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Published on Sun, Jul 3, 2011

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

2011 Kia Optima EX

By Tommy Grafman Kia made a big splash this year at the 2011 Sprite Slam Dunk Contest, when Los Angeles Clipper Blake Griffin jumped over an Optima to slam-dunk the ball and win the contest! One of the most impressive moves ever and the crowd went crazy. The Optima’s place in history is secured. Just in case you missed it, you can watch it here. The 2011 Kia Optima is the surprise that no one saw coming. And after that great slam moment, people still comment, “That’s a Kia?” Quite an intro, but then again, how many other cars have been used in a slam-dunk contest? The Optima arrived at the office, and we were happy to see that it’s even better looking in person. This car is a beauty. I’m looking forward to taking the new Optima on a road trip to Vegas with my colleague, Todd. It’s 270 miles there and another 270 miles back--a lot of driving in a two-day period. When Todd arrives, he says aloud, “That’s a Kia?” ’Seems to be a running theme. The Optima feels open and roomy inside, especially with the Panoramic Moon Roof. We are completely comfortable. The inside is leather and wood trimmed, with a look comparing very favorably to luxury cars. The trunk is big and spacious. We are all packed, and ready to roll.


Initially, I’m concerned that the four- cylinder engine might be underpowered. It quickly becomes apparent that the 2.4L engine has plenty of power, but the real bonus is that we are getting up to 40 mpg on the highway … a nice touch when gas prices are over $4.00 per gallon. The Optima is a well-built car with solid doors that not only feel good when you open and close them, but also help with sound dampening. That translates to a quiet cabin when driving. We are impressed with this car. Driving the Optima is a dream, with good visibility, an easy to read cluster and extreme comfort. The Automatic Climate control combines nicely with the vented leather seats. And not only are the front and rear seats and steering wheel heated, but the front seats are cooled too (even the glove box is cooled). This puts a big smile on our faces as our expectations are handily exceeded. The miles seem to melt away as we head down the highway. On the technology front, the Optima is loaded, with Bluetooth for music and integrated phone support, USB and auxilary jacks, AM/FM/MP3 audio with an Infinity audio system and 8-speakers and sub-woofer. This music system rocks! And because it is integrated with Bluetooth, when you get a phone call, the music automatically lowers and switches over to your phone--completely hands free. Moreover, everything you need to control is on the steering wheel for thumb access.


The Optima is definitely a looker. With bold sleek dramatic lines, lowered and longer than the previous model, this car is excitement (yes, it’s a KIA). The Optima looks like it has a touch of German design (Editor’s note: Kia’s chief designer is Peter Schreyer, the former head of design for Audi and VW). The car is getting looks and people are impressed. We pulled into Barstow to grab something to eat. After getting out of the car, we realize we are not fatigued after the two-hour drive. Back on the road, the KIA is keeping up with traffic and able to pass others when needed. I pop on the Navigation system, just to see the miles count down. Within twenty minutes a voice comes over the music, alerting us of traffic conditions up ahead. It warns us and offers suggestions in case we want to reroute. The GPS is integrated with Sirius Traffic, nice touch. Our next pit stop is at Alien Fresh Jerky in Baker, one of those interesting rarities that you get while on the road. We stock up on Abducted Cow Beef Jerky and Tequila Pistachios and we’re on the road again. The Optima is eager to run. And we see the gas gauge is still more than half a tank.


We finally pull into Vegas. Both Todd and myself are very impressed with the Optima. This car has forever changed our opinion of Kia. After our night in Sin City, we are ready to drive back home. And this time, we we’re not dreading it. We both know we’re going to enjoy the ride. SUMMARY JUDGMENT A great car, with high-end stylish looks and great fuel economy. For information on Kia vehicles:


SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: 2011 Kia Optima EX Price: $22,495.00 (base) $27,440.00, as tested, including Technology package with Navigation system w/back-up camera and Sirius Traffic, Infinity Audio System with 8-speakers and sub-woofer, EX Premium Package with Panoramic Sunroof, Power Front passenger seat, Driver seat memory, Heated and cooled front seats, heated outboard Rear seats and Heated Steering wheel. EPA fuel economy rating (miles per gallon): 24 city and 34 highway (observed range during our Vegas trip: 29/40) Engine: 2.4L Gas Direct Injection DOHC 16-valve four-cylinder engine with variable valve timing Horsepower: 200 @ 6300 rpm Torque: 186 pound-feet @4250 rpm Transmission: 6-speed Sportmatic Drive configuration: Front-wheel drive Steering: Power-assisted rack and pinion Suspension Four-wheel independent MacPherson strut front suspension Multi-link rear suspension Front and rear stabilizer bars Wheels and tires: 16 x 6.5 inch alloy wheels with P205/65R16 94H all-season tires Dimensions Length: 190.7 in. Width: 72.0 in. Height: 57.3 in. Curb weight: 3223 pounds

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