Driver's Seat: Sorento takes smoother ride than Durango
January 15, 2014 9:26 PM
The 2014 Kia Sorento model gets many improvements, including better handling on curves.
The 2014 Dodge Durango drives more like a truck than most crossovers.
By Scott Sturgis
2014 Kia Sorento SX Limited AWD vs. 2014 Dodge Durango Citadel AWD, Part 2: Three rows of clear choices.
Prices: Sorento, $41,600 as tested (starts at $24,100); Durango, $47,280 as tested (starts at $29,795).
Catching up: Last week we examined the interiors of the two four-wheel-drive crossovers, and deemed both "snug," though the Sorento was "snugger." This week, we take them out on the road.
Warming up: When firing up a $40-grand-plus vehicle in the cold, a driver's fancy turns to the seat heater. Dodge has incorporated the Durango's seat control into the touchscreen, which is fairly obnoxious because the screens take a while to warm up. The seat heating option does flash on the screen immediately upon startup, but grab it fast because it disappears again until the screen is ready to go. The Sorento has nice little buttons under the heater controls that allow the freezing operator to control the seat heating and cooling anytime.
Play some tunes: One possible improvement for Dodge's touchscreen system would be a staggered frame around the screen. If I knew, for instance, that the seat controls were along the first high notch on the left and the radio was the middle low notch, I could probably learn to operate it without taking my eyes off the road.
The Sorento smartly offers buttons to control audio source and map. But I have to make special mention of the UVO stereo system's sound. It was truly stellar and brought out all the various parts of my test songs clearly. And I think I finally got a Kia with UVO that did not cut off the opening notes of the songs.
Getting in gear: Dodge has long been known for creativity in the transmission selector department, all the way back to the days of push-button transmissions in the 1950s and '60s.
The Durango follows the trail blazed by Great-Great-Grandpa Dart, but instead of buttons it has a knob controlling the transmission. I found it difficult for turning around in the tight Sturgis driveway.
The Sorento has a gear shift and +/-.
Many choices: Dodge has made much of the eight-speed transmission offered for the first time in the 2014 Durango. Though Edmunds.com lauded the transmission's "impressively smooth shifts," I was less than pleased. It seemed like it was searching for the right gear.
The Sorento simply comes with a six-speed transmission.
On the road: The Durango handles like a truck. It's by far not the most cumbersome beast I've ever driven but it's not light and easy.
Here's just one area where the 2014 Sorento has garnered much improvement over the 2013 model. Handling remains easy and carlike, but the 2013 model had a tendency to suddenly feel like it was swaying. The 2014 seems to have that worked out.
Up to speed: Both vehicles achieve highway speeds without much hesitation as both the Durango's 3.6-liter V-6 engine and the Sorento's 3.3 V-6 boast 290 horsepower. The Durango has a 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 option, which I'm sure is a big, fast piggy, while the Sorento's stand 2.4-liter inline four offers very little fuel savings for the big performance sacrifice, according to Edmunds.com.
In the snow: The Sorento never even seemed to lose traction on a snowy Sunday afternoon when I saw several stuck and spun-out vehicles on the roads.
I'm sure the Durango would have done just as well. I've been satisfied with front-wheel drive and traction control for years, but I suddenly saw the benefits of all-wheel drive.
Fuel economy: I observed 19 mpg in the Durango and 22 mpg in the Sorento.
Where they're built: The Durango hails from Detroit while the Sorento comes to us via West Point, Ga.
How they're built: Previous model-year Durangos have gotten average predicted reliability ratings from Consumer Reports (the 2014 is considered freshened enough to not get a prediction); the Kia Sorento gets an average prediction as well.
In the end: If the Sorento offered a real back seat, it would be on my short list of Seat Family minivan replacements. So if you need midsize SUV and only use seats number six and seven on occasion, it may be the choice for you.
The Durango is a little more spacious, but geared more toward people who like their crossovers to feel like trucks, and who need the optional V-8 for towing.
Scott Sturgis, a freelance auto writer, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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