Kia Borrego

Stimulus Package

Looking for a new tow vehicle with a real V-8 and small sticker price? Look no more. Kia has introduced a midsized SUV with a 4.6-liter V-8, three rows of seating, room for seven, and a 7,500-pound hitch capacity. Kia's Borrego bucks the trend of wimpy V-6 crossovers by rolling out more than 300 hp mated to a ladder-frame chassis. Even better? Expect to spend a few thousand less than you would for an equivalent domestic-built SUV for this Korean homage to the Ford Explorer.

Kia checked all the right boxes: comfortable seats, huge rear doors for easy access, tri-zone air conditioning (part of the $1,500 luxury package), touchscreen navigation ($1,500), and a DVD-based entertainment system ($1,500). An independent rear suspension is standard. The dual-range four-wheel-drive system ($2,000) is controlled by a twist knob.

If you don't need a V-8, opt for the 276-hp V-6. The smaller engine trims about $3,000 from the price; however, mileage gains are minimal and the tow rating drops to 5,000 pounds.

Hitched to a 24' Galaxy, the Borrego's V-8 hummed contentedly. You'd suspect a high-revving, four-cam engine to be out of its element here, but the six-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission makes up for the lazy low end with extra-wide gear spacing. At 70 mph, the tach read less than 2000 rpm. The 12-mpg mileage I recorded on regular-grade gas was better than I expected.

Steering, suspension, and the sheer mass of the Borrego hold a wayward boat trailer securely in line at highway speeds. Shock absorbers calibrated for towing may cause jiggles when driving sans load, but they curb commotions when a trailer wheel drops into a pothole.

The ramp traction supplied by Hankook radials was superb without resorting to low range. Electronic traction and stability controls are both standard.

The Borrego's brakes were disappointing. Stopping from 60 mph with the trailer attached, the Borrego's brakes quickly showed partial loss of effectiveness. Some of the stopping distance could be blamed on trailer brakes, but I'd be concerned about towing the fully rated 7,500 pounds down a mountain and having to stop suddenly.

MSRP: As Tested - $37,495 ****

For more info: www.kia.com/borrego