"You're driving?" queried Kia's PR man Chaz Abbott, shocked that I didn't answer his question with, "I'm flying out around noon tomorrow." You see, I attended the launch of the Borrego-Kia's all-new seven-passenger SUV-in Cle Elum, Washington, (about 80 miles east of Seattle) and, following the event, decided to drive one back to L.A., rather than take the 2.5-hour easy way on a 737.

"Dude, that's crazy," he said, subsequently asking, "How far is that?" "About 1200 miles," I told him. I proceeded to inform him that I was going to visit my parents in Portland, Oregon, just 250 miles south, and then take two additional days to make my way down to the City of Angels. Three drive days in all. One brand-new V-8-powered SUV. With satellite radio and an iPod jack, no sweat.

As a matter of fact, it was no sweat. Back in L.A. I felt fresh, fatigue-free, and ready to go another 1200. (Okay, maybe just another 12.) Nevertheless, I realized I had grown quite fond of the Borrego. What I liked (and didn't like) over my 1200-plus miles:

1. It's got guts: Utilizing Hyundai/Kia's new 4.6L Tau V-8, the same engine as in the Genesis, the Borrego had no problems effortlessly climbing steep mountain grades around Mt. Shasta and the Grapevine, or passing lines of big rigs on I-5. Power is down compared with the Genesis-337 hp vs. 375-but up in light of the V-8s in the Nissan Pathfinder (310) and the Toyota 4Runner (260). Zero-to-60 shouldn't take any more than 7.0 sec, which is impressive for a rig weighing 4600 lb. Speaking of pounds, the Borrego will tow nearly twice its weight, able to haul 7500 lb worth of Bayliner or Airstream. Again, that's more than Pathfinder (7000) and 4Runner (7000).

2. It's quiet: The new Toyota Land Cruiser may be quieter than the Borrego, but I can't think of another body-on-frame V-8 sport/ute that's this serene on the road. Even with strong crosswinds dancing around the Kia on Highway 14 in Washington, nudging it closer and closer to the Columbia River, I could barely hear all the commotion outside. And through those boring and beige stretches near Bakersfield, the Borrego made 90 mph sound and feel more like 60.