LOS ANGELES – Kia’s flagship SUV, the Sorento, receives refreshed styling, a new transmission, standard three-row seating, and infotainment upgrades for the 2019 model year. It made its first appearance in North America at the Los Angeles Auto Show on Thursday.

As the Kia Sorento was completely redesigned for the 2016 model year, the 2019 Sorento is basically a mid-cycle refresh. It features revised front and rear styling with thinner headlights, new taillights, a redesigned tailgate, and new wheel designs that give it a more sophisticated and upscale appearance.

Inside, all 2019 Sorentos now have standard three-row, seven-person seating with 40/20/40-split folding second- and 50/50-split folding third-row seats. The revised cabin design offers a new instrument cluster with improved graphics, revised centre console, and a redesigned steering wheel and shifter knob as well as an upgraded navigation system with optional Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity, and available wireless charging for newer model iPhones and Android phones. Premium models are also available with a new 650-watt, 10-speaker Harman Kardon audio system. Front passenger seats also receive a new power lumbar adjustment on higher trim levels.

New safety features for 2019 include Driver Attention Warning and lane-keeping assist (LKA): if the Sorento drifts out of its lane, LKA will automatically steer the Sorento back into its lane. That’s in addition to the Sorento’s available blind-spot detection, rear cross-traffic alert, and 360-degree camera monitoring.

2019 Sorentos with the standard 2.4L four-cylinder engine will feature an improved six-speed automatic transmission while top-trim models with the 3.3L V6 engine will have a new eight-speed automatic transmission – the same transmission currently used in the Kia Cadenza sedan. The new eight-speed automatic will provide smoother shifts and better fuel economy while retaining the Sorento’s maximum 5,000 lb towing capacity (when equipped with the V6 and AWD).

The current 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine available in the mid-level LX Turbo trim will be discontinued for the 2019 model year. A new diesel engine with the latest emissions controls is currently under development at Kia.

As before, 2019 Sorentos come with a unibody construction, fully independent suspension (front McPherson struts/rear multi-links), available full-time all-wheel drive with a locking centre differential, and a ground clearance of 7.3 inches.

Though it’s not marketed as a rough-and-tumble off-road vehicle, the Sorento is capable of serious off-road performance. To prove the point, Kia equipped a stock Sorento with all-terrain tires, a skid-plate, and minus its sway bars took it to the infamous “Hell’s Revenge” mountain trail in Moab, Utah. The Sorento managed to complete the course with only a few scratches and a dislocated rear bumper cover.

Canadian pricing and on-sale date have not yet been announced.