2008 Kia Sorento Performance

$3,556 - $4,585

2008 Kia Sorento Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2008 Kia Sorento was new.


Performance: 6.9

The 2008 Kia Sorento offers good acceleration for its class, but most reviewers find the ride uncomfortable.

Kelley Blue Book says the Sorento seems "as solid and secure as the best SUVs from Japan and the U.S." However, many reviewers gripe that it offers a rough ride. Consumer Guide calls it "stiff and jiggly over modest road imperfections." However, Edmunds says for limited recreational excursions, the 2008 Kia Sorento is "a fine choice."

Auto reviewers consistently praised the Sorento's off-road prowess. The SUV's bigger 3.8-liter engine, 36 percent more powerful than pre-2007 models, offers "a significant improvement over the previous-generation engine's disappointing acceleration," according to Edmunds, and gives the Sorento a 5,000 pound towing capacity. Despite its bigger engine, Kelley Blue Book complains that "the two-wheel drive Sorento models don't offer the level of traction in ice, snow or mud" that their four-wheel-drive competitors provide.

Acceleration and Power

New for 2008 is a 3.3-liter V6 engine for the base model. It makes 242 horsepower and 228 pound-feet of torque. The EX model gets a more powerful 3.8-liter V6 that makes 262 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. It boosts the Sorento's towing capacity from 3,500 to 5,000 pounds. That means the Sorento beats the V6 Toyota RAV4 and Highlander (both 3,500 pounds) and runs a close second to the Ford Explorer (5,210 pounds).

With an additional 70 horsepower, the Sorento achieves better fuel economy than previous models, but Edmunds still refers to its gas mileage as "so-so" and Kelley Blue Book calls it "mediocre." The Environmental Protection Agency estimates the 2008 2WD Sorento with the base engine to net 16 miles per gallon in the city and 22 on the highway. With the larger 3.8-liter engine, it should net 15/21 city/highway. The 4WD model is expected to get 15/22 city/highway with the 3.3-liter engine, and 15/20 city/highway with the 3.8-liter.

If you're looking for speed, most reviews say that the Sorento's a good option. BusinessWeek comments that the engine "has a definite throb" upon hard acceleration and Kelley Blue Book praises its "crisp shifts." Most reviewers have not yet tested the new 3.3-liter engine.

Kia discontinued the model's five-speed manual in 2007, leaving a five-speed automatic as the sole transmission. Drivers who like to do their own shifting can choose a manual shifting mode, something BusinessWeek claims "adds to the fun of driving it." Kelley Blue Book reports that the five-speed automatic "delivers crisp shifts and rarely has to hunt for the proper gear."

Handling and Braking

Overall, reviewers praise the 2008 Kia Sorento's handling, although it takes hits on comfort and steering. "Body roll is minimal around corners," according to Edmunds, and many reviewers agree that cornering performance is good. Rear-wheel drive is standard, and two types of four-wheel drive are available. Consumer Guide recommends the optional 4WD for its "all-surface convenience," and Velocity Journal credits its "gravel road prowess."

Previously optional, ABS is now standard on the Kia Sorento, as is new-this-year antiskid control. Consumer Guide mentions the brakes offer "good stopping control." Reviewers agree that the Sorento's soft suspension displays more front-end dive and rear squat than is comfortable during harder acceleration and braking.

As a truck-based SUV, the Sorento uses body-on-frame construction. This design (versus a car-based SUV) is necessary for off-road driving, but Edmunds says, "the ride tends to be less smooth and doesn't offer the same refinement as other small SUVs." Reviewers agree that the ladder-frame Sorento is stiff and Consumer Guide calls the handling "clumsy though ultimately secure" and says "larger bumps and sharp-edge ruts can jolt."

Steering gets mixed marks. Kelley Blue Book calls it "light but precise and controlled." However, BusinessWeek disagrees, saying the steering was "too loose for a vehicle this quick and sporty," and Car and Driver calls it "over-assisted."

Four-Wheel Drive

The Sorento offers available Torque-On-Demand 4WD in the EX model with luxury package, an optional four-wheel drive with a conventional two-speed transfer case that reviewers recommend for off-road traveling. It's an all-wheel-drive system that, when the vehicle senses its wheels slipping, transfers power between the front and rear wheels.

With the part-time 4WD in place, reviewers agree the Sorento has reasonable off-road capability. Consumer Reports says Sorento's low-range gearing and ample ground clearance make it "competent" off-road, and Kelley Blue Book calls it "a good choice for the casual off-road warrior." But Edmunds warns that it's not "truly as capable off-road as competitors like the Nissan Xterra or Toyota FJ Cruiser" and says it's best suited to "limited recreational excursions."

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