Our long-term Sorento is fresh off the truck, and the unanimous first impression seems to be, "It's small for a three-row SUV." It's almost an inch shorter than the two-row Ford Edge, and rides on a wheelbase nearly 5 inches shorter. On paper it gives up a scant tenth or two in the key dimensions, but it feels like the second row and cargo area suffer to accommodate the third row. Since that third row folds flat, we imagine the majority of owners will use the cargo space most of the time, and the way-back seats only occasionally--for small passengers at that.

Our ebony-black Sorento SX arrived well-equipped for road-trip duty. The touch-screen navigation sits front and center in the dash, but washes out in sunlight, making it extremely difficult to use. Visibility aside, the interface seems logically organized and fairly intuitive. Unfortunately, the iPod interface is a different story. The controls are quick, but none of the song/artist/album info is displayed on the screen. A file name that appears to have no relation to the song is displayed, and it's nearly impossible to select different playlists on the iPod.

The rest of the interior looks well-designed and of higher quality than we expected in a $36,000, three-row SUV. Seats are thoroughly unsupportive for sporty driving, but feel as though they'll work well for longer trips. We wonder how our left leg will handle the absence of a dead pedal.

So far, the only real complaint is the ovoid speedometer in the center of the gauge panel. The gauge is just oval enough that your mind registers it every time you glance down. It's small mind games like these that create comic-book super-villains.

We'll have to accumulate some real miles on the Sorento before we can make any definitive judgements. We look forward to breaking it in, and actually getting it off-road to see how it handles the dirt. With its 276-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6, we probably won't be towing much, but we're hopeful the EPA-rated 18 city and 24 highway mpg will be easy to achieve.

Our Vehicle
Base price $34,890
Price as tested $36,510
Vehicle layout Front engine, AWD, 7-pass, 4-door SUV
Engine 3.5L/276-hp/248-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6
Transmission 6-speed automatic
Curb weight (f/r dist) 4135 lb (56/44%)
Wheelbase 106.3 in
Length x width x height 183.9 x 74.2
0-60 mph x 67.3 in
Quarter mile 7.4 sec
Braking, 60-0 15.7 sec @ 89.9 mph
Lateral acceleration 124 ft
MT figure eight 0.77 g (avg)
EPA city/hwy fuel econ 28.2 sec @ 0.58 g (avg)
Energy cons, city/hwy 18/24 mpg
CO2 emissions 187/140 kW-hrs/100 mi
Total mileage 0.96 lb/mi
Average fuel econ 3161 mi