Kia is going green at this year’s Chicago Auto Show. In addition to a hybrid crossover with Prius-like fuel economy, the South Korean car maker has introduced two gasoline-electric versions of the Optima that will hit the market in time for the 2017 model year. All three models are grouped in a new sub-brand called Kia Motors EcoDynamics.
Designed to be 10 percent more efficient than the outgoing model, the new Optima Hybrid uses a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 154 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and a 38-kilowatt electric motor that replaces the torque converter in the six-speed automatic transmission. The two power sources deliver 193 ponies, though performance and fuel economy figures haven’t been published yet.
The lithium-polymer battery pack is neatly hidden under the trunk floor, a packaging solution that allows Kia to offer 60/40 split-folding rear seats. Kia has put a big emphasis on safety, and the Optima hybrid comes with a raft of electronic driving aids including autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, a surround-view monitor, and a lane departure warning system. Inside, passengers are treated to real stitching on the doors, a 10-speaker sound system, and a wireless phone charger.
Need something more efficient? Kia has you covered with a plug-in hybrid model that teams the aforementioned 2.0-liter with a bigger 50-kilowatt electric motor built into a six-speed automatic transmission. The energy stored in a 9.8kWh lithium-ion polymer battery pack allows the Optima PHEV to drive for 27 miles without using a single drop of gasoline. With both power sources running, it can go for about 600 miles between fill-ups.
It takes less than three hours to top up the battery pack when the Optima is plugged into a 240-volt (level 2) charger, and less than nine hours when using a 120-volt unit. The driver can engage hybrid mode, which relies on both power sources to provide the best possible gas mileage, all-electric mode, which shuts off the four-banger, or charging mode, which sends as much electricity as possible back to the battery pack. When the pack is charged, the driver can choose to zap the front wheels right away or to keep the motor off in order to save the electricity for later.
Both hybrids feature Kia’s Coasting Guide technology, which uses visual and audible signals to tell the driver when to coast and when to brake in order to maximize fuel efficiency. Additionally, the Optima PHEV receives a specific infotainment system that helps the driver find nearby charging stations. It can also be configured to send important information such as how much juice is left in the pack, how long until it’s fully charged, and so forth.
The 2017 Kia Optima Hybrid and Optima PHEV will go on sale later this year. Pricing information will be published in the weeks leading up to their on-sale date.
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