Our original plan was to drive our Tesla Model 3, which is perfectly capable of handling snow and ice, also being shod with Michelin X-Ice snow tires. But the original plan was built around a trip to Vancouver B.C. and warmer temps without much or any snow. We switched to the Kia when a winter storm showed up and we wanted AWD and some extra ground clearance just in case. We definitely made a good choice as the snow was deep enough that I know clearance would have been an issue at some point for our Model 3 and the AWD Sorento PHEV handled the snow like a boss as I described in my previous article on the beginning of this trip.
The rest of our trip gave us plenty more opportunity to test the capability of our PHEV in the snow and freezing temperatures that are as I write this still battering the Pacific Northwest. I attempted to get the Kia to fishtail a little on a road completely covered in several inches of compact snow (so thick it has been closed at one point just ahead of us) by rocking the steering wheel by about a quarter turn, side to side. I could not get it to break loose. I certainly could have more forcefully tried to induce a loss of traction, but I wasn’t trying to lose control, I was testing what might occur when steering around a big chunk of snow, a fallen branch, or other obstacle on a snowy, icy road. The Sorento’s AWD and Blizzak snow tires shrugged it off and we just kept on going.
In fact the only times I actually managed to lose traction on this entire trip were in the following situations: First, in about a foot deep section of rutted, loosely compacted snow (and this, only for a moment as I rode up on the edge of the rut around a corner. Second, and most noticeably, when coming to a stop from about 30 MPH at a T intersection, I was unable to stop fully and the anti-lock brakes woke up, thumping their best to slow us down. We ended up sliding a few feet into the intersection at about 5-10 MPH. Luckily the intersection was empty at that moment and I wheeled us into a 90 degree right turn without fully stopping so as to avoid possibly veering into the oncoming lane. Stopping in slippery conditions though is not something snow tires and AWD can help very much with. I used our momentum to complete our intended turn but had the circumstances been different, we could have had a fender bender type of accident if I had continued to slide and another car had been in the intersection and unable to stop or steer to avoid us. Finally, just as we were rounding the final corner on our street, which was a complete and totally exposed sheet of ice as slick as a skating rink (if not more), we slid just a tiny bit until the rear wheels grabbed and pulled us back in line. This was at a speed of about 15 MPH and was only a slight, and momentary, slip that again was handled well by the snow tires and AWD. So, the only loss of traction that was of any real concern was the sliding stop I had to correct via a quick turn of the wheel, after which the Kia and its snow tires found their grip again.
I also figured out a few additional features of the Kia Sorento PHEV that I think are worth mentioning here. Idling the engine for heat long enough will actually regenerate a small amount of charge (in my case at least 3 additional miles of range after an hour stuck in traffic). I didn’t believe this at first, but I checked the battery charge level gauge in the lower right corner over the entire period and sure enough, it creeped a little bit back toward full. Note, I don’t recommend this, it is a terribly wasteful way to recharge your battery, but when the temperatures are in the teens and you’re stuck in traffic, you need that heat (though I did turn it off at times, once the cabin was nice and toasty). I also learned, on a quick jaunt just to the other side of the U.S. - Canadian border for some ketchup chips and other snacks we can’t easily get, that the PHEV will automatically convert speed limit notifications from KPH to MPH on the driver’s information display. In case that is confusing, what the vehicle did was display the speed limit not in KPH, but in MPH equivalent. It threw me off at first and I exclaimed why is the speed limit 6 MPH? Now it is 18, and now 43; why in the world? Oh! I get it. :) The Kia used GPS information to do this as it switched within seconds of crossing the border (and switched back, too). Now that’s smart! It saves me from having to manually switch the displays.
After this trip, I feel that I finally got to adequately test both the Kia Sorento’s AWD system and the Blizzak snow tires I have mounted on it. I am very much impressed, and pleased, with their performance. And for anyone that cares, the total trip was 323 miles. I covered approximately 109 of those miles on battery only (or about 33% of the trip), and my blended fuel economy for the entire trip was 48.2 MPG. My wife and child and a full load of cargo made the trip with me, too.
Have you driven your Sorento or other Kia PHEV in the snow and below freezing temperatures much? Have you had similar experiences? Do you have any questions or comments? If so, please leave them below.
Images courtesy of Justin Hart.
Justin Hart has owned and driven electric vehicles for over 15 years, including a first generation Nissan LEAF, second generation Chevy Volt, Tesla Model 3, an electric bicycle and most recently a Kia Sorento PHEV. He is also an avid SUP rider, poet, photographer and wine lover. He enjoys taking long EV and PHEV road trips to beautiful and serene places with the people he loves. Follow Justin on Twitter for daily KIA EV news coverage.