Teenagers are awkward, predictably provocative and generally horrible to be around – at least unless you, yourself are one. There's just something about those angst-ridden years spent trying on identities, none fitting quite right. Luckily for Kia, the automaker has just celebrated its 20th birthday in America, and fresh out of the driver's seat of its 2016 Sorento – dare we say it – we sense a touch of self-assured maturity. Don't worry; we expect the automaker's antics – including super-freak athletes jumping over an Optima at the NBA All-Star game and the employment of urban hamsters – to continue. Thankfully, offering unremarkable vehicles in pretty competitive segments seems officially a thing of Kia's history e-book. To be fair, we've seen a pleasing Korean Renaissance for a few years now, and we're not just talking hot pots and bulgogi – 2015 Hyundai Genesis, anyone? Kia Optima SX? Soul? So where exactly does this third-gen 2016 Sorento fit in? Actually, we're not sure Kia knows that either; its product planners tell us that this miraculous crossover competes with variously sized vehicles including the compact Jeep Cherokee, markedly larger Grand Cherokee, and even the family-hauling three-row Toyota Highlander. But Kia is also not completely off its rocker, because the Sorento suffers (benefits?) from severe bipolar disorder in terms of pricing. While you can get a base L model for $25,795 after delivery – there are five trim levels including L, LX, EX, SX, and top-of-the-line SXL – the fancy SXL 2.0T with all-wheel drive we tested was priced at $45,305. That's a difference of almost $20k, with the latter model reaches a completely different, almost premium demographic. And there's more. Sometimes the Sorento seats five, other times it can party hard with seven. There are three very different engine flavors to choose from: a carryover 2.4-liter four-cylinder will greet entry-level buyers with 185 horsepower and 178 pound-feet of torque. A meatier V6 – good for 290 hp and 252 lb-ft – will come on three-row models only, while the new 2.0-liter turbocharged four option, good for 240 horses and 260 lb-ft comes on two-row models exclusively. Kia will offer all-wheel drive on all Sorento models. When we spoke with Steve Hirashiki, Kia's head Sorento product planner, he told us the turbocharged engine is a little sportier, a good fit for a five seater, while larger families and those with towing needs will appreciate three rows and a heartier engine. Regardless of which engine you prefer, it'll be mated exclusively to the six-speed automatic transmission that was available on the last-generation Sorento, though we're told more cogs are in the works – possibly to match the Cherokee's nine-speed unit. In response to the harsh Northeast winters of the past couple years, Kia says it will offer all-wheel drive on all Sorento models; The DynaMax-branded system will run an additional $1,800. Fortunately, with the most severe storm California has seen in a half-decade greeting us on the day of our Lake Tahoe drive, our …
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|MPG||18 City / 26 Hwy|
|Power||290 @ 6400 rpm|
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