Competition is tough. It's gotta be tougher when it's coming from inside the family. While the Kia Telluride is a full size class larger, it absolutely raised the bar of what to expect from a loaded Korean SUV under $50,000 (no one had "convincing Range Rover impersonator" on their Bingo cards).
So where does the Kia Sorento go in its redesign?
The answer? In its own direction. Kia chose to avoid the "same sausage, different lengths" approach to SUV-building, giving the new Sorento very much its own design language.
I've been a fan of the Sorento since our 2014 eight-day camping trip to Utah, when my wife (in her premarital "Navigator" days) and I found the 2015 SXL model to be exactly the right vehicle for us, our equipment and 1,800 miles of the American West.
Seven years later, I'd be more than eager to do it all over again in the 2021 Kia Sorento X-Line AWD.
The X-Line is the Sorento's off-road oriented model. Under the hood is a 2.5-liter turbo four-cylinder with 281 horsepower and 311 pounds per foot of torque. Mated to an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission, zero to 60 happens in 7.2 seconds. The EPA fuel economy estimate is 21 city/28 highway.
The all-wheel drive system has a locking center differential, drive mode select with snow mode and Kia has raised the X-Line by an inch, giving it better ground clearance than other Sorentos.
The base price of the 2021 Kia Sorento X-Line AWD is $42,590. The window sticker is at the end of this review so you can see for yourself, but among the standard equipment highlights at that price are navigation, a 10.25-inch touchscreen, USB chargers for all three rows, power heated front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, a panoramic sunroof, 20-inch matte finish alloy wheels and a Bose Premium Audio system.
The only extra-cost options on our test vehicle were an X-Line Rust interior package (color, not corrosion) for $200, carpeted floor mats for $210 and a carpeted cargo mat with seatback protection for $115. So with $1,175 inland freight and handling, the as-tested price of the 2021 Kia Sorento X-Line AWD is $44,290.
Incredibly, that as-tested price is only $1,695 more than the as-tested price of the 2015 model we took to Utah. And the '21 is better equipped, more powerful and more fuel-efficient. Once again, the Sorento is the right vehicle in its class.