The Sorento's engine isn't a barn-stormer, but it moves the SUV around without excessive strain. Low-end torque is merely adequate, but midrange and high-rpm power are a bit stronger. This was confirmed by brake-torquing the engine to 2,000 rpm before starting our final acceleration run, a move that shaved 1/10 of a second off the zero-to-60 mph time. The Sorento consistently upshifted at 5,900 rpm (redline was at 6,000 rpm) in a positive, drama-free fashion. Not a lot of excitement here, but nothing worth complaining about, either.
My expectations of the Kia's braking ability were low, partly due to its lack of ABS, partly due to its Hankook tires and partly due to its relatively large SUV nature. Imagine my surprise when our first braking run yielded a 131-foot stopping distance. Excellent pedal feel and easy modulation allowed me to achieve maximum braking force without locking up the wheels. Two more runs resulted in two more 131-foot distances, disolving any concerns over fade and confirming that the Sorento's excellent pedal feel allowed for maximum braking force (though the pedal was starting to feel a bit stiff on the final run). Even the Hankooks appeared to be doing their part by providing solid grip and helping me avoid lock up. Keep in mind that a few years ago these would have been amazing numbers for a premium SUV outfitted with the latest ABS technology.
Like the acceleration testing, the Kia proved fully adequate, if not thrilling in the slalom. Steering feel was better than expected and, combined with Sorento's excellent visibility, made the SUV easy to place (only one cone was struck in 10 slalom runs). More midrange torque would have improved average speed by allowing me to accelerate through the final cones. Instead, the best times came by carrying as much speed as possible at the beginning of each run and scrubbing off what I couldn't use while negotiating the cones. As with the braking test, the Hankooks provided more grip than I would have believed prior to testing, and body roll was well controlled. Karl Brauer