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A tan 2023 Nissan Pathfinder is shown driving on a street after winning a 2023 Nissan Pathfinder vs 2023 Kia Sorento comparison.

A Feat of Performance: The Nissan Pathfinder vs the Kia Sorento

If you are anything like me, the idea of having the best of both worlds sounds pretty good. When it comes to the world of automobiles, the SUV is exactly that. It combines everything we love about a car with everything we love about a truck. The end result is a vehicle that can practically do it all. Of course, that doesn’t mean that some aren’t better than others. When it comes to SUVs, the best way to figure out which one is right for you is to do a good old fashioned comparison. Let’s compare the performance and capabilities of the 2023 Nissan Pathfinder vs 2023 Kia Sorento.

The Trims

There are five trim levels of the 2023 Nissan Pathfinder, including the all-wheel drive Rock Creek trim, which is the Pathfinder’s off-road focused option. The Rock Creek is a new and exciting addition for the 2023 model year. The other trims come standard with front-wheel drive, but can also be equipped with all-wheel drive.

The 2023 Kia Sorento kicks it up to eight trim options, including the X-Line trims, which are geared towards off-roading. As their trim name would indicate, are also all-wheel drive. The other trims come standard with front-wheel drive, with optional all-wheel drive for the LX and SX trims.

The Engines

The 2023 Nissan Pathfinder is equipped with a 3.5-liter V6 Direct Injection engine. Direct Injection is a great option to improve vehicle performance and fuel efficiency. With Direct Injection, the fuel injector is right inside the combustion chamber as opposed to sitting farther back in the intake manifold. This means less fuel is wasted and the air and fuel mix more evenly, resulting in superior performance and fuel efficiency.

As a result, the Pathfinder’s V6 produces 284 horsepower and 259 lb-ft of torque across the board, with the exception of the Rock Creek. The Rock Creek trim gets a small bump 295 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque out of the same engine. The V6 is paired with a nine-speed automatic transmission that delivers smooth shifting and precise control. This transmission also has a manual shift mode, courtesy of an included paddle shifter, that provides nearly instantaneous gear shifting and driver control.

The 2023 Kia Sorento is equipped with two engine options. The first three trim levels come standard with a 2.5L four-cylinder engine that produces 191 horsepower and 181 lb-ft of torque. The other trim options are equipped with a turbocharged version of this engine, which produces 281 horsepower and 311 lb-ft of torque. While the non-turbo engine is mated with an eight-speed automatic transmission, the turbo version uses an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission, resulting in better power delivery between the engine and transmission.

Turbocharged engines use recycled exhaust gases to shove more air into the engine, allowing more fuel to be added with the result of more power. However, during gentle driving, that extra power isn’t needed, nor is it generated with little exhaust gas flowing through the turbo. By only providing the extra boost when it’s needed, the result is better fuel economy.

However, one potential problem with turbocharged engines is “turbo-lag.” When you press down on the gas pedal, it takes time for the extra exhaust gas to spool up the turbo, push more air into the engine, and get the increase in horsepower. However, this problem has been mostly eliminated in modern vehicles, resulting in only a short delay. Another possible issue with turbos is that they can overheat if they are put under load for extended periods of time, which could happen while towing a heavy load.

All-In for All-Wheel Drive

The 2023 Nissan Pathfinder is equipped with Intelligent Four-Wheel Drive on select trims, which features seven Drive and Terrain Modes. Sport, Eco, and Standard modes allow you to switch between common on-road drive modes depending on your desired outcome. Sand Mode sends more torque to the rear for increased traction over the slippery surface. Snow Mode switches to a higher gear automatically, and monitors road conditions in case the tires begin to slip so that torque can be diverted. Mud/Rut Mode utilizes the all-wheel drive by evenly distributing torque for traction all around. The final drive mode is Tow Mode, which adapts to specific needs to optimize towing.

The 2023 Kia Sorento is equipped with Torque-vectoring All-wheel Drive on select trims, and offers either four or five drive modes depending on trim. Sport, Eco, and Comfort modes are the Sorento’s on-road driving modes. Smart mode is a self-adjusting drive mode that adjusts to how the vehicle is being driven and at what speeds. Snow mode adjusts torque for added traction in snowy conditions.

Many of the drive modes are similar between the 2023 Nissan Pathfinder and the 2023 Kia Sorento, with a few exceptions. The Pathfinder features three modes that aren’t available on the Sorento: Sand Mode, Mud/Rut Mode, and Tow Mode. These are ideal for off-roading and towing, covering all the uses of an SUV. The Sorento features one Drive Mode not available on the Pathfinder, which is the Smart Mode that adjusts to driving input. Smart Mode has some useful applications, but the three drive modes with specified uses seems to outweigh the one mode on the Sorento.


The 2023 Nissan Pathfinder has a towing capacity of 3,500 to 6,000 pounds, depending on the trim level. It isn’t just about capacity with the numerous towing features that optimize towing. One feature is Trailer Sway Control, which helps to stabilize a hitched trailer when the wind picks up or if the road gets bumpy.

Another feature to improve safety and control when towing is Downhill Speed Control. This feature takes control of downhill driving when the trailer is connected, keeping the SUV and trailer in control. An available Intelligent Around View Monitor provides an extra set of eyes when hitching or lining up. Select trims are also equipped with a transmission oil cooler to combat overheating from the added strain.

The 2023 Kia Sorento has a towing capacity that ranges from 2,000 to 3,500 pounds, depending on trim. One feature that helps with safely towing is Downhill Brake Control which helps maintain control going downhill, similar to Downhill Speed Control. Another feature is the Surround View Monitor, which has a guidance line aspect that could help with lining up a trailer.

The Nissan Pathfinder has almost double the towing capacity of the Kia Sorento, allowing for a broader range of uses. Additionally, the Pathfinder has more features designed to support towing and towing safety then the Sorento. If towing is a priority, the Pathfinder is the way to go.

Which SUV Is For You?

Knowing what your SUV can and cannot do is important before settling on the one that’s right for you. In the case of the 2023 Nissan Pathfinder vs the 2023 Kia Sorento, the Nissan has some clear advantages over the Kia. With nearly double the towing capacity and a more dynamic drive mode selector, and generally more power than the Kia, the Nissan Pathfinder won’t fall short when the road gets slippery or the towing gets hard. In the battle of performance and capabilities, the 2023 Nissan Pathfinder is our heavyweight champion.