I recently wrote about how much my partner and I are enjoying our Kia Sorento plug-in hybrid, despite its handful of nitpicky complaints. The car has proven to be quite efficient for how we use it, especially once we got the level 2 charger installed in our garage, and can get a useable re-charge in between trips during the day. We even managed to drive over a thousand miles on a single tank of gas!

Unfortunately, that thousand mile tank of gas has not been able to repeat itself quite yet because it turns out that the Sorento might not be the most efficient cold-weather PHEV on the market. The reason for this is that all the heating for the cabin of the car is reliant on the gas engine. The car is not equipped with a heat pump (which is usually standard on EVs) and has no electric heating at all. If you are running the cabin heater, or the heated seats, the gasoline engine will engage, regardless of how much battery range is remaining, or what your selected drive mode is.

Kia Sorento heater runs exclusively off the gas engine.

This was not something that my partner and I had even bothered to research or consider when deciding which car to purchase. However, it's unlikely to have been a deal-breaker for us, personally. The reason for this is that we live in Las Vegas, Nevada. We only get a few months of "winter" weather, and even those months are still [usually] not terribly cold. Daytime highs usually hover between the low 60's and mid 50's (Fahrenheit), and we go years without seeing any snow in the city.

As such, the Sorento's lack of a heat pump, and its reliance on the gas engine for heating isn't quite as problematic as it might be in Northern Nevada, or in a state like Wisconsin or Maine. If you're in the market for an EV or PHEV, and you live in a cold-weather region, you might want to consider a vehicle other than the Sorento, as you'll be losing a lot of the advantages of the electric motor and battery if you're driving in freezing weather.

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* This should go without saying, but all photos from within the moving vehicle were either taken by me as a passenger, or by a passenger while I was driving. Please do not try taking photos of your dashboard or dials while operating a moving vehicle.

My 20-year old Toyota Echo isn't a "family road trip" car.

Since my partner became pregnant a couple years ago, we've been saving up to buy a larger family car. I've been driving a 4-door Toyota Echo for almost 20 years, and she owned a 4-door Mazda 3. Both cars were sufficient for commuting around town and for taking weekend trips out of state back when it was just the 2 of us and our daughter. But both have also seen a lot of wear and tear over the years. And with a baby, which comes with a car seat, stroller, diaper bag, and so forth, those small coups are just not comfortable for long trips. Even though I love my little Toyota Echo, and am determined to drive it till it won't drive anymore, I recognize that it isn't a very good "family road trip" car.

We both agreed that we wanted a vehicle that is big enough to transport our larger family, and which has 4-wheel-drive so that we can safely drive through snow to ski resorts for snowboarding and skiing. But we each had other priorities that we had to compromise on. I wanted an electric car, and I promised myself a long time ago that I would never buy a gasoline-powered car if I could avoid it. My partner wanted a large, 3-row SUV. Unfortunately, there aren't many options for 3-row, 4-wheel-drive, electric SUVs. At least not in 2022. There's the Tesla Model X, and the upcoming Rivian ESUV, but those both cost well over $100 thousand. We needed a more affordable options. So I had to compromise on my all-electric priority and agree to go with a hybrid gas SUV, with a preference for a plug-in hybrid model.

These concessions reduced our options down to 2 vehicles: the Kia Sorento PHEV and the Toyota Highlander hybrid. The Highlander is a little bigger and has a 7-seat capacity, which my partner preferred. I've been driving a Toyota Echo for almost 20 years, and my mom's only two cars during my lifetime have been Toyotas, so I trust Toyotas to be reliable cars. I would have been fine with the Highlander hybrid. In fact, if the Highlander had a plug-in electric hybrid model (instead of just a traditional hybrid), we probably would have bought the Highlander instead.

We purchased a 2022 Kia Sorento Plug-In Hybrid.

But the Sorento has the plug-in electric capability, and there just so happened to be one in the queue at one of our local Kia dealerships. We reserved it. Its arrival was delayed several times, and it took about 3 months before it was finally there at the dealership, ready to be driven home. We have so far been very happy with the purchase, with the only real regret being that we had to pay a high dealership markup due to the high car prices in 2022 and the limited availability of this model in particular. Love the car; hate the price we had to pay for it.

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Mad Max game

Normally, I try not to get excited about movie-tie in games. They have a very bad track record - with only a handful of exceptions. But this Mad Max game wasn't a direct movie adaptation, and it didn't release simultaneously with the movie, implying that it hopefully wasn't being rushed out the door to meet the movie's release. Warner Brothers Interactive had previously released Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor, which was also sort of a tie-in to the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies, and that game was actually very exceptional! It had a novel and innovative concept around which the entire game revolved (making it very focused), and it was a very well-polished game that was immensely comfortable to control. So Warner Bros had earned some benefit of the doubt for its next game. I wasn't expecting Mad Max to match (let alone exceed) Shadow of Mordor, but I still had hopes that this one would turn out to be a well-realized game that could stand tall and proud as one of those rare, good movie tie-in games. After all, the concept of an open-world, post-apocalyptic action game about smashing spiky, nitrous-fueled cars into each certainly sounds like a solid premise for a game!

Well, not quite...

Wasteland chaos

Mad Max - conflicting button prompts
Many actions are overloaded to the X button - the game even displays conflicting prompts at times!

Virtually every interaction that I had with the game was either naggingly uncomfortable in some way or was prone to glitches. Even the basics of moving around and interacting with objects in the game world was a constant chore. When one button does everything; it does nothing (see my Assassin's Creed III review). Fortunately, a couple really important functions (like getting in and out of cars) were mapped to different buttons, but virtually everything else uses the X button. So if you're standing in front of a ladder and holding a weapon, it's a crapshoot whether the game will decide to let you climb the ladder or make you drop the weapon, and then it'll be a crap shoot whether the game lets you pick up the weapon again. Oh there's button-prompts to tell you what you can and can't do, but sometimes they outright conflict with one another. Besides, when you're running or fighting, then you're reacting on impulse and muscle memory rather than reading screen prompts. It doesn't help that the character's movement is very fidgety, so it's hard to position yourself properly when trying to interact with objects. I think the developers recognized this, which is probably why they make you have to hold the button for a second in order to perform most actions - to give you time to ask yourself "are you sure this is the action you want to do?".

Not enough space for vehicular combat

Clunky movement isn't limited to walking on foot. Steering vehicles is also very fidgety and floaty, and I found it very difficult to perform any precision maneuvering in the cars. The cars all tend to understeer at high speeds, but then strangely oversteer or fish-tail whenever you let off the gas. Trying to hit a ramp or knock down an enemy scarecrow or ram a sniper tower would often require multiple passes in order to succeed, and doing slaloms through the canyons resulted in a lot of cheap impacts. The rough terrain also leads to a lot of spin-outs. The vehicles feel so weightless and floaty that they can park on nearly vertical slopes, and running over a pebble can send the car hurtling and flipping 20 feet in the air. On a more personal note, I prefer my driving games to have cameras very close to the action, and so Mad Max's driving camera feels like it's a mile away from the action, which makes it harder for me to get a feel for precisely where the car is in relation to the environment. Virtually none of the game's vehicular set pieces really worked all that well for me due to these nagging control and scaling issues. If the map were bigger to accommodate multiple vehicles running side-by-side on a road, then dealing with the low-traction sand or the unlevel rocks wouldn't be so much of a consistent problem. Even having the option to zoom in the camera (an option that I couldn't find) would go along way towards helping me make more precise maneuvers.

Mad Max - vehicular combat
The primary gimmick of vehicular combat works fairly well in spite of the map not feeling big enough to support it.

This game really lives or dies based on how well the cars perform. The bulk of the game is played from within your car. You use the car to travel the world, and it's actually your primary weapon thanks to the game's novel vehicular combat. This vehicular combat would actually be really fun if the cars handled a bit better and were durable enough to actually take the beating that the combat entails...

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A gamer's thoughts

Welcome to Mega Bears Fan's blog, and thanks for visiting! This blog is mostly dedicated to game reviews, strategies, and analysis of my favorite games. I also talk about my other interests, like football, science and technology, movies, and so on. Feel free to read more about the blog.

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