Our first drive of the thoroughly reconceived 2011 Kia Sorento outlined the wholesale scrapping of the first-gen vehicle's Mercedes M-Class wannabe styling and body-on-frame tow-monster architecture in favor of the latest mode of fashion, the carlike crossover. Unit-body construction on the Hyundai Santa Fe's 106.3-inch wheelbase lightens the vehicle up sufficiently to allow a four-cylinder/six-speed drivetrain to make a convincing case for itself, and the gentle stretch (3.7 inches) makes room for the de rigueur optional third-row seating, which in this case is suitable primarily for accommodating someone else's kids on carpool day. (Five-child families should think bigger when choosing their next cross-country family truckster).

Our first drive was restricted only to V-6 Sorentos driven mostly in monsoon weather, and this time out we had a chance to sample the 2.4-liter, 172-horse four, albeit in very limited driving constrained primarily to the freeway. We did, however, get a chance to obtain some acceleration and braking data that helps better place the Sorento among the constellation of crossovers.

Kia identifies the Chevy Equinox, Toyota RAV4, and Honda CR-V as chief four-cylinder rivals, with the Ford Edge, Mazda CX-7, Toyota Highlander, and Nissan Murano contending against the V-6. They fail to mention the corporate cousin Santa Fe, but naturally it'll be cross-shopped, and it's due for a freshening in 2010 that will have the Sorento's four- and six-cylinder engines replacing the 2.7- and 3.3-liter sixes currently on offer. None of the hard-point dimensions will change much, though, meaning the Santa Fe will remain slightly roomier than its Kia kin in the front seat, with the Sorento managing to eke out 1.9 inches more headroom in the third row to better accommodate those tall-torso/short-legged soccer teammates.

Our front-drive Sorento EX four-cylinder seemed eager to rev, making pleasing sounds along the way that trick the ear into thinking the car is quicker than its 9.6-second 0-60-mph time suggests. Shifts are smooth, gearing in the Kia-designed automatic is ideally spaced so the engine never falls too far out of its powerband when the hammer's down. That performance, however, places it right at the back of the pack among its target peer group, trailing both the front-driven Honda CR-V and Equinox by 0.4 second. The sprightly RAV4 four-banger is almost as quick as the Sorento V-6 -- both with all-wheel drive -- hitting the mile-a-minute mark in just 7.8 seconds. Kia's new Theta II inline-four produces an admirably high specific output (72 horsepower/liter), but our loaded EX burdened it with the worst weight-to-power ratio in the competitive set.

The Sorento stands a bit taller among the six's competitors, outsprinting the CX-7, Edge, and Equinox pretty handily at 7.6 seconds in the 60-mph dash. Both Toyotas and the CVT-equipped Murano are quicker (each in matching AWD trim). The V-6 is quiet and smooth enough that it actually made us think it wasn't much quicker than the four. It usually isn't working as hard, and indeed the fuel economy penalty, by EPA's reckoning, is only 1 mpg city and highway. (A six-speed manual will be offered with the four and will surely be the mileage champ, but none was available to sample, and EPA numbers haven't been determined yet). An ECO light on the dash helps drivers remain within the efficiency sweet-spot, and we were impressed that it stayed on during highway cruising at 70 mph or so.

It should be noted, too, that both Sorentos, equipped with the larger 235/60R18 footwear (LXs get 235/65R17s), exhibited best-in-class braking, at 119 feet in the four and 121 feet in the V-6. Only the CX-7 manages to match them at 119 feet.

Do potential CUV buyers care how fast their three-row wagon-on-stilts sprints through the quarter mile? Well, they certainly won't be driving the family down to the local strip on bracket-racing night, but trust us, when the family piles in for that Wallyworld road trip, it's the vehicles that perform at the front or middle of the pack that'll be passing the big-rigs, while the back-o'-the-packers sit and fume. We'd have saved some space to tell you about how adroitly the Sorento generates g and cleaves to an apex (which also probably seems pretty inconsequential for this class but isn't), except central and southwest Georgia offers precious little of that sort of running. So stay tuned for a proper comparo, conducted on our terms and on our turf for a more definitive ruling on Kia's latest crossover.


2011 Kia Sorento
Base price range$20,000-$28,500 (est)
Price as tested$24,000; $31,000 (est)*
Vehicle layoutFront-engine, FWD, AWD, 7-pass, 4-door, SUV
Engines2.4L/172-hp/166-lb-ft DOHC 16-valve I-4; 3.5L/273-hp/247-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6*
Transmission6-speed automatic
Curb weight3700; 3950 lb (mfr)*
Wheelbase106.3 in
Length x width x height183.8 x 74.2 x 67.3 in
0-60 mph9.6; 7.6 sec*
Quarter mile17.2 sec @ 81.0 mph; 15.9 @ 89.6 mph*
Braking, 60-0 mph119; 121 ft
EPA city/hwy fuel econ21/28; 19/27 mpg*
CO2 emissions0.82; 0.88 lb/mile*
*EX 2.4L FWD 7-pass; EX 3.5L AWD 7-pass


 Kia Sorento EXChevrolet Equinox LTHonda CRV EXToyota HighlanderToyota RAV4
DrivetrainFWDFWDFWDFWDAWD
Engine2.4L I-42.2L I-42.4L I-42.7 I-42.4L I-4
Horsepower172182166187166
Torque (lb-ft)166174161186165
Transmission6A6A5A6A5M
Curb weight (lb)3700 (mfr)386333863850 (mfr)3400
Pounds/HP21.521.220.420.620.5
Acceleration to mph (sec)
0-30 mph3.22.93.02.82.4
0-405.04.84.64.53.9
0-506.96.76.76.55.5
0-609.69.29.28.77.8
0-7012.612.312.211.710.8
0-8016.816.116.615.414.3
0-9021.820.721.3-19.5
Quarter mile17.2 sec @ 81.0 mph16.9 sec @ 82.4 mph17.0 sec @ 81.1 mph16.7 sec @ 82.5 mph16.1 sec @ 84.0 mph
Braking, 60-0 mph (ft)119127134124126


 Kia Sorento EXChevrolet Equinox LTZ AWDFord Edge SportMazda CX-7 GT
DrivetrainAWDAWDFWDAWD
Engine3.5L V-63.0L V-63.5L V-62.3 I-4 Turbo
Horsepower273264265244
Torque (lb-ft)247222250258
Transmission6A6A6A6A
Curb weight (lb)3950 (mfr)413542293939
Pounds/HP14.515.71616.1
Acceleration to mph (sec)
0-30 mph2.73.12.62.4
0-404.14.43.83.9
0-505.66.15.45.5
0-607.68.17.37.7
0-7010.210.410.010.2
0-8012.914.512.913.2
0-9016.118.3-16.9
Quarter mile15.9 sec @ 89.6 mph16.3 sec @ 85.0 mph15.8 sec @ 88.3 mph15.8 sec @ 89.7 mph
Braking, 60-0 mph (ft)121122123119


 Nissan Murano SLToyota RAV4Toyota Highlander Sport 4x4
DrivetrainAWDAWD4WD
Engine3.5L V-63.5L V-63.5L V-6
Horsepower265269270
Torque (lb-ft)248246248
TransmissionCVT5A5A
Curb weight (lb)402837194489
Pounds/HP15.213.816.6
Acceleration to mph (sec)
0-30 mph2.92.22.2
0-404.13.23.7
0-505.54.85.5
0-607.26.47.3
0-709.28.310.0
0-8011.711.413.2
0-9014.814.516.6
Quarter mile15.5 sec @ 92.7 mph15.0 sec @ 91.6 mph15.7 sec @ 87.7 mph
Braking, 60-0 mph (ft)131124123

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