2019 Kia Sorento SXL AWD – Bottom Line Review

From a hill-lined, terracotta dotted Amalfi coast, gazing out at Naples and Mt. Vesuvius and peering across the sparkling Mediterranean for destinations west such as the isle of Capri, the Italian town of Sorrento warms the cockles of many a sun-lovers’ hearts.

Back at Roadblazing.com’s home base of Chicago, overlooking lakes of ice one the eve of the 2019 Polar Vortex, when the mercury would crack -23° F, the arrival of a cosmetically refreshed 2019 Kia Sorento mid size family crossover utility vehicle rang forth a warming melody of “O Sole Mio.”

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WHAT: Cosmetically refreshed mid cycle 3rd generation UM 2019 Kia Sorento mid-size family crossover utility vehicle. Launched in 2015, it succeeded a short lived XM 2nd generation Sorento (2010-2014).

Standard Power: 2.4L, dual VVT-i DOHC 16V I-4 cylinder gasoline engine = 185 hp/ 178 lb-ft  @ 4000 rpm + 6-speed planetary automatic transaxle;

Optional Power: 3.3L, direct injected, dual VVT-i DOHC 24V V-6 gas engine = 290 hp/ 252 lb-ft @ 5200 rpm + 8-speed planetary automatic transaxle;

 Idle Stop and Go – both powertrains

Optional Drivetrain: PTU to viscous multi-clutch differential all-wheel drive.

WHAT (A) STYLING DIFFERENCE: Redux 3.5, an evolution of the Mk. 2’s Peter Schreyer’s “Tiger Nose” and sharply swept back silhouette.

2019 Kia Sorento SXL AWD: Mid cycle updates to this very Car Like mid size crossover SUV include exclusive 3 Row configuration & tweaked exterior cues. Starting price = $27k

Staying put: Rising high belt-line; Deep fuselage crease rising to cheat-line; Sharp dual hood valley creases emanating from higher  A-pillar position; Oversized body matching roof spoiler; Front & rear aluminum simulated skid plates.

2019 Kia Sorento SXL AWD: Front air dam and rear valance corners include chrome banded faux black mesh diffusers.

Tidied Styling Details: Deeper, twin kidney black lattice grille w/ gloss black split fence lower air-intake; Boomerang, chrome bezeled black lower corner simulated diffusers with LED foglights / reflectors; Wrap around fender top Bi-HIDs w/ amber LED DRL underline; Chrome rocker panel accents; Wrap around to mid tailgate elliptical LED taillamps w/ amber directionals; Inverted U mid tailgate license plate valley; Softly creased rear bumper cover; Single elliptical chrome exhaust tailpipe.

WHY: Vestigial 3rd row in solidly sharpened mid-size family crossover SUV, like it or not.

WHEN: On-Sale (in the U.S.) since Autumn 2018

WHERE: Kia new vehicle dealers

WHERE MADE: West Point, Georgia, U.S.A.

WHERE TO:   Descent brake control; Lockable 50:50 all-wheel drive torque split; 7.3″ ground clearance is more muddy grassy field than ravine capable

2019 Kia Sorento SXL AWD: Decipherable analog gauge cluster w/ 7.0″ center trip data display including all-wheel drive status


The naturally aspirated 3.3 liter DOHC V-6 is stingy with torque until the higher revolution range. Starting to permeate the upper echelons of the  Hyundai Kia product line, the 8-speed transaxle is a deftly imperceptible upshifter yet is want to downshift on a dime in that ZF HP sort of way.  Living by adequacy and competency does not rewarding make.

Compliantly civilized wheel control meets tauter lateral movement control. Pushing the admittedly low grip threshold pushes the rear end. Over-hefted and ambiguous feeling steering imparts comfortable cruising rather than enthusiast’s confidence. Four-wheel disc rotor brakes are endowed with confident initial bite which gives out the farther the foot is pushed.

HOW FAR: 17 combined miles per gallon observed fuel economy = class thirsty; 470 miles highway range.

HOW BIG/ LITTLE: In the midst of mid-size 3-Row crossover SUVs:

√ 2019 Kia Sorento 109.4″ wheelbase = 4.3″ > Mitsubishi Outlander, 0.4″ < Toyota Highlander, 0.4″ < Volkswagen Tiguan LWB; 1.6″ < Honda Pilot Touring;

39.4″-inches Row 2 legroom = 1.9″ > Mitsubishi Outlander, 1.6” > Toyota Highlander, 0.4″ < Volkswagen Tiguan LWB; 0.5″ < Honda Pilot Touring;

31.7″-inches Row 3 legroom = 2.9″ > Mitsubishi Outlander, 4.2″ < Toyota Highlander, 3.8″ > Volkswagen Tiguan LWB; 7.2″ < Honda Pilot Touring;

2019 Kia Sorento SXL AWD: Row 3 access only through Row 2 passenger side, via tilt & slide action

HOW USEFUL: Load floor bumper cover chrome scuff plate; 40/20/40% sliding, tilting back split 2nd Row seatbacks; Fold & slide 2nd Row outboard cushions; 50/50% 3rd Row split folding seat backs, w/ cargo area remote release; Available cargo shade; +1 Wide front seat cushion; +1 Outward visibility from low cowl, narrow front & side pillars, tall tailgate window; +1 Front & 2nd Row door pocket, 3rd Row wall storage; +1 Tow Rating: 5000 lbs.

PARTICULARLY USEFUL: +1 Hands-free power liftgate

Not So Useful: -1 Retracted cargo shade stows sub-floor

2019 Kia Sorento SXL AWD: 71.2 cubic feet of flat expanded cargo floor; Panorama moon roof w/ power shade

+1 Cargo space (max.) = 20% > Mitsubishi Outlander; 3% < Mazda CX-9; 12% Toyota Highlander,  ≈  Volkswagen Tiguan LWB; 13.0% < Honda Pilot Touring;

HOW SAFE IIHS Top Safety Pick +; 6 airbags; Rear camera – 360° Surround view cameras (available); Forward & rear sonar park assist; Blind Spot Warning; Forward collision & pedestrian avoidance braking; Full adaptive cruise control; Lane departure warning, keep assist; Rear Cross Traffic Alert;  Automatic high beam headlamps; Rain sensing windshield wipers; -1 No adjacent traffic avoidance braking.

2019 Kia Sorento SXL AWD: available Surround Camera, sonar audible park assist
2019 Kia Sorento SXL AWD: Drive assist technology

SAFETY STANDOUTS: +1 IIHS “Good” headlight broadcast rating

HOW PEOPLE FRIENDLY: Contrast stitched perforated leather seating, front heated & cooled, 2nd Row heated; Power front seats: Driver’s 10-way, w/ knee extension, 3-position memory, Front passenger 8-way;  4 power windows = full express; Heated tilt & telescoping, cross-stitched leather wrapped steering wheel; Dual analog dial gauges Large lower mid-dash twin dial and button climate switchgear; +1 Grooved brushed metallic toggle integrated steering wheel spoke controls; +1 Easily located, accessed left lower dashboard dimmer & driver assist switches; +1 Wind & road noise isolation;

2019 Kia Sorento SXL AWD: Driver’s entry

Cool Gizmo(s): Power folding wing mirrors;

Details Done Right: Drive mode variable 7.0″-inch color LCD center trip data / drive status display; Fully padded and contrast stitched  dashboard; Middle dashboard pebble graining; Metallic vent bezels;  Metallic banded, gloss piano black dash, door and front seat back rear accents.

Nearly Non-Descript: -1 Chintzy door panels appliques; -1 Thinner cargo bay carpets and folding floor storage covers; -1 Retina straining red night switchgear illumination; -1 3rd Row and aft dark, hard grained plastic wall & pillars.

HOW “APP” -LICABLE: Center dash-top embedded 8.0″-inch capacitive touch LCD infotainment screen flanked by large dedicated function buttons; +1 Large icons; Voice learning hands-free communications; 12-speaker, 630 W Harman Kardon Q-Logic audio w/ streaming audio & HD radio; Mobile powered Android Auto/ Apple Car Play application & navigation overlays; UVO-3 Apps

2019 Kia Sorento SXL AWD: Cohesively arranged cockpit w/ piano black matte metal accents, contrast stitched soft materials, ELD analog instruments and 8.0″ upper center mid dash touch LCD infotainment navigation screen.

Subscription based: Sirius XM & Sirius XM TravelLink (90 days included trial); UVO-e telematics (5 years included)

USB x 2, 12V x 4; 110V AC x 1; +1 Deep lower center stack mobile device pocket; Qi wireless charging; 12V x 1 in cargo bay.

HOW MUCH: $48,765 = 2019 Kia Sorento SX Limited V-6 AWD price

WHAT’S MISSING: Steering wheel shift paddles, snappier gearbox, more supportive seats, more USB’s.

ANY COMPETITION: GMC Acadia: +1 9-speed automatic transaxle; Honda Pilot: +1 3rd Row & cargo space, finish; Mazda CX-9: +1 cabin finish, handling balance; Mitsubishi Outlander: +1 value, fuel economy, PHEV option; Toyota Highlander: +1 Ride comfort, hybrid option; Volkswagen Tiguan LWB 3-Row: +1 value, fuel economy

BOTTOM LINE: Very Car Like Mid-Size 3-Row Crossover Mandates Third Row in a Pinch.

(Contributing Editor: Susan Frissell)

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