My recent trip to a couple of ghost towns in the desert was via a 2011 Kia Sorrento. It really reminded me why SUVs are so popular: they can go many places comfortably where we wouldn’t trust a car.

The new for 2011 Sorrento is a car-based SUV with three-row seating and a nice but sometimes busy ride on the freeway.

In this area, even the two-lane country roads have a posted speed limit of 65; the Sorrento just gobbled up the miles. It’s a great travel car.

The test vehicle was equipped with all-wheel drive, which is generally a system that can work well on sloppy conditions such as sand, if you don’t push it too much and take the drive on the slow side.

Headed to Hedges/Tumco, the sharp, volcanic rock poking through the graded dirt road was a reminder to keep it slow. I don’t know if the Sorrento needed all-wheel-drive but it got me there and back.

This is a crossover, so it’s a car-based tall wagon with a smooth running 3.5 liter V-6. Mine came with the six-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive that has an electronic locking differential, which gets the Sorrento close to a 4-wheel drive low that the rock-crawlers use. The packed sand I traveled on during my desert trip wasn’t enough to need serious off-road capability. Normally, the computer selects front-wheel drive only, and that’s just fine.

The seven-passenger seating is available but this is more of a five seater. The third row is for kids… short kids that have the dexterity to crawl back there. I wouldn’t try putting my 83-year-old mom in the third row. With the third row up, there’s not much room for stuff to be loaded with the rear hatch open, but drop the seat and there’s ample room for a trip to Costco. Chances are, if you need the third row, you won’t be taking the whole gang there and buying a dozen, five-gallon jars of mayo.

The interior of my test car was very nice, with leather seating, satellite nav and radio. Dual zone automatic temperature control, rear camera and other goodies made the $35,890 a good value. Prices start on the SX AWD model at $33,890, with the base several thousand lower. EPA mileage is 19 city, 25 highway.

Final assembly for this Sorrento was in West Point, GA, so it’s Southern with a Korean accent. In the wild west desert, it did just fine.


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