new color, and featured a black-and-brown interior. The result looked as great as it drove.
The Sorento slots between the compact Sportage and the larger three-row Telluride in the Kia crossover lineup. While we (and everyone else) have been impressed with the Telluride, the all-new 2021 Sorento offers an impressive amount of interior room and better performance than its more family-oriented sibling. That's a winning combination — and another success for Kia.
You can read a Pamplin Media Group review of the 2021 Kia Sorento Hybrid here.
2021 Kia Sorento X-Line AWD
Base price: $30,560 (LX)
Price as tested: $44,290
Type: Midsize three-row SUV
Engine: Turbocharged and intercooled 2.5-liter (281 hp, 311 ft-lbs)
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
EPA estimated mileage: 22/29
Overall length: 189.4 inches
Curb weight: 3,931 pounds
Final assembly: Hwasung, Korea
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.