Now in its third generation, the Kia Sorento is a perfectly fine mid-size crossover that's just a tad softer than the body-on-frame trucklet it started out as fifteen years ago. But in a quest to prove that the 2019 Sorento is plenty capable in its own right, Kia decided to send one up the famous Hell's Revenge off-road trail in Moab, Utah. Bad idea, or the best idea?
The company did very little to prep the unibody crossover for the ride of its life: A skid plate and some meatier all-terrain tires are all that separate this Sorento from the one headed to dealer lots. Driver Richard Mick also opted to disconnect the sway bars for increased articulation and traction.
Hell's Revenge might not be the toughest trail in the off-road paradise outside Moab, but its 6.5 miles of steep slopes are enough to challenge most stock SUVs. It's not uncommon to find a fish out of water or two on the main trail—this video of a Ford Crown Victoria trundling along on the slickrock path is an internet classic—but it also offers up a few optional obstacles for the daring, including a precarious V-notch climb called Hell's Gate.
Kia uses a system called Dynamax Intelligent All-Wheel Drive in the Sorento, which is a fancy label for the same sort of torque-based system that other manufacturers have adopted recently. Power is pushed to the wheels with traction, and an onboard computer tries to anticipate the needs at each wheel based on road conditions and vehicle status. It works fine to keep the car planted on a wet curve, but pushing it through a rock-crawling environment is a much different challenge.
Amazingly, despite some minor bumper damage, the Sorento manages to conquer Hell's Gate. It helps to have a professional off-road driver behind the wheel, but the fact that it's within the abilities of a unibody crossover to do something like this is undeniably impressive. Now, let's send that rumored full-size SUV from Kia up next.