The 2008 Kia Sorento was kind of an "in-between" model. Although it had slightly more power, a new pricing structure and various new interior bits and pieces, it wasn't much different from the previous iteration.
Park it beside the model that came before it, and it'd be hard to tell them apart. As well, a new plant in Georgia was about to start producing an all-new model, which debuted in early 2010, and the '08 was intended to tide the company over until the new model came on stream.
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But this vintage of Sorento was one of the few models in the mid-sized SUV category that featured body-on-frame construction, as opposed to monocoque or unibody. Among other things, this gave it above-average off-road ruggedness and a decent towing capacity: up to 2,268 kilograms. It featured nine frame cross-members and had a wider track and greater ground clearance than the Ford Explorer or Jeep Grand Cherokee, two of its closest rivals. It also had, on the scale of things, a rougher ride.
For 2008, there were two engine choices: 3.3-litre and 3.8-litre V6. Separated by just 20 horsepower, these two delivered almost identical fuel consumption. Both were mated to a five-speed automatic transmission, and this drivetrain shared many components with the Hyundai Santa Fe.
The four-wheel-drive system was of the "shift-on-the-fly" variety, accessed via a rotary dial mounted on the left side of the dashboard. After turning the knob at any speed up to 80 km/h, you were in 4WD, with a maximum 50/50 power split between the front and rear driving wheels when 4WD is engaged.
Kia also simplified the Sorento's model breakdown for 2008. Basically, it came in two versions: LX and LX Luxury. Both had the five-speed Steptronic automatic, but the LX featured a part-time 4WD arrangement, the smaller engine and less in the way of goodies and extras. Standard equipment on the LX included cloth interior, air conditioning, cruise control, power drivers' seat, power windows, underbody skid plates, and an anti-theft electronic immobilizer.
The Luxury model, meanwhile, had the bigger engine, on-demand 4WD, full leather interior, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, power sunroof, wood interior trim, and larger 17-inch wheels and tires.
Safety features included antilocking four-wheel disc brakes and a full whack of front and side curtain airbags, including knee-impact cushions that kept you from sliding into the foot well in the event of a front-ender.
The Sorento also had one of the best rollover protection ratings in the industry and a comparatively tight turning radius of 5.54 metres, which meant it was easy to manoeuvre around town and in tight parking garages.
Here's what you didn't get with this edition of the Sorento: XM/Sirius satellite radio, navi/rear entertainment system, and a limited slip or locking differential. The former two goodies did appear eventually, but not until much later in the production run, when the new version was just around the corner.
No safety recalls for the 2008 Sorento, either from Transport Canada or the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The U.S. organization does, however, have some 16 technical service bulletins on file. These range from an irregular idle when the brake pedal is depressed, to clunking noises with the larger V-6 engine when the transmission is engaged, to load-carrying issues, to problems with the load sensing software on passenger side airbags. This latter glitch may "misclassify the presence of certain adult passengers based on a combination of their weight, stature, body shape and position on the seat cushion." As a result, it could prohibit the proper deployment of the passenger's airbag.
Because of issues with the climate control system, brakes, fuel system, and paint, Consumer Reports gives this vintage of the Sorento a neutral rating for predicted reliability. They don't condemn the Sorento, but nor do they praise it. Here are some comments from owners: "Noisy" and "You are nuts if you don't buy one!" According to the magazine, when new, the 2008 Sorento would have had a reliability rate nine per cent above average.
Market research company J.D. Power , is even less positive, giving the 2008 Sorento a "below average" rating for predicted reliability. Virtually every area of this vehicle, according to J.D. Power, is substandard, with the exception of interior quality design.
From a base price of about $32,500 in 2008, this vintage of Sorento has dropped significantly. Prices nowadays seem to be in the mid to high teens, with the LX fetching about $2,000 more than the base model.
2008 Kia Sorento
Original Base Price: $32,495; Black Book: $16,950-$18,700; Red Book: $15,875-$17,625
Engine: 3.3- and 3.8-litre V-6
Horsepower/Torque: 242 hp/228 lb-ft for 3.3-litre; 262 hp/260 lb-ft for 3.8-litre
Transmission: Five-speed automatic
Fuel Economy: 14.0 city/9.8 highway, regular gas
Alternatives: Toyota 4Runner, Toyota Highlander, Mazda CX-9, Subaru Tribeca, Nissan Murano, Honda Pilot, Ford Explorer, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Hyundai Santa Fe, Chevrolet Trailblazer