Autofield Blog

2016 Kia Sorento SXL AWD

By: Gary S. Vasilash 21. August 2015

The following is true.


Earlier this month I drove a 2016 Kia Sorento SXL AWD to the 2015 CAR Management Briefing Seminars in Traverse City.

If you heard anything about that event, which, incidentally, was its Golden Anniversary, somewhere along the line the issue of the weather undoubtedly came up. As well as the word Armageddon.

This is what the sky looked like when I pulled into the parking lot at the Grand Traverse Resort:


Within 20 minutes, the sky ripped open and unleashed rain, hail and, well, trees. The power was out because the tumbling trees took the power lines with them.

I was glad that I had the Sorento, because when I ventured out, it gave me the sense of confidence that it would help me get to where I needed to go—within reason. It wasn’t as though I was going to need to traverse boulders or logs or the like.

2016 Sorento SXL

Confidence. That’s why I think people buy crossovers like the Sorento.


Some of my colleagues who flew up to TVC needed a ride to an event.

“What are you driving?” I was asked.

“A Kia Sorento,” I replied.

“A what?!”

“A Sorento.”


“Get in.”

“This is a Kia?!” he remarked with surprise leavened with grudging admiration. He admired the leather seats that are “merlot” colored, the eight-inch display in the head unit, and the dual-zone climate control, among other features.

2016 Sorento SXL

That’s because (a) you really never have much in the way of a color pallet when it comes to seats (black, beige, gray. . .); (b) he needed to clearly see the stations on Sirius XM because what I was playing was not to his likings; (c) the post-rain temperatures spiked upward during the day so the cabin was hot, and he was warmer than I was.

He thought the ride was smooth, and there was more than sufficient power from the remarkable 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine to get us where we were on our way to going with a certain level of promptness—and this is a vehicle that’s gone beyond 4,000 lb. And when we got to the parking lot, I had to maneuver out of my selected spot and into another per the instructions of a parking lot warden, and I found that the rear backup camera, the output of which is displayed on the aforementioned screen, was helpful (because the Sorento is 187.4 inches long) and the power-assisted steering highly beneficial.

His tune changed.


One of the things that you might think about a vehicle like the Sorento is that in order to drive more than a couple hundred miles you’re going to have to spend time at gas stations where the washrooms tend to be unavailable literally or figuratively. Yet I was getting a solid 24 mpgs, which is better than the sticker. (Your results may vary.)

2016 Sorento SXL

One of the things that I’ve noticed about a number of new vehicles of late—even vehicles of the magnitude of the Sorento—is that the bottom seat cushion is somewhat truncated, which means minimal thigh support, and if I can notice it, being about 5’ 8”, I can’t imagine the discomfort of those of greater scale. But this is not an issue with the Sorento, and as one of my colleagues might put it, it is an “all-day” vehicle: meaning you could drive it all day (the ~4 hours to Traverse City is fine by me).

Selected specs

Engine: 2.0-liter DOHC I4

Material: Aluminum block and head

Horsepower: 185 @ 6,000 rpm

Torque: 178 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm

Transmission: Six-speed automatic

Steering: Motor assist rack-and-pinion

Wheelbase: 109.4 in.

Length: 187.4 in.

Width 74.4 in.

Height: 66.3 in.

Curb weight: 4,303 lb.

EPA fuel economy: city/highway/combined: 19/25/22 mpg

Looking @ Numbers in Japan

By: Gary S. Vasilash 20. August 2015

The Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association (JAMA) recently released its “Motor Vehicle Statistics of Japan” for 2015, which includes some interesting statistics, at least for those inclined to look at things like historic motor vehicle statistics.

For example, did you know that in 1945 there were 25,533 cars in use in Japan? That’s in a country with a population of some 72-million people.

The number of cars in use didn’t break a million until 1963, when the number was 1,233,651. (Population: 96.2-million.)

But numbers that I found more surprising are in the “New Motor Vehicle Registrations” category.

1989 Celica

1989 Toyota Celica GT-S Turbo, part of the biggest year in Japanese car registrations

In 1955, according to JAMA, there were 20,055 new cars registered, but more than twice as many trucks: 40,498. Presumably, that had more than a little to do with post-war rebuilding.

Truck registrations pretty much kept that 2X lead until 1970, when 2,379,137 cars were registered and 1,693,502 trucks.

Here’s something to ponder: in 1965, just five years earlier, there were only 586,287 cars registered. That is quite a leap to the nearly 2.4-million of 1970.

While Japanese auto sales have been doing rather poorly of late—according to LMC Automotive, through July, 2015 light vehicle sales are down 9.7% in Japan—the greatest number of cars were registered in Japan some time ago.

In 1990 there were 5,102,659 new cars registered in Japan. According to the JAMA figures, that is the only year that registrations broke the 5-million mark.

That was also the year that saw the greatest number of combined car, bus and truck registrations: 7,777,493.

In 2014, the number of new cars registered was 4,699,591.

And in case you’re wondering, there were 851,314 new trucks registered in 2014, or about 18% of the number of cars.

As for the biggest year for new truck registrations in Japan: 1988, with 2,980,103. Trucks never broke the 3-million mark.

Share. Then Buy.

By: Gary S. Vasilash 19. August 2015

According to a recent survey by Enterprise Holdings—that’s the company that holds the car rental firms Enterprise, Alamo and National—“91 percent of millennials surveyed said it is extremely or very important to have their own car to accomplish daily work/life tasks.”

Which is awfully good news for those who are concerned that this generation (ages 25 to 34) feels as strongly about driving as they do about flossing. (That may actually be Generation Z, but that’s another story.)

Enterprise CarShare and Nissan

One caveat is found in the small print of the study, which indicates that those surveyed, which was conducted via the Web, had to have rented a car in the six months prior to the study, be at least 25 years old, and actually own a car.

Which is to say that presumably if they own a car, they probably think it is pretty darned important to have a car. Otherwise, why bother?

That said, Enterprise realizes that there is a whole segment of the population, probably under 25 (but at least 18 for purposes of this discussion), that is interested less in owning a car than in having access, when needed, to one.

So Enterprise has established its car sharing service, cleverly called “Enterprise CarShare.” While not every city has this service, several university campuses in the U.S.—nearly 90—do.

Enterprise CarShare and Nissan

The survey also shows that some 68% of the surveyed millennials gave thought to buying a particular model car because of their experience when renting it.

Which is one of the reasons why Nissan has cleverly decided to partner with Enterprise CarShare by getting its vehicles into the campus fleets and then, through the remainder of the year, offering $5 per hour driving rates on the Nissans.


According to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, for example, a taxi charges $3.50 for the first one-fifth of a mile of flag rate, then $0.55 for each subsequent fifth of a mile.

Which means that it costs $5.15 to travel 3,168 feet in a cab.

Were someone to be traveling in their CarShare Nissan at 1 mph for an hour, they’d go further for less.

“And for those about to graduate and recent graduates,” said Fred Diaz, senior vice president, Sales & Marketing and Operations, U.S.A., Nissan North America, “we’ll be there to support the transition into the working world with our College Grad program when they are ready to purchase a new Nissan car, SUV or truck>

This program includes no-haggle pricing and “one of the best available finance rates even without prior credit history.”

That’s probably what’s going to help get people into cars whether they’re interested or indifferent.

The Consequences of Plumbing Problems

By: Gary S. Vasilash 18. August 2015

BP has a refinery in Whiting, Indiana. According to the energy company: “Established in 1889, the Whiting refinery is capable of processing more than any other BP refinery in the world – up to 19 million gallons of refined products every day, meeting the needs of more than 3 million consumers across seven states.”

The company has spent billions of dollars on the refinery over the past few years, which employs some 1,850 people.

Whiting Refinery, Indiana, US

Photo: BP Whiting

According to BP, those 19-million gallons are capable of fueling 430,000 cars, 22,000 commercial trucks, and 10,000 tractors.

Last week, as China devalued the Yuan, oil prices went down.

Last week, there was a problem at BP Whiting.

And for those “3 million consumers across seven states,” gas prices rose. In my locale, gas stations have increased pump prices by more than 40-cents.

So far.

This is an aspect of the whole debate about what should/will power cars and trucks that doesn’t get much attention.

The argument against non-gasoline powered vehicles is, powerfully, that there is now an abundance of oil thanks to advanced drilling techniques, so all we need to do is to continue to improve the performance of internal combustion engines.

Electrification? Hydrogen?


But when there’s a spanner in the works—or when something goes wrong with the plumbing at a refinery like that in Whiting—then suddenly it doesn’t matter that oil is trading at low levels, because that oil needs to be refined into useful products.

We might want to go with alternatives not just because of regulations and the like, but because oceans of oil notwithstanding, we might want to cover our bets.

The Art of Hyundai

By: Gary S. Vasilash 17. August 2015

Last week, Hyundai unveiled the Vision G Coupe Concept.

Vision G Coupe Concept

One thing that is important to note is the venue where the car was revealed: the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA).

Yes, one of the things that happen in museums is that companies—whether they’re in the car business or the computer industry or somewhere in between—rent out space for events. So there is that real estate aspect to the transaction.

But realize that a company will select a particular venue because, in large part, it resonates with what the company is trying to say about itself or about what it is showing to the public.

Vision G Coupe Concept

So the site of the Vision G reveal:

“Since its inception in 1965, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) has been devoted to collecting works of art that span both history and geography, in addition to representing Los Angeles's uniquely diverse population. Today LACMA is the largest art museum in the western United States, with a collection that includes over 120,000 objects dating from antiquity to the present, encompassing the geographic world and nearly the entire history of art.”

Yes, Hyundai Motor America is headquartered in Fountain Valley, California, so heading over to 5905 Wilshire Boulevard has something of a convenience factor (although those of us who live elsewhere would find the commute to be agonizingly and absurdly long).

But were they to want to send a different kind of message about what they’re trying to accomplish with the Vision G, they could have setup a tent at the next-door La Brea Tar Pits.

But the Vision G is not just about being a car. It is about sculpture. Contemporary. Stylish. Engaging. Appealing.

At least for some.

Vision G Coupe Concept

Let’s face it: when it comes to sculptural executions, nothing appeals to everyone. Nor should it.

Chris Chapman, head of Hyundai’s U.S. design operations and the man who headed up the team that designed the Vision G, made an interesting comment about what they’re trying to achieve with the exterior. He said, “In keeping with a design that speaks to the owner rather than ‘the spectators’ who might see the car on the road, Vision G appears dynamic and in constant motion.

“After all—and if all is right in the world—the only time an owner sees the exterior of the car is when it’s standing still.”

Or said another way: the car is designed such that it has a dynamic form when static. Which is no small feat.

Can a car be art?


Vision G Coupe Concept

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