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2011 Kia Optima SX Turbo Review & Test Drive

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Filed under Automotive, Featured, Kia, Test Drives


Kia takes the mid-size Optima sedan up a notch with the introduction of the turbo-charged SX model for 2011.  The all-new Optima SX turbo is longer, wider and lower than last year’s model and is based on an all-new platform.  It also employs engine management systems like direct fuel injection and turbocharging to help increase power and performance without sacrificing fuel efficiency.  Its smooth flowing lines speak of grace and style and offer a hint of European luxury.

The all-new 2011 Optima SX turbo projects a high-performance yet elegant image with its unique silhouette and sleek stance.  The striking face features Kia’s signature bold tabbed grille that is ‘blacked-out’ and is surrounded by standard HID headlamps.  Longer, wider and lower than before, Optima’s coupe-like profile is enhanced by a sweeping chrome arc that flows from the A through C pillars, a distinctive design motif that visually lowers the car further and enhances its proportions.  Optima’s roofline connects with its high and pronounced shoulder line that leads to its sculpted flanks and extended wheelbase.  Boldly flared wheel arches stuffed with 18X7.5 inch sport designed machine finish alloy wheels wrapped with 225/45R18 inch low-profile performance tires, and a raked cabin create a sedan with a graceful muscular stance.  Further enhancing the performance and luxury styling of the all-new 2011 Optima SX turbo includes heat extractors on each front fender, dual, chrome exhaust tips, solar glass, outside mirror turn signal indicators, ‘blacked-out’ lower grille with foglamps, chrome-body-color door handles, LED rear combination lights, rear lip spoiler, sculpted side sills, aero wiper blades, and black front brake calipers, that achieve a true performance look.

From the moment the door opens, Optima SX turbo presents an immediate sense of a driver’s car.  The instrument panel is contoured toward you suggesting a cockpit feel with precise gauges and controls for an overall sport performance experience without sacrificing comfort or roominess.  Paddle shifters behind the leather-wrapped/tilt/telescoping steering wheel and aluminum foot pedals convey that Optima SX turbo is built for drivers who are passionate about cars.  The high console with an aluminum and carbon fiber trim holds a short shifter adding to the cockpit perception while the panoramic sunroof provides an open-air feeling.

Offering occupants both space and comfort with a long list of standard convenience features, the sedan’s chic cabin unifies with the exterior by design by welcoming its passengers with power-adjustable and unique black leather woven seat trim, Supervision meter cluster with LCD display, a center fascia and meter housing, soft trim with French seams, lighted metal door scuff plates, power door locks, power windows, sun visor extensions, cooling glovebox, dual map lamps, grab handles above each door, storage slots in each door, cruise control, variable speed intermittent wipers/washers, USB audio input jacks for connecting with MP3 players, Bluetooth, steering wheel mounted voice activation controls, pull-down center armrest with dual cupholders in the rear 60/40 split-folding/heated seat, push button stop/start, dual-zone A/C with rear vents, two-driver memory setting, auto-dimming reaview mirror with Homelink, auto light control, rear reading lights, floor mats, Kia navigation system with backup camera and an eight-speaker Infinity premium audio system.  There is nothing missing in this cabin that I would want.  I felt one with the car as soon as I pushed the start button and heard the engine fire up.

The Optima SX turbo is distinctive, right down to its all-new platform.  Optima’s low, lean and powerful stance is assisted through it overall length of 190.7 inches, an increase of 1.7 inches from last year’s model.  Optima SX turbo is built on a platform with an overall wide of 72.1 inches and a wheelbase of 110 inches, an increase of 2.9 inches, and has a low ground clearance of 5.3 inches for enhanced aerodynamics.  Optima SX turbo’s lightweight design uses high-tensile-strength steel to enhance structural strength while also achieving high torsional stiffness, benefitting handling, ride quality and refinement.

Built on a unibody frame, the front-wheel-drive Optima SX turbo utilizes front and rear independent suspension systems that are sport-tuned to achieve the great degree of precision and sharpness behind the wheel at speed or when challenging curving roads.

MacPherson struts are used in front with high-performance dampers, coil springs and an anti-roll bar.  The rear multi-link setup includes high-performance dampers, coil springs and an anti-roll bar.

The electric power-assisted, rack & pinion steering system is an excellent match for the unique suspension and gives quick reaction to your inputs at the wheel.  The faster you go the quicker the reaction as you move into triple-digit highway speeds or when entering a sharp corner.  You’ll get excellent feedback from the road and a great on-center feel.

The all-new 2011 Optima SX turbo is powered by a potent turbocharged 2.0 liter GDI, (gas direct injection), DOHC, all-aluminum, four-cylinder engine that generates 274hp at 6,000rpm and 269lb.ft. of torque from 1,750-4,500rpm.  This new engine is smooth and quiet at speed, until you mash your foot down on the aluminum throttle and hear a deep growl coming from the dual exhaust in the rear.

The torque is transferred to the front wheels via Kia’s six-speed Sportmatic clutchless transmission.  You can drive in full automatic or use the steering-wheel mounted paddle shifters or put the stick shifter into the manual gate and push up for higher gears or push back to lower the gear selection.  Shifting gears is quick and couldn’t be easier.

Even with the turbocharger the SX turbo returns an excellent 24mpg/city and 34mpg/highway mileage specs.  It is the best of both worlds as other turbocharged engines fitted into the competition barely clear 20mpg/highway and the high teens in the city.

Quickly and safely slowing the new Kia Optima SX turbo down from speed are large, four-wheel disc brakes.  Up front are 12.6 inch vented discs clamped with dual-piston calipers while 11.2 inch solid discs are clamped with large, single-piston calipers in the rear.  Standard ABS, BA, Traction Control, Hill Assist Control and Electronic Stability Control helps you maintain control during severe braking maneuvers.

The 2011 Optima SX turbo is equipped with a high level of standard safety features including six airbags (dual advanced front and front-seat mounted side as well as full-length side curtain), front active headrests, side-impact door beams, height-adjustable front seatbelts with pretensioners, three-point seatbelts for all seating positions, LATCH system for child seats and a Tire Pressure Monitoring System.

The all-new 2011 Optima SX turbo is one of the most beautiful sedans on the road and backed up with a sporty cabin, luxurious features, a high-performing powertrain and suspension that leaves many of the competition far behind.  Prices start at just $26,995.00 and my fully-loaded test model stickered for just $30,145.00.



  • Price: Base Optima LX $18,995 / Base Optima SX Turbo $26,995 / As-Tested 30,145
  • Engine: 2.0-liter Turbocharged 4-cylinder 274 horsepower @ 6000 rpm / 269 ft. lbs. torque @ 1750 rpm
  • Track: f/r-62.8/62.8in.
  • Headroom: f/r-40/37.8in.
  • Legroom: f/r-45.5/34.7in.
  • Interior volume: 117.6cu.ft.
  • Passenger volume: 102.2cu.ft.
  • Trunk volume: 15.4cu.ft.
  • Weight distribution: f/r-59/41%
  • Turning circle: 35.8ft.
  • Fuel tank: 18.5 gallons
  • Curb weight: 3,385lbs.
  • 0-60 mph: 6.5 seconds

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