Big and strong
Different 4WD systems
That being said, the real difference between these models lies in their 4x4 system. The entry-level Borrego boasts a fully-manual unit, which means the driver has to select the driving mode.
On the other hand, the premium EX model not only offers low- and high-range gearing (4L and 4H) but also a convenient AUTO mode that lets the vehicle take care of power distribution. With either system, no more than 50 percent of the available torque can be transferred to the front wheels.
Put to the test in slightly muddy conditions and on a few rock faces, the Borrego fared pretty well, overcoming obstacles while never complaining. The stiff chassis (ladder frame and not unibody) enhances stability and capability. So, beyond a regular SUV, the Kia Borrego is also a solid workhorse.
On the road
It's hard not to be affected by the vehicle's harsh ride. Designed for towing and heavy loads, the fully-independent suspension spends less time focusing on road imperfections. This truly feels like a truck.
The V6 engine proves to be quite flexible and pleasant, while the benefits of the powerful V8 are less than initially expected. The variable-assist steering is responsive and offers a class-leading 5.5-meter turning radius.
In the end, the 2009 Kia Borrego has plenty going for it: towing capacity, fuel economy, affordable price range ($36,995 to $43,595), etc. This SUV talks the talk and -- as evidenced by my first driving experience -- walks the walk. Only time will tell if rising gas prices will spoil Kia's attempt at playing with the big boys.
Photos: Marc Bouchard
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