Eight Days, 1800 Miles And Two Big Surprises In The 2015 Kia Sorento SXL

A good trip is made infinitely better by good traveling companions.  I'm blessed with the best one ever in Navigator, and so the thought of eight days on the road, much of it behind the wheel at the end of August, was a most pleasant one.

Folsom-Utah trip map
(source: Google Maps)
The trip: A tour of some of Nevada and Utah's national parks and monuments.  The overall plan:  Folsom (suburban Sacramento, California) to Great Basin  in Nevada on day one.  Two days each at Capitol Reef, Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bryce Canyon (all in Utah), then home a different way...stopping to see family in the impossibly tiny town of Newcastle, Utah on the seventh day, with a dawn-to-dusk final leg across Nevada and through the Sierra back to Folsom on day eight.

Oh.  And except for the one night with family, we'd be camping. So a tent, sleeping bag, clothes, food and firewood to last eight days....it all had to be accomodated. Go big enough (Tahoe/Suburban) and cargo would be no sweat, but there was at least 1600 miles to cover with gas at an average price of $4.00 a gallon.

So what to drive?  8 days required extending the usual one-week press loan to two weeks, and the fine folks at Kia and STI stepped up, offering the new version of an old friend...the 2015 Kia Sorento.

Front 3/4 view of 2015 Kia Sorento SXL
2015 Kia Sorento SXL.

The Sorento might be our most-reviewed vehicle of all time here at TireKicker, as Kia's been sure to get us into just about every possible trim level of this mid-size SUV. And each time, our appreciation of its all-around goodness has deepened.

This time around, it was the top-of-the-line SXL, or Limited. They don't come any more loaded.  $41,700 buys you dual-zone climate control, an Infinity surround-sound audio system, navigation, backup camera, satellite radio, Bluetooth, Nappa leather trim on the seats in rows one and two, front seats being heated and cooled, and a panoramic sunroof.  With $895 inland freight and handling, the bottom line was $42,595.

Kia may not load them more.  But we did.

2015 Kia Sorento loaded rear
What you can get in the back of a 2015 Kia Sorento with the third row folded down.

Navigator is a genius when it comes to space efficiency (one of a kajillion things, actually), and with her planning, we were able to come up with a system where the firewood, tent, sleeping bags and clothes went in the back of the Sorento (the third-row seat folds flat)...

2015 Kia Sorento loaded second-row seat
The second row/pantry.
And the water, perishable food on ice and dry/canned food went in the second row.  No, it wouldn't have worked if more than two people were on the trip, but they weren't and it did. Brilliantly.

I had concerns about what the additional weight would do to the Sorento's handling, but it handled it well and was a supremely comfortable way to eat up 500-plus miles of highway per day going and coming.  It's also a very safe vehicle, earning five-star safety rating in all categories except rollover, where it gets four.

I had concerns about what the extra weight might do to the performance of the Sorento, but I was able to get a speeding ticket in beautiful downtown Fallon, Nevada (nothing radical...40 in a 25, but enough to slow me down on The Loneliest Road in America, U.S. 50 in Nevada).

2015 Kia Sorento SXL at Capitol Reef National Park, Utah
The 2015 Kia Sorento SXL at Capitol Reef National Park, Utah. 
2015 Kia Sorento SXL and hoodoos at Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
The 2015 Kia Sorento and hoodoos at Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.
Two lane highways, dirt roads through impossibly gorgeous canyons,even a bit of urban freeway, the Sorento never put a foot wrong. There was no point at which it felt out of place and no time either of us thought we could have done better.

In fact, the Sorento delivered two very big surprises.  In previous reviews, I've expressed reservations about paying more than $35,000 or so for a Sorento...and really believed that $40K and above would be simply too much.  Eight days of flawless performance and comfort killed that prejudice on my part.  There aren't many vehicles that won't beat you up in 11 hours at the wheel (we've taken road trips in at least one, yet to be reviewed, that were punishing after 90 minutes).  The Sorento SXL is equipped perfectly for long runs.

2105 Kia Sorento trip computer showing miles and time
Drum roll, please...
We ended up putting 1852.8 miles on the Sorento in 47 hours and 41 minutes of driving over those eight days.  Average speed (kept down by small towns and dirt roads): 38 miles per hour.

The second big surprise?  The EPA mileage estimate for the Sorento SXL with the 3.3 liter V6 and six-speed automatic transmission is 18 city/24 highway.  Just living up to that would be very good news when racking up the miles on a trip where the average gas price is $4.00 per gallon and the tourist traps are asking $4.50. But look at what we got:

MPG readout in 2015 Kia Sorento

That's right.  26.9 miles per gallon. Almost three mpg more than the EPA highway estimate....nearly seven above the EPA combined figure.  The Sorento has been bubbling under the TireKicker's Best Cars list for about a year now.  This time, it breaks through.