I did the paperwork in the terminal and then head to the garage kiosk to pick up the car. The woman asks me if I really need the minivan or could I use an SUV? I ask why? “We have a lot of SUV’s here, but the minivans are upstairs. I’d rather not keep you waiting.”
What kind of SUV? We go look.
“Well, we have a Kia Sorento…and a…”
“SOLD!” I say, cutting her off. (If it were Basic Instructions, our little dialog balloons would overlap.)
I mentioned to her the Kia commercial with the little stuffed animals. “Ooh, I love that! It’s so cute!” she says. But then I had to explain to her who Sock Monkey is. She was familiar with it as a youngster, but didn’t know the story behind the toy put out by a company that manufactures socks.
So I grab the 2011 Sorento LX (pictured above) and, without any stuffed animals in the backseat, head out on the winding roads that lead to the nearby Barber Vintage Motorcycle Museum, which is an incredible, awesome place with 400 motorcycles…yes, you heard me correctly, four-hundred! motorcycles on display. Damn.
And it turns out that the Sorento is pretty neat. It drives great, not like an SUV at all. The driving position is good, the suspension is tight, the steering is very responsive, and the seats are surprisingly supportive - perhaps uncomfortably so for certain…um, older…drivers who may not like to be gripped so tightly around the midsection because they don't tear around curvy backroads at incautious speeds. But I do.
One internet car-review site said this about the Sorento: “Handling isn’t sporty, but there’s no float at speed and not much roll in turns compared to other similarly tall vehicles.” Well, I don’t know what that writer’s criteria for “sporty” is, but if it doesn’t float at speed and corners flat, that seems pretty sporty to me. But what do I know?
I do know that without even pressing your foot all the way to the floor, the transmission holds onto each gear right until redline, which is cool if you like to hear the engine rev as you run through the gears. Tons of fun! Ah, but there’s a hitch…
I quickly find out that the reason the trans is programmed that way is because the engine has so little power. You can’t really drive the four-cylinder Sorento sedately. Unless you rev the crap out of the engine, it can’t get out of its own way. Damn. Luckily it feels and sounds good as you do rev it, not all wheezy and out-of-breath like some engines. But it gets old, taching it out all the time just to get some power out of it.
Still, I can see young couples owning the thing. It looks good in the driveway, and they can pretend that they’re driving a “high-performance” SUV when they really aren’t. Then again, maybe it is more "sporty" than a Chevy Equinox, Toyota RAV4 or Hyundai Santa Fe. If that matters to anyone.
I wasn’t expecting an epiphany by driving it or some out-of-body experience, but since I like Kia’s commercial so much I was interested to see how the real car would be. And the whole time I was in it today, I couldn’t stop singing, “How you like me NOW!” And I wanted to go flip a jetski.
You know, it really doesn't take a whole lot to amuse me.