There are three trim levels from which to choose. The (well-equipped) base spec is dubbed LX, the upper-crust variant, EX. You can further upgrade the EX with the Luxury Package and Premium Package. The range is topped by an all-black V-8 only Limited model that makes every option standard, including Smart Key and pushbutton start that's not available on any other Borrego. A few options really stand out, the first being the Infinity audio/Sirius Satellite/navigation system, similar to those in various Chrysler vehicles. The Infinity tunes sound strong and clear, although the Sirius in this application hunted for a signal more than most we've experienced. The touch-screen nav is dumbbell easy to program and never led us astray, which isn't always the case with some others. Another is the outstanding (optional) rear air-conditioning system, which includes a second compressor, six additional vents for the rear seating areas, and its own control panel, allowing management of temp, fan, and upper/lower vent modes. If you're camping and need to cool, say, 60 cases of beer, this thing will do it.
The exterior design is clean and well proportioned-the X3-style D-pillar looks particularly nice-with no gawky touches, although the grille is somewhat Subaru Tribeca-esque. The Borrego is the product of Kia's U.S.-based design team. The interior is logically laid out, good from an ergonomics standpoint, and while the plastics and surfaces don't scream "ultra luxury" they do say "high quality." The curtain airbag reaches all the way to the third row, and tire-pressure-monitoring and backup-warning systems are standard on all models. So are ABS, stability control, Downhill Brake Control, and Hill Start control.
Three words best describe the Borrego's driving experience: comfortable, controlled, and quiet. We focused on the V-8 model, and while it doesn't feel as strong as its horsepower number indicates, it's got plenty of punch for all situations. The 0-to-60 run takes 7.1 seconds and is class competitive for V-8, three-row sport/utilities. The four-cam V-8 is silky at all rev ranges, and the six-speed auto offers a ratio for every need. Its shiftgate includes a manual mode for extra control. 60-to-0-mph braking distances of 128 feet are fine for a near-5000-pound rig.
Our fully loaded EX rode on 18-inch wheels, which means good steering and response while retaining a measure of chassis compliance. The Borrego is sprung firm, but that's necessary to handle its seven-passenger seating capacity and 7500-pound towing capacity (take that, you weenie, car-based crossovers). Only the nastiest bumps or road surfaces upset it. This thing is quiet, too: no road rumble, minimal wind noise, well-damped engine-bay sounds. The overall feel is one of substance and solidity. Visibility is excellent. All of the seating is comfortable, save perhaps the rear, which is a little flat and upright, although roomy as mentioned.
Kia's marketing types are quick to point out that "we're not in the three-row sport/utility segment now, so any we sell there will be a plus for the brand." It just won't be as many as they originally thought. Too bad. Because, irrespective of the climate into which it's being launched, the Borrego is a solid, well-done piece that does a lot, holds a ton, and is plenty satisfying to drive. Bad timing is its biggest misstep.
4.6 is the brand's first-ever optional V-8.