2011 Kia Optima SX Turbo

The thing about the 2011 Kia Optima SX Turbo: Damn, this is impressive.

The thing about the 2011 Kia Optima SX Turbo: Damn, this is impressive.

Although Kia uses the slogan “The Power to Surprise,” I’d suggest that they consider modifying it to “The Power to Amaze.” If any of the vehicle manufacturers that have a considerably larger share of the market and mind than Kia does had this car, you would be made so cognizant of this fact that the only place you could escape hearing about it or seeing about it would be if you were stranded on a desert island: They’d be banging the drum so loud that they have a car that is so stylish, frisky, and, when you want it to be, frugal, that you might even hear it while on said isle.

Kia has not only been persistently coming to the fore with its design. Kia chief design officer Peter Schreyer has said, ““I see cars less as modes of transport and more as objects of desire. The allure of a Kia should extend well beyond the fact that it moves people from one place to the other,” and the Optima is certainly desirable, with its low-to-the-ground, planted stance, fast windshield, sweeping body side lines, short decklid with a lip spoiler, and 18-in. highly styled wheels.

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But there is the moving from one place to another aspect of the vehicle, and it does this quite well. First of all, the 2.0-liter, gasoline-direct injection (GDI) engine needs to be mentioned. This is an inline four that provides 274-hp and 269 lb-ft of torque. This is Kia’s first turbo, and interestingly, it opted for the twin-scroll design. What this means is that there are two exhaust valve inlets that feed exhaust gas through a divided manifold to the turbine. This improves the efficiency of the exhaust gas use for the turbo. And in terms of performance, there is less turbo-lag than is characteristic of single-scroll designs.

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The car has a six-speed Sportmatic transmission; there are paddle shifters on the steering wheel, as one should expect in a car of this nature.

Step on the metal accelerator (yes, the car in the SX livery has metal pedals) and the vehicle gets you from one place to another posthaste.

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There very well may be situations when you don’t necessarily want the full power of the engine, so there is an “Eco” button on the steering wheel that adjusts the throttle, transmission shift points and even the air conditioning to provide optimum fuel efficiency. While there is a discernable difference in performance when it is selected, it is not like the car is suddenly being lubricated with molasses.

The other part of getting from here to there is being inside the car. And the Optima is well-appointed. The SX seats are nicely bolstered and leather trimmed. The driver’s seat is six-way power adjustable. There is leather trim on various surfaces (arm rests, instrument panel) and French seams. The steering wheel is leather wrapped. The other material is a carbon-fiber-like film to give it a sufficiently technical look. The car starts with a sizeable pushbutton on the instrument panel. The gauges are what Kia calls a “Supervision meter cluster with LCD display,” meaning that it has a crisp technical look without seeming like something that is calling attention to itself and thereby appearing foolish.

The MSRP for the car is a—yes—surprising $25,995. The car as driven had a nav system with back-up camera and Sirius Traffic ($2,000) and the SX Premium Package, which includes a panoramic sunroof, power front passenger seat, driver seat memory, heated and cooled front seats, and heated outboard rear seats ($2,150). Add in the freight ($695) and you get to an—yes—amazingly reasonably sticker of $30,840.

I guess surprise and amazement are much the same.

Selected specs

Engine: 2.0-liter, in-line four, DOHC turbo with gasoline direct injection

Material: Aluminum block and head

Horsepower: 274 @ 6,000 rpm

Torque: 269 lb-ft @ 1,750 rpm

Transmission: Six-speed automatic with Sportmatic

Wheelbase: 110 in.

Length: 190.7 in.

Width: 72.1 in.

Height: 57.3 in.

Base curb weight: 3,385 lb.

EPA Estimates: 22/34 mpg city/hwy