Buzzing around the Tasmanian hinterland in Kia's seven-seat Sorento, I was forced to think of the local Kia people - with Korean engineers in tow - recently spending several months hacking around country NSW with the new model and a crate full of optional suspension components.
Most SUVs are light on "Sports" and heavy on "Utility". For Kia, the task was to give drivers as much enjoyment behind the wheel as the kids have in the second (and third) row of seats.
After hundreds of adjustments, replacements and innovations, the package was settled on and production could begin. The winning hand specified dual-flow dampers from the Korean Mando Corporation, bringing sophisticated European-like control to a suspension system that is robust enough to manage the day-to-day work of an SUV.
I drove the diesel manual and automatic plus the petrol automatic over a few hundred kilometres and found that this Kia has enough balance and precision on the road to make driving it an enjoyment rather than a chore.
Linking the driver to the road is an electronic steering system that has three selectable modes. Although selection has no mechanical effect on where the front wheels are pointing, the sports mode increases the resistance to the electric motor drive, giving the steering a different feel and requiring a greater input from the driver.
It may be more a placebo effect than anything but it is effective at helping drivers realise how their driving is impacting on the road.
The Sorento range has been rejigged in response to customer and dealer feedback. Engine options are uncomplicated. You can have a 2.2-litre four-cylinder diesel with a variable geometry turbo or a 3.5-litre DOHC V6 petrol. The diesel develops 145kW power at 3800rpm and a healthy 421 Newton metres of torque (436 for the auto) between 1800 and 2500rpm.
The diesel version is available in three trim grades and all are four-wheel-drive. You can have a manual or auto transmission (both are six-speed) and hook on a caravan weighing up to 2500kg.
But the manual is only available on the lowest-grade Si version.
Depending on whether you ask for the Si, SLi or Platinum versions, the petrol is priced from $37,490 to $41,990 and the diesel from $38,990 to $50,390.
I asked why Kia hadn't pulled $400 off the price of the top of the line model to bring it under $50,000 and spread it across the other models.
My eyes glazed over about 10 minutes into the explanation. Moving on . . .