2011 Kia Optima TurboPosted on December 10th, 2010
High-performance model juices up Kia’s midsized sedan
By Nina Russin
Following the introduction of its newest Optima sedan, Kia boosts the fun factor with two turbocharged grades. Optima Ex and SX Turbos give shoppers in one of the industry’s largest segments a high-performance alternative to vanilla competitors.
Pricing starts at $24,495 for the EX Turbo and $25,995 for the upscale SX. MSRP does not include a $695 delivery charge.
The EX Turbo costs about $2000 more than the naturally-aspirated version of the same grade. In addition to the more powerful engine, buyers get larger front disc brakes, a unique grille and interior trim.
The SX adds 18-inch wheels, unique bumpers and side sills, high-intensity discharge headlamps, LED taillamps, and a black interior trim package unique to the model. Premium option packages let buyers dress up the exterior with more aggressive wheels and tires, and a dual-panel sunroof. A technology package adds navigation with real-time traffic updates and a rearview camera.
Kia expects cars to start arriving in dealerships at the end of January. The turbocharged cars join the base Optima LX and volume-leading EX models. Pricing for the LX begins under $19,000 for the manual transmission version.
Turbocharged engine adds power and reduces emissions
While Kia’s two-liter turbocharged engine is smaller than the naturally-aspirated block in the base Optima, it delivers significantly more horsepower and torque. By integrating the turbocharger assembly into the exhaust manifold, engineers shaved four pounds off the engine weight and improved the design’s thermal efficiency.
Turbochargers are exhaust-driven blowers that force air through the engine, enhancing combustion efficiency. Not only do turbocharged engines develop peak torque at much lower speeds than naturally-aspirated blocks, they also produce fewer toxic emissions.
Direct injection neatens the design even more by delivering fuel into the engine cylinders rather than through the valves. The 275-horsepower Optima SX accelerates from zero-to-sixty miles-per-hour in 6.5 seconds, and averages 34 miles-per-gallon on the highway.
Americans have traditionally shied away from turbochargers due to oil coking problems and sluggish hot weather performance. Intercooling and a unique air guide duct reduces the charge temperature by ten degrees Celsius.
In order to ease customer concerns about long-term durability, engineers benchmarked the new engine at 6800 rpm for twenty hours. As with all of the automaker’s vehicles, the high-performance Optima carries a ten year/100,000 mile factory warranty.
Smooth power delivery
At a recent media event, I drove the Optima SX around the Los Angeles metro area, as well as the Malibu canyons. The turbocharged engine and six-speed automatic transmission deliver ample power, with strong acceleration off the line. Because turbochargers increase the volume of air through the engine, there is much less parasitic power loss at altitude.
Steering is nicely weighted with excellent response. High-performance dampers keep the chassis flat in off-camber turns, giving the driver better control. The large disc brakes provide firm, linear stopping power.
One of the advantages of using smaller engine blocks is that they shave weight off the chassis. Front-wheel drive cars tend to be nose-heavy, since both the engine and transaxle are located ahead of the driver. Reducing engine size mitigates this weight imbalance, reducing the car’s tendency to understeer or push.
As a result, the Optima SX feels especially well balanced as it travels through the corkscrews in the Malibu canyons. The reduction in engine weight also enhances fuel economy as compared to a heavier six-cylinder block.
The six-speed automatic transmission proceeds smoothly through the gears, with no perceptible shift shock. Because the engine develops peak torque at 1750 rpm, there is no hunting on steep grades. Formula-style paddle shifters on the steering wheel allow the driver to manually select gears for more aggressive performance.
Visibility around the perimeter is quite good. The side mirrors do a good job of minimizing blind spots to the rear of the car without impairing the driver’s vision while cornering.
The optional rearview camera on the test car displays a wide angle view to the back when the driver shifts into reverse. It’s a boon for drivers who need to parallel park on the street.
Engineers did a good job of isolating passengers from wind, road and engine noise. With the exception of a pleasant belch from the car’s standard dual exhausts during acceleration, the cabin is very quiet.
The Optima’s spacious interior holds up to five adults. Careful positioning of the center console and a low floor tunnel maximize legroom in the central second-row position.
A tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel enables small drivers to maintain a safe distance from the front airbag. Redundant steering wheel controls are logically arranged to minimize driver distraction. Push button start enables the driver to fire the ignition without removing the key fob from his pocket.
Kia product specialists have imbued all of the current models with the sorts of high-tech features buyers crave. The Optima is no exception, with easy access to 12-volt power points for recharging cell phones, redundant steering wheel controls, a USB port and standard satellite radio. An available Infinity sound system with a subwoofer and external amplifier should satisfy music aficionados.
Cup and bottle holders are abundant for passengers in both rows of seating. A center console bin has a removable shelf for stashing small electronic devices.
I was disappointed not to find a locking glove box, which would give passengers secure storage in the cabin. Cooling elements in the glovebox make it ideal for storing beverages.
The black upholstery unique to the SX is upscale, yet sporty. I found both the driver’s and front passenger seats comfortable for trips several hours in duration, thanks to adjustable lower lumbar support. Side bolsters keep the driver and passenger in place without limiting access or egress.
The optional dual-panel sunroof brings an abundance of ambient light into the interior.
The Kia Optima Turbo comes standard with front, side and side curtain airbags, antilock brakes, electronic stability control and a tire pressure monitoring system. Standard hill ascent control prevents the car from rolling backwards when the driver accelerates off the line on a steep grade. Kia’s industry-leading 10 year/100,000 mile warranty helps buyers to contain cost of ownership.
Likes: A stylish, affordable midsized sedan with excellent performance and fuel economy. The Kia Optima Turbo’s performance rivals more expensive European competitors.
Dislike: Locking glovebox is not standard equipment.
Model: Optima SX Turbo
Base price: $24,495
As tested: N/A
Horsepower: 274 Hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 269 lbs.-ft. @ 1750 rpm
Zero-to-sixty: 6.5 seconds
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: No
Fuel economy: 22/34 mpg city/highway
Comments: Base price does not include a $695 destination charge.
57 responses to “2011 Kia Optima Turbo”
end of January ????
whats the invoice for the Optima sx turbo ?
I think that I list it in the story: about $25,000 not including delivery, which is about $700
Matthew December 12th, 2010 at 21:24
End of January? yuck. I was looking at the Sonata 2.4 then heard about the Turbo and waited. I liked it but there are some issues with the Turbo including a strong left pull issue(not associated with torque pull). So I hope the Kia is better. My daughter(9yr old) loves the back seat of the Optima better than anything I have tried and I have tried a lot! So I will wait…wait…wait
RDamien December 15th, 2010 at 06:18
Great review thank you. Best one I’ve read on this car, you answered all my questions. I had heard the seats were a bit on the stiff side here and there but glad you found them comfortable.
Pending a test drive, this will be my next car. SX in spicy red, loaded. I was going to wait on the UVO but… eh.
I’m always curious to hear how reviewers place the car in terms of the segment. Near or at the top? Average? Mixed bag?
It’s hard for me to talk about the segment as a whole because it’s growing so quickly. A few years back, very few OEMs were producing turbocharged cars for the North American market because Americans have traditionally not responded well. Now it seems that everybody is building cars with two-liter turbocharged engines. I will say that Kia remains one of the best values on the market: a very solid, stylish car for an affordable price with an industry-leading warranty.
Jonsocal January 12th, 2011 at 14:09
I really liked the Kia but the standard 4cyl just didn’t have the power that I really want or the paddle shifters that my girlfriend is looking for. I am a bit concerned about the head restraints (headrests to the rest of the world) as they are tilted a bit too far forward and it irritated my neck after just a few minutes of driving. That is the biggest issue at this point. My girlfriend also had the same issue when she test drove the car. If we can get this worked out, then this will be my next car. I love the layout and the heated rear seats. The turbo will make this car the answer to my vehicle needs and wants and also not hurt my pocketbook. Hopefully it will be here soon. Is there a date in which I can be expecting this on the west coast?
You mention the following: The 275-horsepower Optima SX accelerates from zero-to-sixty miles-per-hour in 6.5 seconds, and averages 34 miles-per-gallon on the highway.
Is this a spec from Kia from marketing or was this tested? I ask because Motortrend and others road tested a lethargic 7.4 seconds 0-60…
Many are claiming Kia’s Optima has a computer transmission issue, as it’s hunting and searching for gears when pushed. In other words, the HP and torque are hardly realized over the base 2.4l engine! Ouch!
Has Kia fixed this, or have you heard word about this?…
Thanks for writing Mark. The spec I cited did come from Kia. As for your transmission question, I have not noticed hunting, and we drove the cars hard through some pretty challenging canyon roads. Other people may have had bad experiences, but I have not. If I did, I certainly would have mentioned it. thanks for writing.
Mark, that 7.4 second 0-60 is likely for the none turbo model. Car and Driver got a similar 0-60 for the none turbo Optima’s.
Any new update on the release of the turbos? I called the local dealer and they said they didn’t expect them until March. Another dealer told me they didn’t expect them until late spring/early summer. Is there a website where you can find out the nearest dealer that has them in stock? What’s the scoop? Thanks
I was told that the turbos would be rolling out in February. My guess is that they will arrive first in key markets such as California. You might want to check out Kia’s consumer web site for updates and additional information.
Nice article, Nina. I just finished test driving the non-turbo EX model for the past week, and your report is spot-on. I am awaiting the turbo model, which I was told by the dealer should be available by Feb. Great handling, interior comforts that I would expect to find in a vehicle priced much higher. It turned heads as I drove down the street. Most comments fell upon the lines of “I can’t believe it’s a Kia!” The best part, it’s actually FUN to drive!
Nina: I am very impressed with the definitive style you used in your review. Reviewers normally do not fully explain how a manufacturer improves the car with changes. Do you have a car background? I recentently drove the Optima EX and was suitably impressed. I am waiting for the EX Turbo or the SX. Keep up the great articles. Boz.
Thanks for writing. I do have a car background: I went through an automotive technology program in the 1980s when I first started writing automotive editorial, and got my ASE certification.
Kia of serramonte had 3 SXs to test drive fully equipped and were selling them by feb. I drove a black one and..omg the smoothest engine i have driven in an I4 configuration. It is REALLY powerful and is really REALLY better than an v6 because of the gas saving. However, I heard Turbos have heat problems. I will be buying this when my color comes out but the darn dealerships are not going less than MSRP and may even go above :(. But i must say, im in the car industry I know haggling and a good deal, but I might just settle for it because the car is so nice.
Cons: Car chair heaters are kind of out of the way for the driver,
the seat could be a little lower,
And It is the first model so price and reliability are up in the air until the next year or the next.
and one more con: no front LEDS like the K5 or turning heal lights like the K5.. wtf were they thinking?! but after market products are already out :).
Can;t wait to get my hands on the turbo… my only dissapointment is that the car does not offer many colors… the silver turbo pictured everywhere is not available.
chris brand February 13th, 2011 at 09:02
Living in central Ontario’s snow belt I need AWD. Hopefully there are plans for this. Then it would really give a lot of AWD’s a run for their money.
jose cerda March 7th, 2011 at 16:06
I just bought one for my fianceé and omg she loved it!!! I was most concerned with the payments at first. Although, I was amazed that it was affordable. When I took it to work, everyone envy me due to the fact that how a young employee updated their amature co-workers along with his boss. :-)… my advice is go buy 1 or lease one..
I purchased a fully loaded sx turbo over a month ago. Its been in the shop twice and is going in again this week. The issue is the pull to the left. The more I read up on this car, the more I hear about this problem. I have not read 1 real solution for this problem. This is a beautiful car, but Im not willing to live with a car that constantly pulls left. We are all hard working people who would expect a (new) car to drive straight off the lot. Whos doing the quality control on these cars at the factory? Why do they continue to sell these cars knowing something serious is going on with their steering. The first time I took my car in for the steering issue they told me my tire pressure was off. This was even after I showed them the rubber particles that attached themselves to the lower driver side body below the door. These particles would appear just hours after washing my car. Furthermore, if they would have test drove my car after they said my tire pressure was off they would have realized it still wasnt straight. So the following day or two it was back in the shop for 5 days with everyone from kia trying to figure it out. On the fifth day I picked uo my car and it did appear to drive better, but gradually the pull to the left returned. I needed a new car because my truck is always in the shop. Now my new car is in the shop more than my old truck. Go figure. I think the Kia dealers are doing the best they can to (try) to fix this issue. At the same time it feels like they are putting on bandages till factory Kia comes up with a real solution.
I bought an SX with sunroof, technology and premium package two days ago. I have an appointment with the dealer today to correct the pull to the left and a rear seat heater not working. Any advice on the left pull issue?
Jeff, got an appt with the dealer early next week. they ordered a bolt kit for the caster/ camber adjustment. from what I understand, it will increase thye range of adjustment for the allignment. I spoke with my personal mechanic about the proposed solution and he said it should fix it. I’ll know next week and let everybody know.
Very helpful. Thanks. I had the 3 hour service appointment on Friday and they performed full alignment, said I was good to go. Got in the car – no change. Still pulls to the left. Left the car there, got a loaner. Told them to fix the car or replace it. We’ll see what happens on Monday. I will mention the bolt kit if they don’t get that answer from Kia. Other than that, love the car.
Still holding my breath. The dealer called today and said the car is driving straight (again). They are still troubleshooting my navigation unit problem. My car should be ready for pick up tomorrow. Sure hope its fixed. Id hate to have to return the car if its not driving straight. Ill post again when I get my car back.
Just want to let everybody know my sx turbo is now driving straight. It was a combination of making adjustments at the top of the strut tower and adding a bolt kit for the camber adjustment. Initially, when the bolt kit was added, the car still pulled left. The dealer had to get a new set of specifications from Kia to accomadate the bolt kit. What do ya know? Straight as an arrow. If they could only figure out why they cant get my mic to work for my nav and bluetooth. They have replace the mic, nav unit and additional wiring and still no go. Anybody out there experience this?
If this car doesn’t offer a manual, then this car is pretty boring. Some of us still like that original sports car feel
Has anyone else had turbo problems with there Kia Optima SX? At 265 miles got a service engine light, code said Turbo control module malfunction. I really liked the car but for 30000 I wanted it to last more than one day, I told them they could keep it.
Anthony Carlino April 23rd, 2011 at 11:04
I purchase my sx 2011 optima about a month ago. I love it except for the fact that the check engine light keeps appearing and the KIA dealership cant figure it out. At first it was a mis fire on cylinder 3..They changed the coil and put it in cylinder 1. Engine light still coming on.Anyone else experience this?
Hi guys we just got a Turbo Optima. At Kieffer Kia in Eugene Its Black and sexy
Anthony C. I am having the same problem with the misfiring of cylinders on my sx2011 Optima. My dealer cannot figure it out either…they have replaced the spark plugs and coils with no success. They then blamed it on a fuel problem (with the fuel we purchased), but then they replaced it with their own fuel, cleaned out the system, and still had the same problem. No resolution yet. Are you still having the problem?
Chris M. April 29th, 2011 at 05:56
Jim and Anthony, I am also having the same problem with a cylinder 3 misfire, dealer has replaced coil and ignition parts and still getting the CEL. I called Kia consumer affairs to try to speed up the process. They were very polite and apologetic. They are taking the car for a day next week to run a series of test to try to get to the bottom of the problem. This will be our 4th attempt at repairing it. Hopefully this can be fixed so I don’t have fill lemon law paperwork. I really don’t want a new car,just want mine fixed. I love the car.
Chris G. May 9th, 2011 at 15:34
Like Jim, Anthony, and Chris M. I am also having a problem with cylinder 3 misfires. So far the dealer said it was detected but hadn’t occurred, now the CEL is on again, so I will press them harder tomorrow when I take it in (check with my own code reader and confirmed same code) and see what they say.
[…] with several people complaining about the same thing in the comments section (near the bottom): 2011 Kia Optima Turbo review | Auto Reviews | The Carspondent Side notes: Car drives fine as far as I can tell. I think the turbo or something in the engine […]
exwracer May 11th, 2011 at 19:16
At 1300 miles w/ my new (loaded) black SX, I have only 3 gripes, all minor:
1. buttons on the steering wheel which control audio, nav, phone, cruise & etc are not lit bright enough at night; to get them bright enuf, you have to turn up the speedo/tach lights so much that they annoy; 2. sunroof shade sometimes gets hung up when retracting.
3. my wife complains the ride is too stiff
Otherwise: it’s fast, but in “eco” mode it has produced 32 mpg on a 100 mile trip at 65 mph, produces about 27.5 around town if I stay out of the turbo, killer nav/sat/sound system, comfy seats, corners flat and handles very well; looks great.
No left pull at all. I did replace the tires with Continental Contact 3s and it sticks like glue. Has so many bells & whistles that I curl up at night with the owner’s manual; how weird is that?
After my last alignment that I posted my car did appear to drive straight, but I noticed the smell of burnt rubber when ever I pulled into my garage or pulled up to a red light. After a month I noticed some abnormal tire wear on the passenger side. I took my car in for a fourth attempt, this time to a different dealer. They did the best they could but I left there with the car still pulling left. Can’t say I’m very happy with this car. The car at times, like when driving at highway speeds and hitting minor dips in the road will have a tenadancy to want to pull in two directions. This can be startling at times.
LaToya October 2nd, 2011 at 21:36
Hey guys! I got the Turbo as well and love it, but I did notice the pulling to the left as well. Reading your comments has scared me a little. I hope that these issues are turned in enough that they’ll send letters out to us owners to get these issues resolved.
Hated to do it, but I had to use the lemon law. At first KIA said a left pull issue doesn’t warrent a buyback even with the incriminating notes the mechanics left on 4 invoices. Had to get a lawyer and eventually got reimbursed. If KIA would have just done a little more homework on the steering before releasing the car I believe it could have been a candidate for car of the year. Hopefuuly they resolve this issue for 2012.
Earlirizer1 March 7th, 2012 at 15:41
have 14000 miles on my Kia Optima EX turbo, 2011, have had to have the Nav. unit replaced, warranty,and after dollying the car from Tulsa Ok. to San Antonio Tx, am having turbo problems. Took her off the dolly, no turbo, next a.m. check engine light. took her to local dealedr, they found tech bulletin, and updated then flashed the brain. next day, after no problem 64 mile drive home, no turbo again…….but no check engine light this time. anyone else having turbo problems, without warnings or without other issues. Drives fine but no boost. They towed it back up to San Antonio so am waiting for return of my vehicle.
The next time I read a blog, I hope that it doesnt disappoint me as a lot as this one. I mean, I know it was my choice to learn, but I really thought youd have something attention-grabbing to say. All I hear is a bunch of whining about something that you might fix if you happen to werent too busy on the lookout for attention.
How do you find time to post gems like this all the time?
unrelated but I was thinking which post platform are you using for this website? I’m getting tired of WordPress because I’ve had issues with autopcposters and I’m looking at alternatives for another platform. It would be helpful if you could refer me in the direction of a secure platform.
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