For 2016 the Kia Sorento takes a deft move upmarket with a higher base price by about $600 and much higher top-out price for a fully trimmed out SX Limited such as our 2.0T AWD tester here which stickers at about $45,000.

Styling is evolutionary of the Kia brand so you know what it is at first sight. Exterior trims have a more refined sense of being while lines are more flowing and less blocky than before. And it looks a bit larger because it is, growing about 3-inches in wheelbase and overall length.

Up front a new grille design is elegant and expensive looking, as are the LED fog-lamps which are standard on our SX Limited. Optioned are the Xenon headlamps that were part of the Technology Package which also brings driver-assistance aids and a 360-degree surround view monitor.

At the rear are some very vivid LED tail lights and bucking the trend is a single exhaust tip which is framed nicely with a metallic finish lower valance. 19-inch satin finish alloy wheels filled the wheel openings well with a relatively tall 55-series sidewall.

Inside, our Sorento had the rather unique Merlot Nappa perforated leather seats contrasted with piano-black and satin aluminum finish trims. The seats as said were ventilated up front and heated in both rows. Both driver and passenger get power seats here too, the driver getting memory settings.

A panoramic sunroof opened up the cabin well to light, the front section opening for fresh air. An opaque power shade can close the light and heat out on days like this however.

A leather wrapped steering wheel features controls for various infotainment and instrument cluster functions. The rest of the controls well laid out across the dash and center stack all had a quality feel and were easy to find.

The center stack itself has a wide horizontal look, featuring a near perfect balance of hard buttons and controls along with the touch-screen infotainment system. The top-line UVO audio and navigation system remains one of the leading examples of intuitive ease of use and touch responsive behavior.

Sound from the audio system is exquisite and it of course offers all forms of connectivity from Bluetooth wireless to USB and auxiliary ports. The USB ports hidden away in the center console even offer high-speed charging.

Rear seat passengers will enjoy generous leg and head room and the ability to adjust the rear seat-back recline angle. HVAC vents and a fold down armrest are provided and of course they fold down flat in a 60/40 split when expanded cargo space is needed.

The cargo area with the seats folded is larger for 2016 now affording just over 73 cubic feet of volume accessed by our power opening rear lift gate. As our tester did not come with the available third-row seat, we found additional storage spots under the rear load floor to hide smaller things away. The spare tire is mounted underneath.

Under the hood of our Sorento is the mid-level 2.0 liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine which offers up 240 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque on regular unleaded. It comes standard with a six-speed automatic transmission.

The EPA rates this powertrain combination at 19 mpg city, 25 mpg highway and 22 mpg combined. In our week with the Sorento we observed 21 mpg combined, one less than promised but with high temperatures, the AC was on at all times.

While very similar to last year’s model in specification, the 2016 Sorento has a considerably new chassis platform some 14% stiffer than the last generation and uses increased amounts of high-strength steels.

New laser welding and bonding techniques along with a re-tuned fully independent suspension mounted to more robust rubber isolated sub-frames are major contributors to its quieter and more stable ride whether on the pavement or off.

The Sorento’s all-wheel drive system while not as tightly wound as something found in a Jeep Wrangler does offer a full center locking function when needed which sends power evenly to the front and rear axles. It also features torque vectoring from side to side via the traction control system.

On the trail or on pavement the 2016 Kia Sorento delivers a Top Safety Pick rating from the IIHS scoring good ratings in their full battery of crash tests including the brutal small-offset test. It lacks the higher Top Safety Pick + rating only because its available crash-prevention system has basic features.

The 2016 Kia Sorento achieves five of five stars in our test this week and makes it to our I’d Buy It list!