Mountain Wheels: Plug-in hybrid version adds extra choice to Kia Sorento’s lineup

The 2022 Kia Sorento offers both hybrid, plug-in electric hybrid and two different gasoline engines, as well as an off-road-oriented X-Line package.
Courtesy photo

We are definitely into the next step of major changes in automotive technology as carmakers around the world begin to move their hybrid and electrified innovations into a broader range of vehicles.

Last week saw the debut of the upcoming electric 2024 Chevrolet Blazer, which is set to debut next summer with as much as a 320-mile range and loads of power in a more friendly platform than GM’s electric Hummer. I’m looking forward to seeing it in action.

If you can’t wait that long, I’d also suggest taking a look at the growing range of traditional, plug-in electric and standard hybrid versions of the fourth-generation Kia Sorento, a three-row SUV which debuted last year. With front- and all-wheel drive options added, there are 16 different choices of Sorento models.

The hybrid vehicles’ turbocharged engine setups are still an innovative touch, helping to move hybrid tech in a very different direction — part of Kia’s strategy to move its entire fleet to electric power somewhere not so far down the road.

For 2022, the biggest news is the availability of that all-wheel-drive plug-in hybrid Sorento, which starts at $45,190 and features a 66.9 kilowatt-hour electric motor integrated with a 1.6-liter turbo to produce a more feisty 261 horsepower.

It’s rated at 35 city mpg and 33 highway, with a 79 electronic mpg figure for its around-town-oriented 32-mile all-electric range. An additional bonus from all of that is a 460-mile driving range, which is especially welcome with high gas prices. Better yet, torque-vectoring all-wheel drive is standard, and will help make the vehicle a solid, year-round choice.

The standard hybrid version (starting at $34,090), which I drove last year, was already pretty impressive, with its 1.6-liter engine and 44 kW electric motor combo generating 227 combined horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. It’s rated at a slightly higher 39 mpg city and 35 mpg highway. And, for 2022, it is now available in all-wheel drive, to add to its versatility.

The turbo quite effectively transforms the hybrid Sorento’s character and makes it a competent uphill traveler, so I can only imagine the extra oomph you’ll find in the even more powerful plug-in hybrid version.

This year, I spent some time in the updated 2022 version of the turbocharged, gasoline-engined Sorento X-Line, an SX Prestige model with optional all-wheel drive, with a base price of $43,090 — add $1,175 for delivery. The X-Line is definitely aimed at diverting traffic from Outback and like Subaru’s Wilderness editions, has a more brawny and blacked-out look than the regular Sorento.

Kia’s X-Line models do get a slight chassis lift along with their chunkier looks, and the overall feel is indeed a lot like that impossible-to-get Telluride SUV, but not quite as style-forward as the slightly unbelievable Carnival future-minivan. For 2022, the X-Line package is also available in two additional trim levels.

The Sorento I drove earlier this year features a 2.5-liter turbo that packs 281 horsepower and a hill-eating 311 pound-feet of torque, nearly a 100-HP gain from the previous engine – but still capable of 29 highway mpg as a front-wheel-drive model or 27 mpg with all-wheel-drive. It’s also got an eight-speed, dual wet clutch transmission, like you’d find on an expensive Euro import.

There’s also a non-turbo 2.5-liter version of the Sorento that starts at $29,590, and provides 191 horsepower.

Poised as a super-capable summertime trail machine and solid, all-wheel-drive snow performer, a new dedicated snow traction mode, lockable central differential and even torque vectoring also mean it’s sophisticated and a little more fun to drive. And with a totally flat dash and thin window pillars, visibility is also at a Subaru level of safety. The second row seems like the Sorento’s ideal spot in its captain’s chairs configuration, with doors that open almost 90 degrees, a comfortable loading height and a vastly elevated view of the road. Plus those odd, open-topped door/elbow rest cupholders. A smallish third row will accommodate the kids. For 2022, heated captain’s chairs are also standard on the higher SX-P trim.

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