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FIRST LOOK: 2009 Kia Borrego 4x4 - Web Exclusive!


Meet the newest playa in the midsize SUV market

It wouldn't seem like a propitious moment to be launching a new V-8 SUV, and truth to tell, it isn't. But unlike pessimists like us, the folks at Kia Motors see opportunities aplenty for their new Borrego seven-seater sport-ute. And in a way, we can see their point---with GM pulling the plug on the TrailBlazer/Envoy next year (sob, sniffle), and Ford more or less abandoning the Explorer until a 2011 redesign, there's definitely room in this segment for a newcomer such as Kia to pick up new customers, and company reps informed us that they plan to market and advertise this vehicle very aggressively in the coming months. So, keep an eye on your TV screens or your dealer showroom---chances are you'll be catching a glimpse of the Borrego in the next few weeks.

Powering the Borrego is either the base 3.8L V-6 that's good for 276 hp and 267 lb-ft of torque, or the optional 4.6L V-8 sourced from the Hyundai Genesis coupe that puts out 337 hp and 323 lb-ft of torque. (The motor cranks out close to 390 hp in the car, but Kia engineers retuned it for improved low-end torque.) If we were checking options, we'd take the V-8 since you get better power to weight, as well as the outstanding ZF 6-speed automatic behind it (the V-6 gets a ZF 5-speed which is decent, if somewhat unpredictable at times).

The saints be praised, the Borrego is not---repeat, not---some AWD but an honest-to-goodness four-wheel drive that comes with a Borg-Warner 2-speed t-case with a 2.48:1 low-range. Suspension is independent double-wishbone up front, and a multilink/coilover setup in the rear. Minimum ground clearance is 8.5 inchers, and approach angle is a not-bad-for-this-class-anymore 27 degrees. Towing capacity is 7,500 pounds (yep, it's a body on frame, not a monocoque), and an integrated Class 3 hitch is standard issue. Estimated mileage is 16/21 with the V-6 and 15/20 with the V-8. Check out the November issue of Four Wheeler for all of our driving impressions. What's Hot: Excellent ZF six-speed; low base price; overall fit and finish.

What's Not: Slightly spongy suspension tuning; bad time to be launching a V-8 SUV.

Our Take: It won't be an easy sell, but it's competitively priced, and it's another big step up in overall refinement from Kia.