Kia is on a roll these days with the sensational Stinger Sportback and Telluride SUV. Mainstream products with premium flair, they beg the question: Why pay 70 grand for a luxury brand when you can have the same vehicle for $45,000 under a mainstream badge?
Kia asks the question again with its all-new, mid-size Sorento SUV.
Remade from bumper to bumper, the fourth-generation Sorento takes its cues from big brother Telluride and offers a brawny bod with a brainy interior. Kinda that bearded Hugh Jackman lumberjack look.
The Telluride did it so effortlessly. You remember the ads. The three-row Telluride roguishly running with the bulls while a narrator intoned: “When we designed Telluride we asked ourselves: Would it be ruthless or beautiful? Muscular or sophisticated? Down to earth or a work of art? The answer was simple: Yes.”
Oh, we swooned over that one. And the Telluride flew off the shelves. Its value equation was absurd — a three-row SUV that looked liked a Cadillac but priced five grand less than a comparable Ford Explorer. Kia was giving away candy.
“By aiming high, Kia has created a premium product at nonpremium prices. It’s what we call a (Lexus) LS400 moment and that’s significant. Get one before Kia realizes what it’s done and raises the price,” writes Car and Driver this year in naming Telluride one of its 2020 10 Best.
Sorento copies the same formula. Not that the last-gen Sorento was a dog. It scored 11 on value, too. But with Telluride halo raising the bar, mid-size Sorento rises with it. It’s slotted between the compact Kia Sportage and Telluride and targeted at the Ford Edge, Chevy Blazer, Hyundai Santa Fe, Nissan Murano and Honda Passport among others.
As automakers try to slake our SUV thirst, the differences between multiple segments are thin. Kia is particularly adept at slicing the roast with a buffet of choices including Soul, Seltos, Niro, Passport, Sedona (minivan), Sorento and Telluride.
But Telluride has really changed the game for the brand.
It’s enormous popularity — “we are getting customers trading in Land Rovers, Mercedes and Volvos for this SUV,” says product manager Mark Sovino — has forced Sorento to re-imagine its personality. Once Kia’s three-row family SIV, Sorento has surrendered that mantle to Telluride.