Given that the Kia Sorento did a lot to establish the company as a serious player outside the budget segments, you'd have thought the second version might build on the strengths of the original. But no, it tears up the sheet and starts from scratch instead.
It's a unibody crossover rather than a body-on-frame SUV. The engine is transverse, and the suspension is now all-independent. The change in body construction as well as the loss of a low-ratio transfer case means it weighs 475 pounds less than the old one model for model, to the obvious gain in performance and economy. Yet it's four inches longer and gains available third-row seats.
Ah well, rapid change is the corporate trademark of Kia, which helps explain why for the first six months of the year Hyundai-Kia sold more vehicles globally than Ford Motor Co did.
The new model shares a platform with the Hyundai Santa Fe, and U.S. cars will be sourced from a new factory in West Point, Georgia. The versions tested were Korean-built Europe-spec cars, but we're assured that, apart from a softer suspension setup for U.S. models, they are identical. In the U.S., the V-6 will shrink from 3.8 to 3.5 liters without losing performance thanks to reduced weight and a six-speed auto. But it being Europe, there were no V-6 engines available, only the lead-in 2.4-liter four-cylinder.
With 173 horsepower pushing just 3550 pounds of FWD crossover, it gets along satisfactorily in the suburbs, at least if you don't have overweight passengers in all the seats. The engine is smooth and refined too, so when you do spin it up to 6000, as you must when a passing opportunity arrives, your ears won't bleed.
But out on the open road, it struggles, accelerating only imperceptibly beyond 80 mph if there's a headwind or an up grade even with with the six-speed manual shifted down to fifth, and despite the fact that the Cd has fallen from 0.425 to 0.38. The test car also had messy engine management, resulting in a few flat spots in the lower rev range. You'll probably be shopping for the V-6.
For Europe, the engine of choice is a new 2.2-liter 192-horsepower diesel, very quiet for the type and capable of excellent economy figures -- excellent even for a diesel that is -- with V-6-style torque. We sampled that with the AWD drivetrain.