2011 Kia Sorento SX parked in harbor
2011 Kia Sorento SX – Click above for high-res image gallery

Back in March
, Kia debuted a new top-shelf version of its most popular vehicle, the Sorento crossover, dubbed the 'SX.' The announcement included word of a redesigned front clip and more equipment, but we were most interested in the SX's lower ride height and Dual Flow Damper shocks, which Kia says deliver sporty handling without undue ride harshness.

As we would discover after spending a week traversing the Midwest's broken roads with a lesser Sorento EX model, that last bit about ride harshness is particularly important, because while the Sorento had a pleasant highway demeanor and tracked well, it was surprisingly stiff and brittle on potholed roads, acquitting itself more like a body-on-frame vehicle than the unibody CUV that it is. Fortunately, Kia noticed this ride quality issue and decided to take the costlier DFD dampers and employ them not just on the new SX model, but across the model's entire range beginning in the fourth quarter. While Kia officials we spoke with at an Atlanta press event this week stopped short of admitting that the Sorento's ride quality has been an issue, they did note that once engineers sampled the DFD setup on the SX, they liked the ride so much they decided to institute the new units on all Sorentos.

During the event, we had a chance to sample a pair of Sorento SX models, and over some of the city's choppy, unkept stretches of pavement, we noticed a markedly less flinty ride, despite the SX model's large and flashy 18-inch alloy wheels. While we'll wait to drive a DFD-equipped Sorento back on the Midwest's mean streets before we give it a clean bill of health, our backsides were encouraged by what they felt, and we're likewise pleased to see Kia taking quick action to address a sore spot on a new model.

How was the rest of the $32,195 SX? Rather accomplished, actually. We like the SX's new lower fascia and grille (though the standard Sorento's a good-looking proposition as well), and the 276-horsepower, 3.5-liter V6 felt predictably more capable than the merely adequate 2.4-liter four-cylinder we drove recently. Other SX-specific alterations include LED taillamps and a healthy dollop of chrome inside-and-out. The added flash won't be to everyone's tastes, but it's quite tastefully done and we suspect Kia won't have trouble finding buyers.

That said, if you're merely in the market for a new Sorento LX or EX and you live in an area where the roads are less-than-perfect, might we suggest holding on to your current ride until the fourth quarter-builds trickle into your local dealer?

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