2019 Kia Sorento Off-Road Review: Oh Yes, It Can!

2019 Kia Sorento
[Photo: Kia]

The 2019 Kia Sorento starts at about $26,000.

Our fully loaded 2019 Kia Sorento SX Limited topped off at a MSRP of $48,020. Among its massive list of features, the one that we put to the test was Kia’s Dynamax Intelligent All-Wheel Drive system. It distributes torque evenly to both axles, delivering power as needed depending on the driving situation. Yes, there is a locking center differential which is activate by the driver when needed in challenging situations.

2019 Kia Sorento photo: TFL

I refer to challenging situations like super soft sand, loose rocks and steep off-road climbs. Those were the sorts of challenges we encountered at the Colorado Climb – an event that allows us to jump from one vehicle to another while navigating through demanding off-road trails. The event took place in the scenic mountains surrounding Breckenridge, Colorado. Our base camp was the rustic Golden Horseshoe Tours facility which is based on a real mining camp from the 1860s.

According to Kia, “the 2019 Sorento’s available fully-active Dynamax All-Wheel Drive system is designed to continuously monitor certain road and driving conditions to help anticipate your needs.”

[Photo: Nathan Leach-Proffer]
Our 2019 Kia Sorento tester came with a 3.3-liter V6 that makes 290 horsepower and 252 lbs-feet of torque at 5,300 rpm. It gets 19 mpg city, 24 mpg highway and 21 mpg combined. The only transmission available is an eight-speed automatic, but it’s a gem compared to many CVT-equipped crossovers it competes against.

Off-road driving

In most cases, the center locking differential was not needed. All-wheel drive crossovers tend to do better when momentum is used, unlike serious 4X4 vehicles that benefit from crawling speeds. That was the case with the 2019 Kia Sorento SX Limited. Sure, it would slip on fine sand, but (with the right driver) it responds well to acceleration. When all else fails, locking the center differential seems to do the trick. Power is very easy to modulate and, when using brake and accelerator to ease up an obstacle, the system proves to be adept at distributing power to the correct wheels.

Photo: Nathan Leach-Proffer

Issues?

Articulation was not very good and its 7.3 inches of ground clearance isn’t stellar. It scraped as much as the Mazda CX-9, which was near the bottom of the group with its low chin. Also, it is pretty heavy at 4300+ lbs.  Among its peers, the Kia spent more of its time off-road with one wheel off the ground than most. Its stock tires worked hard to grip, but the mud and snow/street-biased tires were often outmatched in the real loose stuff. Still, the platform is drum-tight and the AWD system is constantly thinking about ways to save your bacon. You often feel the ABS trying to slow the spinning wheel while the computer figures out ways to get the power to the non-spinning wheel.

After a bit of time behind the wheel, I liked the overall character of the 2019 Kia Sorento off-road. Even when the AWD system was desperately looking for grip outside, in was composed and comfortable inside. It’s reassuring to know how well screwed together this bog Kia is and, for the record, I totally believe that they did make it up “Hell’s Revenge” in Moab, Utah. Well done Kia.

Now I need to drive this baby on some regular roads, in the snow and (hopefully) up our Gold Mine Hill!

Nathan Adlen
Easily amused by anything with four wheels, Nathan Adlen reviews vehicles from the cheapest to the most prestigious. Wrecking yards, dealer lots, garages, racetracks, professional automotive testing and automotive journalism - Nathan has experienced a wide range of the automotive spectrum. Brought up in the California car culture and educated in theater, childhood education, film, journalism and history, Nathan now lives with his family in Denver, CO. His words, good humor and video are enjoyed worldwide.