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Kia Adds a Turbo Version to Optima Lineup

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader December 2010

The all-new and frankly spectacular 2011 Kia Optima was just launched a few weeks ago. The follow-up isn't nearly as dramatic but is equally impressive. In addition to the current LX and EX line-up, Kia is adding a turbocharged, sport version of the Optima – Kia's first turbo for American buyers.

While the LX and EX models get a reasonably powerful 200 hp, direct injection 2.4 liter four-cylinder engine, the new SX model gets a 2.0 liter, direct injection, turbocharged four-cylinder engine that is 274 horsepower strong. In addition to the more powerful, turbocharged engine, the Optima SX gets HID headlights, LED taillights, 18-inch wheels, firmer suspension, a rear spoiler, larger front brakes and a sportier looking grille. Inside, the SX has lighted metal door sill plates, brighter sport gauges with an LCD information display, steering wheel mounted shift paddles, faux carbon fiber trim on the dash and black woven leather seat trim that's unique to the SX.

The overall look of the car isn't dramatically different than that of the Optima EX. However, little things like a subtle trunk spoiler, painted front brake calipers and stunning 18-inch wheels give the SX a little more attitude on the road. Luckily, Kia started with a well-proportioned, sleek looking sedan so adding bigger wheels and a little exterior kit doesn't hurt the car's appearance.

The interior looks almost identical to that of an Optima EX, however the LCD information screen and paddle shifters add a sort of Audi-ish flavor. Unfortunately, the carbon fiber look on the SX's dash doesn't really add much to the overall interior and the shift paddles feel too plasticky. It would be great if the shift paddle were aluminum and the carbon fiber trim were real – actually, just the shift paddles would be enough. As it is, the 2011 Kia Optima SX is a $26,000 car so aluminum shift paddles and real carbon fiber are never going to be part of the formula.

Those shift paddles control a standard six-speed automatic transmission, the six-speed manual is not offered on the turbo models.

Even so, it's really hard to find a another car that delivers 274 hp, and includes features like push button start, leather interior, self-adjusting HID headlights, paddle shifters, USB/iPod connection, Bluetooth, front fog lights and 18-inch wheels for $26,000. A similarly equipped Honda Accord is about $3,000 more and a similarly equipped Nissan Altima is roughly $4,000 more. Even then, there's strong argument that the Optima, especially the Optima SX is a better car for less money.

The larger wheels and low profile tires combined with slightly firmer suspension damping means the Optima SX handles well and is actually fun to drive. Surprisingly, ride quality does not suffer as the Optima SX feels nearly as compliant as the EX but with a slight edge. Acceleration is also impressive with the SX. Stomp the pedal and the car surges forward with a good deal of urgency, the down side are that there's noticeable engine noise when really burying the gas pedal. Unofficially, Kia says they believe 0-60 to be in the 6 second range. Fuel economy is estimated to be very similar to that of the non-turbo model at 22 mpg city / 34 highway.

To ensure the turbo's durability, Kia uses an oil intercooler and special ducting that directs cold air from outside the car to the turbo. Also, testing for the turbocharged engine includes 300 hours of running it at full throttle at redline followed by another 20 hours running above redline. Add to this the fact that Kia is sticking with its 10 year / 100,000 mile warranty and worries about reliability are likely rooted more in memories of the past rather than the realities of today.

We have to give Kia credit where credit is due, the Optima SX is a very good sedan. For those that want the 274 hp turbo engine but prefer the softer ride and warmer interior color choices, there's also a turbo EX model that's about $1,000 less than the SX.

The all-new, 2011 Kia Optima went on sale late November of 2010 and the turbocharged SX and EX models will be available February of 2011.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Kia Adds a Turbo Version to Optima Lineup - Autotrader