2011 Kia Sorento EX 3.5 Review – A Lot More Than Meets the Eye

Expert Reviews Kia

2011 Kia Sorento

By Danny Chang


  • Third-row seating
  • Good power & decent MPG
  • Great backseat AC
  • Panoramic sunroof


  • Narrow cabin
  • Temperamental iPod jack
  • Slightly harsh ride

After seeing Kia’s TV commercial for the Sorento that features the oversized stuffed animal monkey with freaky button eyes, an orange one-eyed monster, a teddy bear, and the robot daydreaming about cruising around town having a blast, I’ve been curious about this SUV. Is it really that much fun that toys dream about driving this thing around town and getting mom tattoos sewn onto their stuffed animal arms? I wondered. I thought about renting a monkey suit to drive the Sorento around town, but quickly realized that I don’t have the budget to do so.

Driving Impressions

Even without the monkey suit, the Kia Sorento EX has a 3.5L V6 that pumps out 276 horses and 248 lb-ft of torque which was actually very decent for this 3,896-lb. SUV. Get-up was good and I felt like a champ merging into traffic on the 280 in the morning. High-end acceleration was also good as I passed up those suckers on my way to the carpool lane. Life is good. Steering feel is solid and the SUV handled well at highway speeds as well as at 35 MPH down Main Street in Los Altos. The ride was smooth for the most part with an occasional creak from the rear of the vehicle. The view out of the side of the vehicle was less than ideal, since the C pillar is pretty darn thick.

2011 Kia Sorento


The Sorento EX feels very solid. Kia has come a long way since the early days in America. The fit of the panels and doors is top notch and the interior feels expensive. If you just taped over the Kia badge it’d be hard to tell that this is a Kia. The tester did not lack options and basically checks off every single box on the latest technologies like real-time traffic navigation to back-up camera and an iPod/iPhone jack.

Interior Comfort and Ergonomics

The Kia Sorento interior exceeds expectations. Everything from the elegant designs to the quality of the materials surprises you. The leatherette seats are supportive and generally comfortable. The second row seat actually splits 60/40 and can recline. Third-row seating is a nice option to have like when I piled 7 people in from work to go for some falafels. This guy who was over 6 feet actually fit back there, but I wouldn’t sit back there on a road trip to Vegas, that’s for sure.

2011 Kia Sorento interiorcenter console and information screenInfinity 10-speaker surround sound system

The dashboard is simple and useful, while the controls on the center console were generally easy to reach and intuitive. The Infinity sound system was a nice touch and sounded great, and the navigation system with real-time traffic was very easy to use. The only drawback is the touch screen. It actually is slanted slightly upwards which makes it hard to see in direct sunlight. Not sure what Kia designers were thinking when they went with that implementation. Maybe it was extremely overcast that day. My dad checked out the car and loved how the AC vents for the rear passengers are placed on the side of the B pillars instead of in front of the knees of the passenger riding bitch. Third-row passengers also have their own AC controls.

The best part about the Kia Sorento tester? The panoramic sunroof. The entire roof is glass!!! All that sky makes the interior feel larger than it is. The Sorento is actually not that wide of a car but the huge expanse of sky above your head makes it the interior feel more spacious. Definitely worth the $2,700 Premium Package 2 or the $4,700 Limited Package with Premium Package 2. It is awesome.

2011 Kia Sorento


As I mentioned above, the Kia Sorento EX with the 3.5L V6 was plenty powerful and will get you out of tough spots on the road. The SUV weighs under 3,900 lbs. and acceleration was great. Off the line acceleration was surprising, I shocked a few drivers in their X5s around town. Going on the freeway was also a breeze as I squeezed between semi trucks on the way to work. EPA fuel economy is rated at 19/25 for the AWD version, and I measured a decent average 18 MPG the few days I had it commuting to work and running to Home Depot.

The Sorento handled great, with solid steering feel and road feel. The ride was fairly smooth for the most part with the exception of a few creaks from the back of the vehicle.* I had no issues weaving in and out of traffic on the freeway. Even when I loaded up the back with a ton of lumber at Home Depot, the Sorento handled fine and I noticed no ill effect from the extra junk in the trunk.

* Editor’s note: we found someone had stashed the front license plate and frame in the underfloor storage compartment, located in the rear cargo area, that we believe to be the source of the rattles we heard during our week of testing the Sorento.

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  • Russell Alexander says:

    I purchased my Sorento SX AWD a month ago. I enjoyed driving it for the first three weeks. Then the beginning of the third week I noticed it was starting a little rough. I thought ok; it is December and is very cold outside; no big deal. Then Thursday morning the day before Christmas Eve I notice a ticking sound coming from the engine. So I call the dealership to see if I could bring it by to see if it is safe to drive. They basically told me NO its the day before Christmas Eve its probably your breaks you will be fine. Bring it in after the holidays. Ok sensing no help from the dealer I went out to finish my Christmas shopping with my wife. As we pull up to a major intersection I hear a nasty loud squeal then the sound of metal screeching and my car ceased and came to a dead stop in the middle of the intersection! I put it into neutral and I could not even get it to roll out of the middle. Everything under the hood had completely ceased up and locked up. Long story short we were able to have the car towed to the dealer but had no vehicle over the holidays so we had to cancel plans with our families. The next week they drained the oil and found metal fragments inside the engine. Now you tell me how a vehicle with less than 1000 miles on it has catastrophic engine failure like this? I will never purchase another Kia and I STRONGLY advise anybody thinking about the Sorento model reconsider until they get the kinks worked out.

  • sarge says:

    I presently own a 06 RAV4 Limited w/ V6, 3rd row seat. I just purchased a 2011 Sorento EX V6 AWD.For just $2K more than I paid for the RAV four years ago,I have leather int, NAV w/ backup camera, Bluetooth, chrome 18”wheels, 6 spd auto,better speed display, rear door goes up not sideways, little more room inside. But, a LOT more performance from RAV,better handling, easier to drive around due to smaller size. Also better mpg. The EX so far w/900 miles, 16.5, 17.5 (18.5 mostly hwy going 70-80 mph.) The ride is softer in the EX not as truck like in the RAV. 3rd row seats easier to get into and little more space. My wife LOVES the EX luxurious int and ext.I like the performance of the RAV.I agree w/the editors comments above about most items, BUT narrow cabin? It’s not a Escalade.

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