The line-up kicked off in 2003 with a 2.5-litre CRDi diesel with 140bhp. Although it's economical for this type of car, it's noisy and not very responsive. The 200bhp 3.5-litre petrol V6 is more refined, but costlier to run. Things improved - however - with the 2006 facelift. There's more power for the 2.5-litre diesel (up to 170bhp) and better refinement while fuel consumption remains the same at 36mpg.
The 3.5-litre was replaced entirely by a 3.3-litre V6. All the engines deal comfortably with towing (see technical data for exact weights) but the gear lever on manual gearboxes has a lot of travel and can feel imprecise when changing gear. The auto gearbox was originally a four-speed before being uprated to five speeds. It's fine for cruising, but can be hesitant to kick-down - when increased acceleration is needed - which makes overtaking more difficult.
The biggest downside to the Sorento is the vague steering which often needs more turns than you'd expect in order to change direction. There is an improvement on facelifted 2006 models, though it could still be sharper. There's also fair amount of bodyroll, which combined with the vague steering, means the Sorento isn't great through tight corners. The ride is not bad, but it gets upset by larger potholes and bumps which transmit vibrations through the cabin.
However off road it's excellent - there are two types of four-wheel drive offered - XE models get a system which lets the driver select all-wheel drive electronically via a dash mounted button. XS and above get a sophisticated 'torque on-demand' system that varies the amount of power to the different wheels automatically. All models have low ratio gears for trickier terrain and the Sorento can cope impressively well with challenging conditions.