An option with style !
(By Ricardo Rodriguez-Long)
Adventure is what life is about. And for many people engaging in some hazardous activity, exploring a bit of the unknown and pushing yourself and your family a bit creates unforgettable memories. We all have a moment that brings fond memories of a campfire under the stars.
To create that type of remembrance, first, you need to get somewhere exciting. And today, there is no need for a full 4x4 vehicle to enjoy the vast majority of trails within our national and state parks. Technology has transformed our cars in ways we could not have imagined just ten years ago. I just had the chance to try one of these new adventure-type cars courtesy of KIA.
The fifth generation of the KIA Sportage now comes with the optional X-Pro version that includes special tires and tuning that converts it into a competent trail runner. At first sight, I had my doubts. How is this handsome-looking family car, with a premium interior, going to deal with dirt roads?
First impressions are always tricky, especially when we talk about cars. I was driving a vehicle with a nice interior. It had a curved dual-screen dashboard linking over two feet of digital display. The Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, Wi-Fi hotspot, google assistant and Alexa integration, and wireless phone charger was included in this package. All the tech of today, and I was going to take it into rough sandy trails? It drove great, and the eight-speed automatic transmission took advantage of the 187 HP that the 2.5 liter motor made. My destination was an off-road park in the Anza Valley, and from Palm Springs, I had to cross the San Jacinto mountain. The Sportage did not disappoint. In fact, it surprised me as it pulled with ease on the twisty uphill highway going to over 6000 ft of altitude. The engineers found the perfect match for the gears and speed, and the engine never felt overworked (even when we broke the posted speed limit more than once). The all-wheel-drive gives you a good grip, and the crossover felt agile with all the corners we took.
Once at the off-road park, I could see lots of dirt clouds generated by fast-moving Sportage's. And that should not happen. To enjoy the trails, you need to be careful not to damage your tires or wheels and, at the same time, minimize the disruption of the environment around you. Some journalists think that these events are to test the car's limits, and they forget the main reason for the vehicle's mission. For my safety, I requested to go alone on the trails, and also to allow time to properly analyze the capabilities of this KIA as an option to take the family camping.
Within 200 feet of dirt travel, I noticed how good the suspension was. The inclusion of BFGoodrich All-Terrain Tires was also a great addition. With more tire walls to flex, it could absorb the irregularities of the road much better than your standard tires. A twenty-degree, or so uphill road required no effort from the car. The cameras at the front allowed me to see where I was going without anyone assisting me from the road. The descending road made a sharp turn down, and it seemed a bit steeper. But the traction control allowed me to lift the rear wheels almost 2 feet in the air and go down gently, letting the ABS do its job. I am told it looked a lot more spectacular than what I felt inside.
Next, we came across some desert rain gutters, and the only way across them was to drive through them in a diagonal path. Again wheels up in the air, the car nose-dived into the sunken ground, and with just two wheels touching the ground, the electronic systems made the differentials find something to hold on to the ground and pull the car through. Note that you can activate the Multi-Terrain modes with the turn of a knob on the center dash and lock the center differential for better traction. The 8 inches of ground clearance were just enough to clear the test road. It was impressive. The 360-degree cameras were a big help to see the road, and I appreciated the rear wheel trajectory on the screen, so you could avoid some big rock that would be completely blind in most cases. By no means am I saying this is a 4x4. But having traveled a lot of trails around southern CAL, the obstacles on this course we tested on you will never find in the parks. It was good to know that this car could tackle some.
The Kia Sportage X-Pro is available in 2 trims. Both include an excellent driver assistance safety package and forward collision avoidance. There are two tones available which make the Sportage look pretty cool. The Sportage lineup also includes a Hybrid and a Plug-in version. That makes it a complete offering to choose the suitable model that suits your needs. The base price is around $25,900 and can climb to $35,00 for the top-of-the-line X-Pro.
Is it an actual adventure vehicle? no. It would need a bit more ground clearance and a stiffer suspension to go a bit further and smaller trails. Can it take your family or friends camping? Definitely yes. The Kia X-Pro package will be able to transit in about 90% off all the trails in the parks and will take you places you never knew. And that is what is great about it. You still have a great car for everyday Los Angeles without compromising your comfort and style. I have been impressed by it.