Beyond a bump in volume, the Sorento interior also gets a serious injection of style and an expanded roster of standard and options. Form follows function here, with highly legible instrumentation and user-friendly control layouts complemented by detail touches like a tilt/telescoping steering column and front buckets that provide a commendable mix of touring comfort and cornering support. An obvious elevated level of fit and finish is matched by an unseen but most effective NVH-abatement effort that pays off handsomely in reduced levels of wind noise and road rumble.
Even the base Sorento LX brings a generous feature set that includes air conditioning, a full array of power assists, auxiliary steering wheel controls, trip computer, AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio with AUX/USB inputs and Bluetooth. Stepping up to EX upgrades the interior trappings with more elegant upholstery/trim combos, dual-zone auto climate control with ionized-air purification, push-button start and rear backup sonar, while the EX V-6 also adds the third-row seat and a rear A/C unit. Taking the EX route also brings more upscale option choices like leather upholstery, a touch-screen navigation system with real-time traffic link, panoramic sunroof and a premium Infinity sound system. The EX V-6 even offers a rear-seat DVD player. However, when it comes to safety, all Sorentos are created equal, and boast ABS discs, stability control, Electronic Brake Assist/Distribution, Hills Start Assist/Downhill Brake Control, and front/front-side/side-curtain airbags.
In line with its new mission, the Sorento moves from body-on-frame to unitized construction that is shared with its corporate cousin, the Hyundai Santa Fe. Beyond shedding some 300-470 pounds in the process, the Sorento gains a more rigid core structure made from 70.4-percent high-strength steel. That solid foundation plus a quicker steering ratio, a 2.0-inch-lower center of gravity, and a suspension revamp that jettisons control arms and a live rear axle in favor front struts and a multilink IRS, imparts a decidedly more refined and confident character to the new Sorento's ride and handling whether you're cruising down the freeway or pushing the limit on some twisty back road. Although the 2011 version continues to offer both FWD and optional AWD configurations, the latter setup has lost its dual-range transfer case in deference to the great crossover cause. However, this new more street-oriented full-time torque-on-demand package can transition from a 100/0 percent front/rear bias to a 50/50 split and features an Intelligent Lock Mode to help it master more challenging bits of both on- and off-road rambling.