The Kia Optima is out, and the Kia K5 is in. With the name change comes a whole new approach and attitude. Kia’s most powerful midsize sedan ever borrows from the Stinger for a sporty makeover that greets the world with an absolutely angry glare. Kia calls it one of the biggest generational leaps forward in recent automotive history, and it certainly looks like a big one from where we’re sitting.Kia has really upped its profile in quality and reliability over the years, but it’s still pushing to become a brand known for cars and SUVs that stick out in consumers minds for more than just being reliable worker bees, vehicles with a little more flash and attitude. Those efforts have given us the Stinger and Telluride, and now Kia turns attention to giving its midsize sedan category a shot in the arm.Sitting on the performance-enhanced third-generation N3 platform, the K5 drops nearly an inch (2.5 cm) in height while stretching 2 in (5 cm) longer bumper to bumper and 1.8 in (4.6 cm) in wheelbase. The reworked figures set the stage for a lither, more athletic form, and Kia molds the added length into an extended, fastback-style silhouette with tiny rear deck lid. All in all, Kia successfully stands an athletic body behind a sharpened “tiger face” to complete the sportier, more powerful look it’s going for.The K5’s tiger face starts with the sharpened, intensified stare of slimmed headlamps underlined by what Kia calls “Heart Beat” daytime running lights. They remind us more of the streaking light in a photo of a quick-moving sports car, lending a bit of the “motion while standing still” auto execs get giddy over.The vehicle’s curvy hood rushes lower down into the thinned, straightened tiger-nose grille that stretches wide into the headlamps. A large lower grille swallows air in big, steady gulps.
The K5 brings two turbo engine options, the highlight being the 290-hp 2.5-liter GDI + MPI turbo four that pushes the car from 0 to 60 mph (96.5 km/h) in 5.8 seconds when paired with the eight-speed “wet” dual-clutch transmission. The less flashy 1.6-liter GDI turbo pairs up with an eight-speed automatic and puts out 180 hp. A front-biased all-wheel drive will emerge on the options list a few months after the K5’s initial launch. Kia says the system’s electro-hydraulic coupling control provides quicker response and improved control.
Available driver-assistance features are set to include blind spot collision avoidance, navigation-based smart cruise control-curve and highway driving assistant. Lane following assist, forward collision warning/avoidance and driver attention warning are part of the standard equipment package.
Inside, Kia offers choice of 8- and 10.3-in touchscreen infotainment systems. The latter brings in navigation with real-time traffic, dual-device Bluetooth connectivity and UVO telematics. The available 12-speaker Bose premium audio system is tuned for an immersive, surround-like sound field that adjusts to compensate for driving speed. Other interior tech highlights include Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, available wireless smartphone charging and natural-language voice recognition.
Kia will launch the K5 in four trims this summer (Northern Hemisphere), adding the GT in the fall. It didn’t announce pricing this week, but we can expect it fairly soon since the K5 will be at dealerships in only a few weeks’ time. For reference, the 2020 Optima starts at US$24,355 after $965 destination fee.