New Car Review: 2011 Kia Optima Turbo

Front 3/4 view of blue 2011 Kia Optima Turbo
The 2011 Kia Optima Turbo.

It occurs to me I don't know the Korean word for "hat-trick". Or the one for "three-peat".
It's just never come up.

Until now.

If the face above looks familiar to regular TireKicker readers, that's because it is. It's the Kia Optima Turbo. On September 10, we reviewed the base Optima, on October 11, the Optima Hybrid, and now, on November 19, it's the Turbo's turn.

One car, three powerplants. The  standard Optima has 200 horsepower, the Optima Hybrid packs 166 horsepower from its gasoline engine and an additional 40 from the electric, for a total of 206 (and neither of those cars is slow) and the Optima Turbo brings 274 horses to the party.

Rear view of the 2011 Kia Optima Turbo.
You also get a sport-tuned suspension, high performance dampers and 18-inch tires with Sport Design Alloy wheels...which are controversial, but we like 'em.

The rest of the car? Loaded like Lindsay Lohan on a Friday night. Dual-zone climate control, AM/FM/CD/mp3 audio system with Sirius satellite radio, USB, auxilary jacks and Bluetooth. Leather. power everything. HID headlamps. LED taillamps.

For $25,995.

Yes, you read that right. A loaded, big luxurious and sporty sedan that looks like the two pictures above and has 274 horsepower for five bucks shy of 26 large.  The uplevel standard Optima (the EX) starts at $22,495. The Optima Hybrid begins at $26,500.

The 2011 Kia Optima Turbo interior.
Yes, a mere $505 spread between the Turbo and the Hybrid. Odds are, though a Hybrid intender won't seriously consider the Turbo and vice-versa. So your question will be "should I spend the $3,500 extra to move up from the Optima to the Optima Turbo and party with those 74 extra ponies under the hood?"

The good news is that if you do, you'll pay the smallest imaginable penalty in gas mileage. Here are the EPA figures:

Optima: 24 city/34 highway

Optima Turbo: 22 city/34 highway

A draw on the highway...a two mpg penalty in the city.

Operating purely on base price, the Turbo makes a strong case for itself. But base price is only part of the story. For as our Optima got optioned up to $27,440 from $22,495, the Optima Turbo didn't sit at $25,995. Two option boxes got checked by the Kia PR people...both with sizable price tags.

The Technology Package (Navigation with back-up camera, Sirius Traffic, and an 8-speaker Infinity  audio system): $2,000.

The SX Premium Package (Panoramic sunroof, power front passenger seat, driver seat memory, heated and cooled front seats and heated ourboard rear seats).

With $695 freight and handling, the bottom line becomes $30,840. And that becomes a fairly pricey Kia, as good and as fast as it is.

The good news is that nothing in either of those two packages is indispensable (though the 8-speaker Infinity upgrade to the audio system is awfully nice), so you could just go stock and come in below $27K.

Frankly, all three Optimas amaze us, and we've been driving and noticing the continual progress of the brand. If you haven't driven a Kia in a while, or ever, you'll be astonished.

During our week with the Turbo, I had a parking lot conversation with a guy who drives a 5-series BMW, had just test driven the Kia Optima Turbo and was considering trading. Not because the Optima Turbo is a match for the Bimmer, but because it gets him most of what he enjoys in the BMW and puts money back in his pocket for other things like food, clothing, shelter and education for his kids.

Any one of the Optimas (Optima, Optima Hybrid, Optima Turbo) would be a solid choice. The Turbo's the most fun.

2011 Kia Optima Turbo

Base price: $25,995.

As tested: $30,840.

Likes: Styling, room, comfort, power.

Dislikes: None.

EPA estimate: 22 mpg city/34 mpg highway.