Kia Borrego Ex V8

Weighing in at 4,909 pounds with a 337hp 4.6L V-8 engine for an overall power-to-weight ratio of 1 hp to every 14.56 pounds, in this corner is the '09 Kia Borrego EX V8. In past tests (2003) the Kia did so well that one of the guys on staff bought one for his wife. Kia is very proud of its new SUV and its first-ever V-8 offering, and the automaker could have a winner for your average small family.

The Borrego did little to impress in the four-wheeling attributes section. Its rear driveshaft was tucked up nicely due to the rear independent suspension. However, there were low-hanging power-steering and trailer wires, plastic skidplates, running boards, and a general lack of any serious off-road consideration.

The interior of the Kia and its on-road performance were adequate by off-roading standards. The V-8 engine, when mixed with the small, easy-to-shift automatic transmission, was fun on paved mountain roads and comfortable for around-town driving. The navigation system and interior styling were all respectable, but for some reason no judge ranked them as impressive.

Once the Borrego hit the dirt it was a downhill slide. Our test starts off easy with a simple dirt and gravel trail in the outskirts of Big Bear, California, leading uphill to one entry-level rockcrawling obstacle. The Kia had trouble before we even made it up the hill. We're not huge fans of brake-based traction control, but we admit that this is usually better than no traction-aiding device at all. However, while most traction-control vehicles have a computer system that applies the brakes to the spinning wheel, thus sending power to the nonspinning wheel, the Kia's traction control didn't seem to work at all. Even on very simple, loose dirt climbs or when crossing shallow gullies when opposite

THEGOODS

THEBADS

• Great first V-8

• Lack of traction

• Comfortable interior

• Minimal ground clearance

• Easy-shifting transmission

• Boring styling

tires were loose, the Kia would lose traction, get erratic wheelspin, and eventually start coasting backward even though all tires were trying to go forward. We're sure the barely all-terrain P265/60 R18 tires didn't help. We have tested dismally bad vehicles in years past, and the Kia was no different.

In both the hillclimb and the rockcrawl the Kia was a failure. Had we been on 4x4 of the Year Survivor it would have been voted off the island the first episode.

Luckily, as the week progressed, we found some places the Borrego actually was fun to drive, namely in the high-speed and sand segments. It was then when we could honestly say the Kia V-8 is a great engine. It gets the car up and moving and can send you to speeds the rest of the car cannot support (no, we didn't use the word car by accident).

Namely the suspension, though fully independent, just couldn't keep up with the high speeds. It was a fast rough ride, sometimes scary, sometimes exhilarating.

So how did this little SUV do? We'd be lying if we said it was even in bronze medal territory. Luckily for the Borrego, other vehicles on the test began acting up as the week went on, so the Borrego didn't hold the entire spotlight for worst ride of the week.

We must give credit to the engineers (with emphasis on "engine") for offering a fun daily driver, and we wouldn't be surprised at all to see some maniac take the Borrego, fine-tune the suspension, install a spool or a set of lockers, and enter in some off-road race. But until these upgrades are done in the factory, we think the boss's wife will still be driving her Sorrento.

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