- The Washington Times - Friday, August 1, 2008

Many drivers would consider this the worst possible time for any company to launch a full-size, V-8 powered SUV in a market with enough SUVs already. Despite the current economic conditions, Kia has shouldered on and added the all-new 2009 Borrego to its product line. In doing so, Kia fills a significant hole in its offerings that should be of interest to RVers needing a full-size SUV with hefty towing capability.

It takes many years to bring a new vehicle from inception to product at the dealer, and no one, not even the brain trust at a major manufacturer, can predict what will happen economically a few years down the road. Once underway, sometimes you just need to move forward and hope for the best.

Kia’s Borrego, a seven-passenger traditionally configured SUV, in 2WD and 4WD versions, is rated to tow 7,500 pounds with the V-8 and 5,000 pounds with the V-6 engine.

Visually, the Borrego is arresting with its clean lines and crisp detailing. It stands right alongside the best of the bunch from an appearance standpoint. Likewise, the Borrego is no slouch for power.

The V-8 is the first in a Kia offering and is rated at 337 horsepower and 323 pounds-feet of torque. Even the V-6 features 276 hp and 267 pounds-feet, and it does a commendable and functional job of moving the solo Borrego down the highway. The V-6 is mated to a 5-speed automatic while the V-8 comes with a 6-speed automatic from ZF. A Downhill Brake Control feature is included and should make downhill runs with a trailer aboard less of a worry for many drivers.

Traditionalists should enjoy the Borrego’s body-on-frame construction, a nice feature for an RV towing rig in this class. Independent coil-sprung front suspension and coil-sprung multi-link rear suspension are standard, as are four-wheel disc brakes. The usual array of anti-lock brakes and electronic driving aids is standard, and Electronic Stability Control and others are built into each rig.

Even full-size occupants should find the Borrego most accommodating. Well-shaped bucket seats and plentiful room for legs and shoulders help make the miles slide by in comfort. Noise management is impressive, as wind noise and engine rumble intrusions are minimal at worst.

Kia paid close attention to specific towing hardware needs. The well-integrated Class-IV receiver includes a concealment cover that blends with the rear bumper fascia when driving solo. A pre-wired receptacle under the dash makes it easy to add a brake control via the pigtail included with the vehicle.

We hitched the Borrego to a Keystone brand Passport Ultra-Lite 250BH, a 28-foot trailer weighing about 4,500 pounds. The Borrego could handle more but this was enough load to get a feel for the rig’s capabilities during a brief test drive.

A twisting two-lane en route to the freeway gave us a chance to do some slow-speed back-and-forth that showed us how the Borrego’s suspension kept the truck steady while the trailer shifted position out back. We needed very little steering correction to reestablish a dead-ahead position after a fast simulated emergency lane change. We like that kind of driving confidence.

A run-up to freeway speed loaded down the V-8 and showed the engine could deliver the goods. We quickly achieved the legal limit, and all without a significant noise level increase. The lashup used a dead-weight hitch instead of the preferred weight-equalizing hitch equipment, which gave the front end a bit of a lightweight feel, but it wasn’t bad enough to be troubling.

Freeway speed felt good behind the wheel. We encountered typically gusty winds in Washington’s Snoqualmie Pass region, yet the trailer behaved itself, and even passing commercial truck traffic failed to produce any white-knuckle moments. Sweeping planned-ahead lane changes and a freeway off-ramp followed by a fast draw-down to a stop failed to generate any tail-wagging-the-dog feelings with the trailer pushing us around.

We monitored the rig’s driving computer and observed numbers on the 8- to 9-mpg range while towing, which is no great shakes but par for a V-8 powered rig with a 7,500-pound rating. EPA figures for the V-8 4WD models are 15 city/22 hwy, which are OK for the class but not great overall in today’s fuel-cost climate.

Borrego pricing starts in the sub-$28,000 range and that figure heads north in a hurry with the addition of any significant options. We were impressed with the Borrego’s towing prowess despite our brief time behind the wheel. Once the market for full-size SUVs gains a bit more health again the Borrego should be able to play well with all the older kids on the block.

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