Driven: Seven Into Two Does Go

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Looking for a comfortable seven-seater SUV to transport your family that’s neither eye-wateringly expensive nor based on a bakkie? Take a look at the new Kia Sorento and Jeep Grand Cherokee L. 

By: Steve Smith

Seven-seater SUVs generally fit into two categories: (1) European, luxurious and very expensive and (2) rugged, cheaper by half, and bakkie-based. The former counts the Audi Q7, BMW X7, Mercedes-Benz GLS, Land Rover Discovery, and Volvo XC90 among their number, and will set you back between R1.5 – R2 million (or around R4 million if your eye wanders to the new long-wheelbase Range Rover). The latter includes the familiar Ford Everest, Isuzu MU-X, Mitsubishi Pajero Sport, and Toyota Fortuner – all tough customers more suited to offroad adventures than comfort. 

However, if you have a large family and are not willing to fork out for the luxe northern hemisphere types but would prefer a little more in the way of comfort than hairy chested brigade, then sitting in the middle are two newcomers to the SA market that are worth a look. 

KIA SORENTO 

A far more striking design execution than its rather plain predecessor, the all-new fourth generation Sorento is based on a new platform with 35mm longer wheelbase. Alongside sharper swept-back looks, that means more interior space with extra leg and headroom for second and third-row passengers, and up to 821 litres cargo space with the third row stowed. 

While enjoying your extra space, you’ll also notice a step-change in the cabin’s quality and design with twin digital dashboard displays. This includes a 12.3-inch digital driver instrument cluster twinned with a 10.25-inch touchscreen infotainment and nav screen at the centre of the dashboard. Black leather trim is standard, blending with the dash’s metallic trim and embossed satin-effect surfaces.  

Attached to the accelerator pedal is Kia’s new four-cylinder, 2.2-litre Smartstream turbodiesel that produces 148kW and 440Nm of torque, and is paired to a new eight-speed auto transmission. This new alloy powerplant is 38.2kg lighter than its predecessor and, along with its pliant suspension set-up, makes for a comfortable ride with plenty of punch for overtaking. 

In the AWD models you get four driving modes (Comfort, Eco, Sport and Smart), along with snow, mud and sand modes should you head off the asphalt. You wouldn’t want to take on anything too rough, but the Kia’s electronics adjust the vehicle’s traction control parcelling off torque to the wheels that need it, making gravel roads a cinch. 

You do, by the way, have an alternative Korean choice to make here, too. The Sorento’s corporate cousin, the Hyundai Santa Fe, has recently been facelifted and shares the same chassis and powertrains. The two-vehicle range sells for R769 500 and R869 500. 

Sorento 2.2 CRDi 2WD R809 995 

Sorento 2.2 CRDi AWD R849 995 

Sorento 2.2 CRDi AWD R914 995 

Sorento 2.2 CRDi AWD 8 R988 995 

JEEP GRAND CHEROKEE 

Waving a big blue and red go big or go home flag, is the new Jeep Grand Cherokee L. At a sizey 5.2m long, it’s an imposing vehicle that, for the first time in this derivative’s history, has a third row of seats.  

The flagship in Jeep’s range, the square-jawed Grand Cherokee L, will seat either six or seven patriots in roomy upmarket comfort and, as you can see, it’s also a step-up in price on the Koreans. For your extra dollars though, you get a comprehensive standard spec throughout the entire range with swathes of leather, wood and alloy trim that make for the most luxe interior Jeep has ever made. 

It also features the brand’s most advanced Uconnect system with operating speeds that are five times faster than the previous generation, and a fully customisable 10.1-inch display as the user interface. The instrument panel is a 10.25-inch frameless digital gauge and cluster with a host of different menus you can select. Plus, the first time in Jeep, you also get a windshield full-colour head-up display. 

One downside is that there’s only one powertrain available – a naturally aspirated 3.6-litre petrol V6 that’s mated to an 8-speed auto. With outputs 210kW and 344Nm, it’s not the punchiest of engines especially on a vehicle that weighs around 2.2tonnes.

On the upside, Grand Cherokees are known for their excellent off-road abilities and this latest version has a host of 4×4 systems that will have the Koreans spinning their wheels in its fully digital rear-view mirror. 

Jeep Grand Cherokee L Limited R1 299 900 

Jeep Grand Cherokee L Overland R1 479 900 

Jeep Grand Cherokee L Summit Reserve R1 679 900 

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