Lovers of bella Italia, and especially the magnifico Amalfi Coast, will know that the cute town of Sorrento is famed for its lemons.
Some of the best Limoncello, that tangy-sweet lemony liqueur, I’ve quaffed has been in cafes overlooking the Bay of Napoli in sunny Sorrento.
It still amuses me then that Kia would name its best-selling mid-size SUV after a town associated with, er, lemons.
As we Floridians know, a “lemon” is a vehicle that has a pernickety defect that the automaker can’t fix within a reasonable amount of time. The Florida Lemon Law does a fine job of protecting us.
I know, I know; the Kia Sorento is spelled differently than Sorrento, Italy, but it still makes me smile.
When it comes to dependability, reliability and quality, Kia’s newest Sorento is, like all Kias, the very definition of bulletproof. Kia’s been the numero uno brand for Initial Quality in J.D. Power surveys for the past six years in a row.
And let’s not forget, every Kia is still backed by that impressive 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty, and 5-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty and roadside assistance coverage.
After a week scooting around in Kia’s new top-of-the-line 2021 Sorrento, the loaded-to-the-roof $43,700 X-Line AWD, the only thing lemon-like about this new three-row sport ute is its zesty personality.
So what’s a Sorento? It’s the kid brother to Kia’s multi-award-winning Telluride SUV, but just under eight inches shorter and a base price that’s $3,400 cheaper. A bare-bones Sorento can be had for around $30,600.
In these days of ever-more-gargantuan sport-utes, to me the Sorento is just about the ideal size, balancing easy-driving and zip-in-and-out maneuverability with versatile, three-row seating and generous interior space.
In the ever-growing mid-size SUV market, it goes up against such three-row heavyweights as Toyota’s Highlander, Mazda’s CX-9, VW’s Atlas and the Honda Pilot.
What the Sorento has over these is style. I love its chiseled lines – the sharp crease all around the hood is just gorgeous. Lovely swoopy roofline too. And the X-Line package endows it with 20-inch black matte-finished alloys, meaty black roof rails, and a cool, black, complex-patterned grille.
Inside, it’s all perforated, diamond-quilted leather, lovely matte-finished look-alike wood, and Bentley-esque knurled knobs. And that huge, almost-full-length, panoramic glass roof simply floods the cabin with light.
Kia designers worked hard to make getting in and out of that third row a breeze. The middle-row captains’ chairs fold and slide in one easy action.
No, there’s not a ton of space back in that third row, but for short trips it works just fine. Even for adults. Or simply fold it flat and make use of the roomy load space.
What’s impressive is that with both second and third rows folded, there’s a whopping 75.5 cubic feet for “stuff”. There are New York apartments smaller.
Sorentos come with a choice of three powertrains – four, if you wait for the next year’s plug-in hybrid version with a 30-mile electric range.
Our Sorento X-Line features a 2.5-liter four-cylinder turbo with 281 horseys and a muscley 311 pound-feet of torque. It’s mated to a quick-shifting eight-speed dual-clutch automatic.
That 8-speed auto with a Sport setting on the drive mode selector, really spices-up the Sorento’s performance, zapping it off the line and holding gears to keep the turbos blowing.
While it’s no sports car–why would it be?–the Kia’s combination of crisp, precise steering, balanced suspension, wide tires and all-wheel drive, make it fun to drive through the curves.
For me this is just a perfect, family-sized sport ute that’s quiet, smooth, refined, plenty peppy, fun to drive and versatile. And a great value.
So when life hands you lemons, know the Sorento can carry boxes of the things. And with them, maybe make yourself some Limoncello.