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The Rocky Mountain-high elevations and twisting, turning roads between ski resorts in Aspen and Vail, Colorado wouldn’t necessarily be the first choice for introducing a new four-cylinder sedan to the media. But Kia executives were so confident in the performance of the company’s 2016 Kia Optima engine that they recently did just that, and the all new Optima did not disappoint.
In fact, it thrived in the two-mile-high altitude, crossing the Continental Divide with the power of a finely-tuned sports car, the quiet drive of an expensive European sedan, along with the luxury and comfort of a high-end limousine.
The 2016 Kia Optima tackled the task, no matter how challenging.
The Optima, Kia’s top-selling model in in the U.S., overcomes the stigma of the often dull and boring midsize sedan segment with its design, abundance of premium convenience features, and exceptional refinement, delivering a class-up experience to those looking for higher levels of sophistication in their day-to-day driving.
Available in five trim levels-”LX, LX 1.6T, EX, SX and SXL-”the front-wheel-drive Optima is slightly longer (0.4 inches) and wider (1.2 inches) than the current model. The backseat leg room is noticeably more than one would expect to find in a mid-size sedan.
The difference in performance-”and why there is no need for Kia to offer a larger engine in the Optima-”is the new 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that’s mated to a seven-speed Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT).
Available with three engine choices, the Optima retains two power plants that carry over from the previous generation: the 2.4-liter GDI four-cylinder, available on the LX and EX models, and the 2.0-liter GDI turbo engine, available on the SXL and SX models. The 2.4-liter produces 185 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 178 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,000 rpm. The 2.0-liter turbo generates 245 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 260 lb.-ft. of torque at 1,350 rpm.
Both engines work with a six-speed automatic transmission with Sportmatic shifting, and the SX and SXL trims add paddle shifters. Both engines promise improved fuel economy of 25 mpg in the city, 37 on the highway for a combined 30 mpg overall, and better performance and drivability with maximum torque now available at lower RPM.
All new for the 2016 model is a 1.6-liter four-cylinder turbo engine that will be offered on the LX trim, pushing out 178 horsepower at 5,500 rpm and a stout 195 lb.-ft. of torque at just 1,500 rpm. This 1.6-liter is mated to a seven-speed DCT, which is a first for the Kia brand. The transmission optimizes the engine’s responsiveness for a sporty feel that doesn’t sacrifice fuel economy, getting mpg ratings of 28 city/39 highway/32 combined. Michelin tires are available on select trims, another first for the Optima.
In the cabin, the Optima’s technology includes UVO, Kia’s connectivity system featuring four additional services not previously found in the Optima: Geo-fencing; Speed Alert; Curfew Alert and Driving Score. Also, the Optima is the first Kia to offer Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, which allow drivers to access a suite of core functions from their smartphones.
A standard six-speaker audio system will satisfy all but the most demanding enthusiasts, but true audiophiles will gravitate to a Kia-first available Harman/Kardon QuantumLogic 7 Premium Surround Sound Audio System, which includes 10 speakers, Clari-Fi 7 technology and an upgraded 630-watt digital amplifier. Clari-Fi is a music restoration technology that rebuilds audio signals that are lost in the digital compression process, bringing back the core sound of music that is lost in digital compression.