Dateline: 1994

Cue “Nocturnes” (2) for piano by Fryderyk Chopin…

Lorena Bobbit is found not guilty by reason of insanity (if you don’t know the offense, look it up); Nancy Kerrigan is clubbed in the knee by an assailant under orders from a clearly disturbed ex-husband of Tonya Harding’s, Jeff Gillooly; Apple releases its fist Macintosh computers to use the PowerPC microprocessors; Bill Clinton, newly sworn in as the 42nd President of the United States, signs an agreement with then Russian President Boris Yeltzin to stop the aiming of pre-programmed nuclear weapons at each other’s countries, continuing the dissolving of the Cold War Era; Kurt Cobain is found dead; and Kia Motors America begins selling vehicles at four dealerships in Portland, Oregon.

Record Scratch…

Wait a minute… Kia has been selling vehicles in America since 1994?! Yes, they have.

And they’ve come a long way. Kia now boasts an eleven vehicle roster, is the “Official Automotive Partner” of the NBA and LPGA, not to mention its four-year long relationship with the Warped Tour each summer, a network of 755 dealers, and 17 consecutive years of market share growth. Not too shabby for the Seoul, South Korea auto manufacturer.

Actually, though they are based in South Korea, they’ve been manufacturing a few of their vehicles in the southeastern United States since November of 2009, at their plant in West Point, Georgia. So maybe it’s time we start thinking of them as at least partially an American auto manufacturer? When discussing their newest incarnation of the Kia Sorento, it most certainly is made in good ol’ ‘Merica.

The 2014 Kia Sorento is one of the company’s best-selling models, but that hasn’t caused them to rest on their laurels by any means. The newest Sorento is comprised of over 80 percent all-new or significantly redesigned parts, not the least of which is a new 3.3 liter GDI V6. This new engine generates 290 horsepower at 6,400 rpm and 252 lb-ft of torque at 5,200 rpm and comes standard on four of their trim models, including the LX V6, EX V6, SX and the new top of the line SX-L (Limited), while available optionally on the LX and EX models. Aiding in applying this power to the tarmac is an all-new chassis providing increased torsional rigidity by 18 percent, new strut tower braces in front, a new independent front suspension system with stiffer H-shaped sub-frame cradles, and a reinforced multilink setup at the rear. All of these systems offer better performance, less weight, and more interior room. Driveline options include either standard front wheel drive or optional Torque On Demand all wheel drive that now includes the benefit of Torque Vectoring Cornering Control (TVCC),  which instantly routs power to the wheels that can best utilize it. Any option combination will include a six-speed automatic transmission.

In addition to these drivetrain and driveline options, the steering system has been overhauled. An Electric Motor Driven Power Steering system replaces the hydraulic steering system on the 2013 model. This new system allows for driver-selectable steering modes ranging from Comfort to Normal to Sport. It’s touches like this that have allowed Kia to gain the largest increase of any major brand in perceived quality, mostly by bringing unsurpassed value into this class of automobiles and continuing to innovate in doing so. Another example of this effort is the debut of a blind spot detection system on the Sorento, the first of Kia’s lineup to offer this.

The new Sorento’s makeover also includes a facelift, adding LED lamps front and rear with HID Xenon headlights on the SX-L, redesigned front and rear fascias to give a broader, more aggressive stance, and a tweaked front grill. All of this is intended to distinguish this new Sorento from its older siblings. I’ll wager Jeremy Clarkson would love Porsche to follow suit here with their next 911 variant.

Inside the new Sorento on models EX and above is a new 7-inch TFT display in the gauge cluster that works in tandem with the necessary analog gauges. This TFT display projects a digital speedometer, trip and vehicle information and optional navigation updates. The center stack includes Kia’s new eight-inch touch screen that houses a premium Infinity audio system and integrates that along with navigation, SiriusXM Radio and SiriusXM Traffic with live updates, Bluetooth hands-free connectivity, vehicle settings and OVO eServices which is Kia’s next generation of infotainment and telematics. I hope to compare this with some of the other manufacturer’s offerings in a future article to see how it stacks up.

 

All in all, Kia continues to raise the bar, especially where the entry-level auto segment is concerned. In a time when everything seems to be getting increasingly more expensive but not necessarily offering more to justify the increased price tag, at least we know one of the auto manufacturers is focusing on integrating luxury with value, and hopefully this mentality will spread.

The 2014 Kia Sorento LX with the 2.4L I4 FWD has a MSRP of $24,100, while the premium SX-L trim level with 3.3L V6 AWD carries a significantly higher MSRP of $39,700. They arrive in showrooms this quarter.










Tyler Rohrbacher

 
For as long as I can remember, I've loved gadgets and anything with a motor. When I was very young I fell in love with a horrendously ugly Honda CRX that had a decal of a beach scene on the door. I would sit in the driver's seat and honk the horn in the showroom of the dealer my dad worked at, probably scaring away potential buyers. I was also known to take everything apart; from the VCR, to appliances, to rc cars. Sometimes I would reassemble them, other times I felt they looked better in pieces. What a well-behaved child I was.