First off, let’s get beyond the whole notion that Kias need to be ridiculously inexpensive in order to be appealing as new car purchases. How do I know that Kia can sell cars merely based on the merit of their design, build and engineering excellence? Well, all it took was about five minutes behind the wheel of a 2011 Kia Sorento EX-V6 AWD.
Remarkably, over the course of my week with this vehicle I realized that it had everything that makes SUVs like the Acura MDX indispensible to families yet it still cost at least $10,000 less. And no, I won’t compare it to models like the Highlander because the 2011 Sorento EX-V6 has an interior worthy of consideration by a luxury buyer.
Fully loaded with every imaginable gadget and gizmo, my test Sorento still only came to a rather reasonable $34,210. So, while Kia no longer needs to use bargain basement pricing to sell models like the 2011 Sorento, this SUV is still a tremendous value. You just need to judge said value based on who Kia is competing with now.
Viewed from head on the 2011 Kia Sorento exudes class and style thanks to its razor-blade edge chrome grille and expertly judged dimensions. The 2011 Sorento may look a bit tame now compared to the edgy and angular 2011 Sportage but this comparison isn’t quite fair. The Sorento has a more “practical” rear end design so it can accommodate a third row of seats.
This 7-passenger SUV is the absolute perfect size-not too big and not too small. Yes, you can actually drive a 2011 Sorento around cramped local mall parking lots and into poorly designed fast food drive-thru lanes without worrying about hitting a curb.
Buying a Chevy Tahoe sized SUV when you can have something the size of a 2011 Sorento seems like vulgar excess in a time when people are supposedly more aware of the environment and our ever precarious economy. The 2011 Kia Sorento looks expensive and if it had an Audi logo on the hood it would no doubt cost twice as much.
Also of note is the exemplary build quality inside and out as this vehicle is the first Kia model to roll of their all new assembly plant in Georgia. This is the first U.S. grown Kia and the folks that work at this manufacturing site should be proud of how well assembled the 2011 Kia Sorento looks and feels.
Interior Design Impressions
This is where the 2011 Sorento really shines brightest when it comes to tearing down preconceptions of Kia as a brand. The overall design and materials quality on display are all first rate. Chrome effect trim covers the knobs and dial surrounds for an overall interior feel that is very VW-like but with a greater emphasis on comfort and ease of use.
For instance, all of the knobs, switches and controls are clearly marked and easy to read at night. The power window controls on the driver’s door in my tester were bathed in red ambient light at night making them extremely easy to find. This extra ambient lighting also just made it easier to find other junk inside the 2011 Sorento without making it so bright that you couldn’t see oncoming traffic.
My test model also came with optional leather upholstery which was soft yet felt like it could withstand 10 years of abuse without turning into something with the visual appeal of beef jerky. My tester’s roof was also almost entirely made of glass thanks to the optional panoramic sunroof which really makes the black interior feel very open and airy.
Otherwise my black on black 2011 Sorento EX-V6 AWD excelled in areas that are common to most Kia models you can buy today. For instance, the standard Bluetooth and USB/iPod integration is unerringly user friendly and demonstrates how ridiculous it is for brands like Mercedes and BMW to charge extra for these “technologically advanced” features.
The 2011 Kia Sportage has all of the techno-features you could want but doesn’t present them to drivers in such a way as to intimidate or confuse them. A Kia interior works its hardest to get along with you and offers up a million ways to make you feel at home. A Mercedes interior? Not so much.
Lastly, the 2011 Kia Sorento offers up plenty of room for five adults with a pair of easily accessible “occasional seats” in the cargo area obviously designed for youngsters. There is decent legroom in the third row but not enough that a 6-footer could fit back there comfortably.
Cargo volume is also very impressive in the 2011 Kia Sorento with 37 cubic feet behind the second row and a whopping 72.5 cubic feet behind the driver and passenger seats. The interior of the 2011 Sorento is also blessed with a multitude of cargo slots, consoles and cubbies all designed to help you store (and then forget where you put) all of your “essential” junk.
Pricing, Features and Economy
The 2011 Kia Sorento EX-V6 AWD has EPA fuel economy ratings of 19 city/25 highway and my test model returned an excellent 23 miles per gallon during a week of driving. That is impressive given how powerful the 3.5 liter V6 engine feels and makes the 2011 Sorento an excellent road trip car thanks to an 18 gallon fuel tank. The Sorento’s V6 is tuned to run on regular unleaded gasoline.
The 2011 Sorento starts at $22,295 and comes standard with a 2.4 liter 175 horsepower 4-cylinder that isn’t all that much more fuel efficient at 21 city/27 highway for an all-wheel drive model. My luxuriously equipped EX-V6 tester came standard with dual zone climate control, power everything, Bluetooth, Sirius, USB/iPod connectivity, push button start with smart key, cruise control, fog lights and steering wheel mounted audio/phone controls.
In addition, my tester had the Limited Package ($2,000) which gives you navigation with back-up camera display, an Infinity 10-speaker audio system, 18-inch chrome alloy wheels and the aforementioned red ambient interior lighting system. As a final touch, this luxurious little Kia also came with the Premium Package 2 ($2,700) which adds leather, heated front seats, the panoramic sunroof and an auto dimming rear view mirror. After tossing in a cargo net, cargo cover and Homelink the total came to $34,210.
First things first. The all new 3.5 liter 276 horsepower/248 lb. feet of torque V6 is truly the star of the show here thanks in no small part to the seamless work of Kia’s excellent 6-speed automatic. Power from this motor is plentiful at all speeds and at high revs it makes an aurally pleasing bark that is reminiscent of a Honda V6. High praise, indeed.
The steering is light for parking lot maneuvers but weights up nicely as you drive around town. Body roll, while still evident due to the laws of SUVs and physics, is kept to a minimum so that you might even find yourself looking forward to that winding, mountainous trek to Grandma’s house. SUVs are rarely fun to drive and the 2011 Kia Sorento EX-V6 is fun to drive.
How Dog and Kid Friendly Is It?
With three rows of seats and superb build quality it is kind of a no-brainer that the 2011 Kia Sorento makes a great SUV for a family with kids. But in this same regard it also makes for an excellent personal SUV for your most beloved family member-the dog! A lot of people who don’t even have kids buy SUV/crossovers like the 2011 Kia Sorento just because of their dog friendliness.
The dog and kid friendliness of this Kia is also ensured by the Sorento’s “Top Safety Pick” rating with the IIHS (Insurance Institute of Highway Safety). Also, if you live in a climate where you need all wheel drive it is a relatively inexpensive option at less than $2,000. In addition to all wheel drive you also get a locking center differential and hill descent control that works through the ABS system.
Also remember that just as you would put your young child in a car seat, you should also always have your dog strapped into a safety harness in the back seat when he or she goes for rides in your 2011 Kia Sorento. You can either buckle them into a seat belt receptor or attach the harness to a car seat D-buckle. For more information check out BeSmartRideSafe.com.
When you test cars, trucks and SUVs week in and week out with a critical mind, you start to notice that no matter how expensive the vehicle is you can always find something wrong with it. Whether it is a button located where no button should be located or handling that defines the term “wobbly,” all vehicles have their flaws.
So while the 2011 Kia Sorento isn’t perfect, it is the closest I have ever seen an SUV/crossover get to perfection at any price and from any brand. It is not only a bargain but it is also well built, fast, luxuriously equipped and as fun to drive as SUVs get.
The 2011 Kia Sorento EX-V6 AWD does its job so well that it works seamlessly in the background never making its presence known unless you take the time to notice how comfortable you are in the driver’s seat. So, if you have about $30,000 to spend on a family car, put your badge snobbery to rest and test drive a 2011 Kia Sorento EX-V6.
Vehicle Tested: 2011 Kia Sorento EX-V6 AWD
Base Price: $29,095
Price as Tested: $35,005 (including destination)
Options on Tester: Limited Package-(navigation with back-up camera display, Infinity 10-speaker audio, 18-inch chrome alloy wheels, ambient lighting)-$2,000, Premium Package 2-(panoramic sunroof, leather, heated seats, auto dimming rear view mirror)-$2,700, Cargo Net-$40, Cargo Cover-$250, Compass mirror and Homelink-$250
Engine: 3.5 liter V6
Power: 276 horsepower/248 lb. feet of torque
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
0-60: 7.4 seconds (estimated)
Fuel Economy: 19 city/25 highway (EPA)
As Tested Fuel Economy: 23 miles per gallon
Gas Tank Size: 18 gallons
Runs on: Regular Unleaded
Tow Capacity: 3,500 lbs. (V6 only)
Cargo Area (behind 3rd row): 9.1 cubic feet
(behind 2nd row): 37 cubic feet
(behind front seats): 72.5 cubic feet
Warranty: 5 year/60,000 mile bumper to bumper
10 year/100,000 mile powertrain warranty (1st owner)
Crash Test Ratings: IIHS “Top Safety Pick”
Vehicle Assembled in: United States
North American Parts Content: 58%