Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Kia Borrego

This summer Kia will introduce its first true, unadulterated truck, called the Borrego.

The 2009 Kia Borrego was unveiled at Detroit's North American International Auto Show in January 2008, and it surprised many who attended. Some in the automotive media were expecting a slight variation on the Santa Fe from Hyundai, Kia's parent company. The Kia Borrego is in fact a conventional, mid-sized sport-utility vehicle with Kia's first-ever V8 engine.

The Hyundai Santa Fe has a welded unibody, like the typical sedan, and emphasizes cabin comfort and luxury.

The Borrego is somewhat larger, but more significantly, it applies body-on-frame construction, with a separately assembled body bolted to a ladder-type frame. The emphasis with Borrego is real, truck-style work such as towing.

On a wheelbase of 114 inches, Borrego's weight and dimensions closely match those of truck-based sport-utility vehicles like the Ford Explorer and Nissan Pathfinder.

Borrego features something that's unusual with truck-based SUVs, however. Its coil-spring rear suspension is fully independent (like the Explorer and Pathfinder and most cars), rather than equipped with a solid axle (like the Toyota 4Runner and most other body-on-frame SUVs).

From a distance, the Borrego might be mistaken for a Pathfinder or an Explorer or some other SUV. There is only so much differentiation possible with the conventional two-box SUV design. On closer inspection, however, the Borrego exhibits some unique details. It looks almost graceful, and perhaps lighter, less thick or massive, than a Pathfinder. In some respects the Borrego looks smaller than it actually is. It will be offered with wheels up to 18 inches in diameter.

The base Borrego will be powered by a 3.8-liter V6, though Kia hasn't released horsepower or torque ratings. We'd guess something in the range of 275 horsepower. The upgrade is a 4.6-liter V8, and Kia promises at least 300 horsepower from this engine, which will make Borrego the company's most powerful vehicle to date. Both engines are matched to Kia's first six-speed automatic transmission, which should deliver competitive fuel-economy ratings. Kia reports an impressive 7500-pound towing capacity for the V8, and 5000 pounds for the V6.

The 2009 Borrego will be offered with either rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drive, as well as a couple of electronic packages that should make off-road operation easier. Kia's first downhill assist control (DAC) system is designed to keep Borrego moving straight and steady down steep grades without locking its wheels. The hill assist control (HAC) will help control fishtails and backwards slides on steep upgrades.

Kia hasn't offered a good look inside the Borrego, which suggests that the final interior design is still being sorted. But we can tell you that this SUV seats seven, with a sliding second-row seat that adjusts for relative legroom and easier access to the two-passenger third row. Both rear seats fold flat to optimize cargo space.

Safety equipment includes two-stage front airbags, curtain-style head protection airbags for all three rows of seating, electronic stability control and a sophisticated antilock brake system (ABS) with electronic brake distribution (EBD) and brake assist. There is no indication that Borrego is equipped with anti-rollover electronics, which are increasingly common on sport-utilities and other taller vehicles.

And while Borrego is definitely a truck, it won't be short on big-ticket features. It will offer several Kia firsts, including a DVD-based navigation system, power-adjustable pedals and a back-up warning system with rear camera. And it will come standard with lots of stuff, as Kia vehicles typically do, including a 600-watt Infinity stereo with USB audio input jacks, a six-CD changer and Sirius satellite radio hardware.

Expect the first Borregos to reach Kia showrooms by July, 2008. If Kia follows its typical pricing scheme, the Borrego should retail for at least $1,000 less than similarly equipped competitors
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