Skip to main content

Revisiting A Road Trip Using Sport Mode In Our Kia Sorento Plug-In Hybrid

Last year, I had an interesting debate with another Kia Sorento Plug-In Hybrid (PHEV) owner re: the drive modes it offers and how to maximize fuel efficiency on a long road trip. I devised a number of tests, which I’ll link to below, but one thing I never really did was to repeat a long road trip but this time use his proposed method to see whether I am right about the most efficient way to drive this PHEV.

Join us...    

Here are the details about this repeat roadtrip and how I am going to drive it, this time through, using the methodology this other owner shared with me. Instead of driving our Sorento PHEV in Eco and HEV mode for most of the distance (putting the vehicle into EV mode in slower sections and when coasting downhill on mountain passes), I am going to alternate between Sport mode and EV mode throughout the drive. Specifically, I’ll begin the drive in EV mode until I hit the beginning of the uphill section of our first mountain pass, and the start of the 70 MPH speed limit, around 20 miles outside of Seattle. At that point I will switch to Sport mode until I have recharged the hybrid battery sufficiently to use the battery only mode for another 20-25 miles, then switch back to Sport mode and charge the battery back up. We will be driving a little over 200 miles, likely non-stop, to one of the most significant wine growing regions in the state of Washington, the Red Mountain AVA. It is actually just a sort of wine tourist layover for us as our final destination tomorrow will actually be Walla Walla, Washington, to spend two nights and as many days sampling some of the best wine produced anywhere in the United States. Stay tuned for a follow up piece by the way, for a few brief reviews of the wine, too.

My inner data analyst knows that the Kia’s Sport mode “hack” isn’t going to work because Sport mode will simply rev the engine a little higher than Eco mode will in HEV mode, and send excess charge to the hybrid battery, slowly recharging it. This will simply burn a little more gas because I am using it to run the engine a little harder, or longer, to generate excess electricity rather than letting the engine operate only when it needs to hold the charge level at the point I switched to HEV mode and or to provide the requested amount of thrust the accelerator position demands, But maybe I am wrong, or maybe (perhaps more likely) the Kia’s display and the mysterious algorithm it uses to calculate the displayed fuel efficiency will “cheat” too, by not factoring in that extra fuel use, or by “biasing” the combined MPG figures toward the electric miles (of which I will cover more since the battery will be recharged during the drive). Here is what I know though, before even starting the trip. When I made this trip about a year ago, I got 36.7 MPG combined, and used approximately 40% of a full tank of gas (as per the gas gauge in the vehicle). This time, I will have slightly less weight in the vehicle - 4 adult humans and our stuff for the weekend, or about 750 lbs. I fully expect to get slightly worse fuel economy, or to arrive having used more like 45-55% of a tank of gas anyway (even if the MPG display may indicate a figure significantly higher than 36.7 MPG). If my remaining fuel is at least 5% less than last year’s trip, I feel like that makes my case. Also, if my combined fuel economy is significantly lower, I will likewise consider the matter settled, but I just don’t know what the Sorento’s display will read. Come back soon to find out, and please leave any questions or comments you might have, 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.

Join us...