Baby steps: Kia moves upmarket with the Optima SX Limited

Kia Optima SX Limited profile viewKia, once the cheapest of cheap cars, has turned its sights to the luxury market. Americans are still waiting for the Korean company’s K9, a large rear-wheel drive sedan that could do for Kia’s bad reputation what the Genesis did for parent company Hyundai. In the meantime, Kia is adding options to the midsize Optima. At $35,275, the Optima SX Limited is the most expensive Kia ever.

For an extra $7,200 over an Optima SX, Kia buyers will get a more upscale driving environment. The seats, center console, and door panels are wrapped in Nappa leather, while the steering wheel, doors, and shifter get wood accents. Luxury brands like Jaguar may be moving away from leather and wood trim, but Kia seems to be going for credibility over trendiness.

On the outside, the SX Limited gets chrome 18-inch wheels and red brake calipers that would make any street racer proud. Other exterior tweaks include LED daytime running lamps and a chrome rear spoiler. The changes are small, but luckily the Optima is already one of the best-looking sedans on the road.

The SX Limited is powered by the same 2.0-liter turbocharged I-4 as the SX. The turbo motor makes 274 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque, and is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. Kia opted for a smaller turbocharged engine over a V6 in the name of fuel economy; the I-4 has been the top Optima engine since the car’s launch.

With lots of new trim and no significant mechanical changes, it’s hard to see why someone would pay an extra $7,200 for an Optima Kia Optima SX Limited interiorSX Limited. For that money, buyers should expect a more powerful engine or some new tech. The Kia’s inflated price makes it much more costly than a Toyota Camry SE V6 ($30,875), a Honda Accord EX-L V6 with navigation ($32,720), or a Volkswagen Passat SEL Premium ($33,720).

The Optima already looks good, both inside and out, so the SX Limited’s add ons aren’t just expensive, they’re unnecessary. An Audi A4 may have LED daytime running lights, and an Infiniti G37 may have a chrome rear spoiler, but that’s not what makes them luxury cars. In this case, beauty really is more than skin deep. Kia knows this, or else it wouldn’t have gone to the trouble of building the K9. Kia shoppers should skip the Optima SX Limited and wait for that car if they want a real luxury vehicle.


Rivian CEO R.J. Scaringe wants his startup to be the Patagonia of electric cars

Rivian is the latest startup hyping new electric cars. But unlike most other startups, Rivian is focusing on off-road vehicles. It launched an electric pickup truck and SUV at the 2018 Los Angeles Auto Show. CEO R.J. Scaringe explains the…
Product Review

Audi built an electric SUV for buyers who want gasoline-free to mean stress-free

We finally got to spend time behind the wheel of the electric 2019 Audi E-Tron bustling cities and arid desert of the United Arab Emirates to see how it compares with Jaguar and Tesla's competitors.

Nissan and Italdesign’s GT-R50 concept will become a $1.1 million reality

The Nissan GT-R50 is a customized sports car built to celebrate the 50th anniversaries of both the GT-R and design firm Italdesign. Underneath the sleek bodywork sits a 710-horsepower engine fortified with race car components.

Bosch is developing a Rosetta Stone for autonomous and connected cars

Bosch and start-up Veniam want to create a common language that autonomous and connected cars can use. The two firms have developed a connectivity unit that transcends the national boundaries of technology.

Aston Martin bets classic car owners will choose volts over carburetors

Aston Martin has converted one of its most sought-after classic models to run on electricity instead of gasoline. The roadster uses electric components sourced from the upcoming Rapide E sedan.

Volkswagen may be planning a tougher challenge for its all-electric I.D. R

The Volkswagen I.D. R electric race car may head to the Nürburgring in 2019 for a lap-record attempt, according to a new report. Volkswagen will reportedly aim to set the quickest lap time ever by an electric car.

Car-branded phones need to make a U-turn if they ever want to impress

Your car and your smartphone are becoming one, yet smartphones branded or co-created by car companies are a problem. We look at the history, some examples of the best and worst, then share hopes for the future.

600-hp, $155K Polestar 1 is the alluring Volvo coupe you’ve been waiting for

Volvo's return to the coupe segment just took an interesting turn: the model will join the Polestar lineup, and it will get a 600-hp plug-in hybrid powertrain. The Polestar 1 will be built in China starting in 2019.

The Aston Martin Vanquish Zagato Shooting Brake is the sexiest wagon ever

Aston Martin has revealed new photos of the limited-production Vanquish Zagato Shooting Brake. The Vanquish Zagato line now includes the Shooting Brake, Coupe, Volante, and Speedster, each with bespoke styling.

Ford’s new Shelby GT500 Mustang will have 3D-printed brake parts

Ford's new $45 million Advanced Manufacturing Center will focus on emerging technologies, including 3D printing. One of the staff's first jobs is to print parts for the 700-horsepower Shelby GT500 Mustang.

World’s fastest electric race car to display at Petersen Museum

The Volkswagen I.D. R Pikes Peak race car smashed the all-time record at the hill climb for which it was named. The all-electric VW record-holder will be on display at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles until February 1, 2019.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Folding canoes and ultra-fast water filters

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!

This freewheeling Army truck-turned-tiny home is a labor of love

Most tiny homes are models of efficiency but one British metal worker has redefined the idea, converting an old Army truck into a mobile tiny home that comes with a bed, a sofa, a shower, and a beer garden.

Take a friend stargazing at 202 mph in the 2019 McLaren 720S Spider

McLaren has introduced the 2019 720S Spider. As its name implies, it's a convertible variant of the 720S coupe. The company promises the Spider retains the coupe's dynamism and agility thanks in part to the widespread use of carbon fiber.