Monday, April 20, 2015

2016 Kia Sorento 2.0-Liter Turbo Quick Take

Not that long ago a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine was reserved for compact cars. It's easy to see why. A smaller engine meant smaller power and thus meant it was only fit for a smaller car, lest it get overwhelmed trying to move more metal.

Nowadays, this isn't the case. Just as V6 engines displaced many V8s, 4-cylinder powerplants are supplanting or supplementing 6-cylinder engines in today's models. Thanks to improvements in technology, engineering and efficiency, these smaller engines are powering bigger vehicles, and doing so quite well.

New Sorento, new engine

One of the latest examples of this is the 2016 Kia Sorento. With this all-new version of Kia's midsize crossover SUV comes an all-new engine option: a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder. Packing 240 horsepower and earning up to 27 mpg on the highway in front-wheel-drive (FWD) form, this innovative powerplant splits the difference between the Kia's naturally aspirated 4-cylinder and topline V6 engines. Like those other engines, this one is can be linked to an all-wheel-drive (AWD) system that even offers a locking center differential for better traction at low speeds on rough and rugged roads. The more-with-less theme continues in the towing department. The Sorento's new 2.0-liter engine is rated to pull up to 3,500 pounds in both FWD and AWD form. That matches the tow rating of a front-drive V6 Sorento, though it still can't match the 5,000-pound towing ability of an AWD V6 Sorento. (The base 4-cylinder Sorento's tow rating, by comparison, maxes out at 2,000 pounds.)

So how's it drive?

Numbers are one thing, real-world driving another. And the news is good. Exceptionally good, in fact. The turbocharged Kia Sorento is surprisingly potent, and in these hands felt even more powerful than its impressive 240-horsepower figure would indicate. Among this Sorento's X-factors are its torque rating -- 260 lb-ft that is actually 8 more than the V6 -- and its fine turbocharging technology that is void of lag. Turbo lag is an oft-griped trait of many such engines. It is characterized by a lapse in action between when you press the accelerator and the turbo spools up to power the vehicle forward. It's no fun when you're trying to get around that slow-moving vehicle on a 2-lane road and need power like, now.

Thankfully that isn't the case with Kia's 2.0-liter turbo. It delivers thrust quickly and smoothly, similar to a V6. In fact, the engine is so good that I popped the hood just to confirm I wasn't actually driving a V6 Sorento.

One more thing to know

As the middle child in the Sorento's engine lineup, this new turbo-4 makes is a fine choice that delivers the satisfaction of a V6, the potential to save some fuel and, with a starting cost of around $32,000, a slightly lower price than a comparable V6 trim level. One caveat, though: this turbocharged Sorento is only offered in 2-row, 5-passenger form. If you want seating for more, you'll have to pick another engine. A 7-passenger/3-row setup is optional on Sorentos with the base, 185-horsepower 4-cylinder and standard with the 290-horsepower 3.3-liter V6.   

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