MIAMI -- I thought I had already driven the Kia Turbo GDI SX. Well, I had and I hadn't.
What I test drove several months ago was the Kia Turbo GDI EX. Both cars are powered by a 2.0 liter four cylinder twin scroll turbocharged engine with gasoline direct injection (GDI).
Both cars generate 274 horsepower and 269 pound feet of torque. And both are mated to six speed automatic transmissions. But the SX is equipped with paddle shifters, 18-inch alloy wheels, alloy pedals, different front and rear bumpers, LED taillights, side sills, door scuff plates and a rear lip spoiler. In other words, it's a sport package.
The starting price of the Kia Optima Turbo SX, when it goes on sale during the first quarter of 2011, will be $25,995. Our test car topped out at a bit more than $30,000. Amongst the options was a panoramic roof and heated and cooled front seats as well as heated rear seats. There was a navigation system with back-up camera, satellite radio and a premium stereo system.
The engine is 20 percent more fuel efficient than the 194 horsepower V6 that it replaces in the old Optima. The EPA rating for the new powerplant is 22 city mpg and 34 mpg on the highway. In other words, the Optima Turbo has a lot more horsepower and burns a lot less gasoline than the V6 it replaces.
The interior was pretty cool, too. Only black is available on the Kia Turbo GDI SX. But it had leather woven seat trim, carbon insert film, a Supervision™ meter cluster with LCD display, center fascia and meter housing and soft trim with French seams.
Black is a tricky interior color to master. If it's too shiny, it looks cheap. Matted looks good but it can be expensive especially when trying to hold down costs. But Kia did a very nice job in dividing that equation. The Turbo SX's interior wasn't expensively matted but it did not have that cold hard look of cheap plastic either. It was nicely done.
On a not too challenging drive from here up I-95 N to the Palm Beach International Raceway, about 100 miles from here, I was able to pick up a couple of character traits of the 2011 Kia Optima Turbo GDI SX
Acceleration was impressive. There was no turbo lag accept under sudden acceleration and then it was miniscule, as if the car was asking, 'do you really want to do this.' The Optima Turbo SX was sneaky quick. Any number of times my driving partner and I used cruise control to prevent acceleration creep up 80 mph and beyond without noticing. We wanted to avoid the attention of those folks who wear badges and write speeding tickets.
The sport suspension was stiffer without being stiff. It was a deft touch by Kia engineers. The Infinity sound system was really impressive. My only quibble was the steering wheel. I thought it could have been thicker or fatter to convey the sportiness of the car. I'd like something a little more substantive to hold onto under aggressive driving.
I liked the horizontal layout of the instruments too which I think is the coming trend in automotive interior design. Controls like the phone, audio, satellite radio, navigation, the display itself were aligned up top while the climate controls were underneath. It was two distinct clusters of controls rather a stack of instruments and buttons.
The ultimate test of good automobile design is whether people look at your car and they did look at the Kia Optima Turbo GDI SX as we headed down the Florida Turnpike to return to our hotel.
Road and wind noise were minimal. But again we found ourselves traveling at 80 mph and more in a 70 mph speed zone without realizing that we were going that fast. So we set the cruise control – again. There was a little wind noise around the mirror but it was nothing that upset me. The normal driver wouldn't even notice.
Kia's Optima Turbo GDI SX is another step up for the Korean automaker.