Pros: Simmer Select, 2 dual elements, 170 degree warm-n-hold, hidden bake element.
Cons: No sensors in the oven - but its ok for casual bakers. No warming drawer.
Are there reasons to get more than just 4 basic elements on a smooth easy to clean glass cooktop? More than a basic large oven? Could it possibly be worth spending over $450? The answer is yes. You deserve a mid priced range that actually does things for you instead of you having to do things for it.
Of course this one has the easy to clean smoothtop. But unlike some lower priced models, it also has a spill-proof ledge so things won't run down the front and sides. That's a big mess saver right there even though it's a small detail you wouldn't think to recognize or consider in the store.
It's also got a hidden bake element in the oven so you don't have to clean and hunt around the element and it's sharp brackets for day to day cleaning in between electricity hogging self-cleanings. Just wipe and go.
This model has a 5th element in the middle rear that only goes up to 180 degrees. It's really called a warming zone and it works well to keep a pot or even a plate of apple pie warm. Nice touch that you will use.
And if you know how hard it is to simmer on an electric model, you'll love this one's "simmer select" feature which makes the large 9" left front element go even lower in temperature than it's lowest temperature normally goes when you push a discreet little button next to the control knob. This means you can actually simmer delicate sauces on a wide pan or pot without burning. Usually, it's hard to make large elements like that go low enough to simmer.
However, like the next cheapest Kenmore unit down from this one, it has a dual or "expandable" element that easily goes from 6" wide to 9" wide. It looks like a smaller ring within a bigger ring. You just turn the same knob one way or the other depending on which ring you want to heat up. The indicator tells you how. Its so easy and you can save electricity if your smaller 6" elements are busy or expand it to 9" if your big element is busy.
And like almost all smoothtops, regardless of brand name, this one has a hot surface indicator light that stays on after any element has been turned off until the entire surface is cool enough to touch. Coil models do not have this feature. Smooth tops are also "fist-pound" tough. Try it - they are ceramic/glass designed for lots of punishment suspended on a rubber seal to resist shock from pounding and expansion and contraction. Just remember, the bottom of your fist is soft. A heavy pot is not.
Another advantage this model has over lower priced Kenmores is the "cook and hold warm" feature that is easy to set so after baking, the oven automatically drops to 170 degrees and holds at that temperature for up to 3 hours before it shuts off for food safety reasons. In fact you can easily set up the oven to start baking at let's say 2 pm for maybe 3 hours and then automatically go into "hold warm" when its done baking at 5pm so that it will keep things nice and warm for family members to help themselves to after coming home at various times until 8pm. Do most people use it? No, but its there and if you like using Tivo, you'll love using automatic baking and cook and hold.
Inside the oven are 3 baking racks (one more than the identical 96212) and one of the racks has a built in offset handle that leaves a space between the first 2 rods in the rack that lets your thick, mit covered hand easily grab and pull out a hot rack.
For $75 less than this one, you lose the warming zone, simmer select and the hidden bake element. The savings are not worth the loss of utility in my opinion. You're going to own this thing for decades hopefully. (model 96112)
For $50 more than this one, you get 2 dual elements. One is the usual 6"/9" and the other is an even wider 12" element paired with a 9" inside. This is great if you slide wide sautee pans back and forth when you cook and want good bottom contact. You also get a variable length self cleaning that runs either 1, 2 or 3 hours depending on how dirty the oven is so you don't have to use as much electricity (900 degrees worth) as the long 3 hour default span. (model 96332)
For $100 more than this one, you'll get a warming drawer instead of a storage drawer which only heats to 220 degrees and is great for keeping baked items warm till guests arrive or preheating plates. And you get a 3,000 watt power element (instead of 2,500) for faster boiling and high-temp cooking. Ironically, you won't get the second 12"/9" dual element - just one 9"/6" dual. (96422)
It's hard to get an element over 9" with 3,000 watts. Don't bother trying to look for units with 2 dual elements that have a 6/9" AND a 9/12" AND 3,000 watts on the 12" AND the warming drawer, you'll spend $1,000 for all that IF it exists. Sound confusing? You'll be fine with the typical configuration of either ONE 9/12" dual at 2,500 watts with a 9" single at 3,000 watts or TWO 6/9" duals at 2,500 watts each.
There's no convection or even oven temperature sensors on this one, so it's a good unit for people who don't bake a lot or bake one item at a time and don't mind a little babysitting or turning the food. For comparison, most ovens are the same in this respect. If you insist on sensors, check out Whirlpools with "Accubake" and GEs with "TrueTemp". But sensors are not as good as convection and you will pay more but not get some of the features of this great value at a comparable price from GE and Whirlpool.
If you'd rather go convection, check out my reviews for the Kenmore Elite 99122 and the 79213 gas version. They are all built on a premium chassis that have some serious practical benefits that make them worth the extra $300 more than a base $1,000 Kenmore convection unit.
If you want this model's (the one we are rating here) "value" in a gas version, check out the 78612/78622, the 78672/78692 and the 78732/78762. Each pair separated with the slash are identical sister models. One has an extra oven rack - thats it. But, Sears plays the substitute game with sister numbers. When one is on sale, the other is not. When the one on the showroom floor is off sale, the other one is! Each of the 3 pairs are in order of "good, better, best" for VALUE more than price.
Because we are talking about so many models in this review, this one that you originally started to read about is great for the cook who doesn't want to pay too much for a good electric range who's oven won't get used that much anyway but ought to be easy to clean day to day without running the running the self clean cycle. This one gives you the most important features where it matters - the cooktop. Again, most people cook a lot but don't bake a lot.
Besides great features, it's also made out of durable Electrolux/Frigidaire components but with more Sears/Kenmore exclusive and custom features than a Frigidaire branded twin. And it's a Consumer Reports magazine top pick.
Too bad Electrolux/Frigidaire only makes excellent cooking products and only so-so refrigeration, dishwashing or laundry products. Stay away from these and their Kenmore twins. This one is simple enough to not absolutely need additional warranty coverage if you're on the fence. Some higher end models do need it. The one below this one does not.
Similarly priced Frigidaire branded ranges with the 12" elements don't usually have 3,000 watts or hidden bake elements, simmer select, offset rack handles, hold warm, warming zones or warming drawers. Those are Kenmore exclusive features.