If you want the more powerful V6 in the Sorento, you'll need to step up to the top-of-the-line EX trim. Otherwise, the 4-cylinder engine is offered with Base, LX, and EX trims. Standard equipment on all Sorento models is extensive, and includes a trip computer, power windows, locks and mirrors, air conditioning, a Bluetooth hands-free calling interface and a sound system that includes an MP3-compatible CD player, USB and aux inputs and Sirius satellite radio. Base models are equipped with a 6-speed manual transmission, while LX models step up to a 6-speed automatic in addition to body-color heated mirrors with integrated turn signals for a more upscale appearance. Automatic one-touch up/down windows, a rear center armrest are also included. Top EX models include push-button start, smart keyless entry, dual-zone climate control, upgraded upholstery, fog lamps, heated mirrors, automatic headlamps and larger 18-inch alloy wheels.
Options on the Base model are very limited, but options on the LX include a third-row seat, plus a Convenience Package that includes heated front seats, a backup system, fog lamps and roof rails. Some of the best options are reserved for the EX. Among the exclusives are a Premium Package, with a panoramic sunroof and leather seats; a rear DVD entertainment system and a Limited Package that brings chrome wheels plus a navigation system, real-time traffic information, accent interior lighting and a 550-watt Infinity surround-sound system.
Both engines in the Sorento are new for 2011. A 175-horsepower, 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine is the base offering, and the 6-speed automatic that's available through most of the line is an all-new design. The optional V6 makes 276 horsepower and brings especially strong acceleration with a smooth, refined character, while the 4-cylinder is quite economical, achieving EPA ratings of up to 21 mpg city, 29 mpg highway.
All-wheel drive is available with LX or EX trims, regardless of the engine. Kia's all-wheel drive system can send up to 50 percent of power to the rear wheels when needed and comes with a locking center differential that can help provide better traction in harsh weather conditions--deep snow, for example, or to traverse a muddy back road.
First and second-row seating in the Sorento is ample for full-size adults, and the optional third-row has enough space for children though it does reduce cargo room. Second and third-row seats both fold forward to allow 72.5 cubic feet of cargo space in all.
The new Sorento has the suspension configuration of a typical sedan, with MacPherson struts in front and an independent multi-link setup in back, so it rides quite well. Kia hasn't completely forgotten about weekend hauling and towing needs--the Sorento can tow up to 3,500 pounds.
Safety features on the 2011 Sorento now include seat-mounted side airbags, side-curtain bags and front active headrests on all models, along with electronic stability control and anti-lock brakes, plus Hill Start Assist Control and Downhill Brake Control, which uses the vehicle's transmission to help moderate speed on slippery grades.