Kia's New K5 Midsize Car Will Be Sportier Than Ever

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Automotive Editor

Based out of the Washington, D.C. area, Joel Patel is an automotive journalist that hails from Northern Virginia. His work has been featured on various automotive outlets, including Autoweek, Digital Trends, and Autoblog. When not writing about cars, Joel enjoys trying new foods, wrenching on his car, and watching horror movies. 

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, Automotive Editor - July 1, 2020

Earlier this October, Kia dropped some details on the K5 midsize sedan – the vehicle set to replace the Optima. While we knew that a name change was coming and that Kia penned a new, radical design for the sedan, we didn’t know a lot of details behind the vehicle. Now, we do, as Kia’s introduced the American version of the all-new K5 midsize sedan.

Getting the most obvious thing out of the way, Kia’s midsize sedan for the American market is no longer called the Optima. It’s now called the K5, which is the same name the sedan goes by in South Korea. Then, there’s the edgier, more dramatic design. Underneath the new sheet metal sits the automaker’s modular N3 platform that’s found on the Hyundai Sonata. That could explain why the two midsize sedans share a similar silhouette. Compared to the old Optima, the K5 is 1 inch wider, 2 inches longer, and 0.8 inches lower.

Having a sharp design is only one part of making a car sporty, with the powertrain playing an even more crucial role. The standard engine for the U.S. market is a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder that makes 180 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque. A new eight-speed automatic transmission is standard, while all-wheel drive is now an option for the engine. The addition of all-wheel drive is a feature that will help the K5 stay competitive among the likes of the Nissan Altima and Toyota Camry, both of which are also available with all-wheel-drive systems.

The powertrain that really shows Kia focused on athleticism with the new K5 is the newly available turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder. It’s rated at 290 hp and 311 lb-ft of torque and is paired with a new, wet, eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. Kia claims the DCT is exclusive for the segment and helps the vehicle get to 60 mph from a standstill in 5.8 seconds.

Kia K5

Out of a few direct competitors including the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Mazda Mazda6, and Nissan Altima, the K5’s available 2.5-liter turbo four-cylinder engine will be one of the most powerful motors in the segment. Only the Camry’s available 3.5-liter V6 engine is more powerful with 301 hp. Beyond that the available engines in the Accord (252 hp), Mazda6 (227 hp), and Altima (236 hp) all lag behind.

Four drive modes – normal, smart, sport, and custom – will allow drivers to alter the vehicle’s engine, transmission, all-wheel-drive system (if so equipped), and steering feel. The sporty GT trim adds an additional Sport+ mode, while all-wheel-drive K5s come with a snow drive mode.

Compared to the Optima’s range-topping turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, the new 2.5-liter motor is a powerhouse. The old Optima’s most-powerful engine made 245 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. The engine utilized a standard six-speed automatic transmission. While punchy, we’re expecting a lot more oomph from the new engine and much quicker shifts.

Kia claims that it’s made a few changes to the K5’s suspension for “sporty handling, responsiveness and stability,” but doesn’t exactly spell out what those changes are. A few models will come with 18- and 19-inch wheels wearing grippy Pirelli P-Zero tires, which are found on Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Maseratis, Aston Martins, Alfa Romeos and other high-performance manufacturers.

Things are different on the inside, as well, as the redesigned dashboard now flows into the instrument cluster and results in a less cluttered center console layout. Overall, it’s a more upscale design with more premium materials and improved sound deadening. The shift knob, according to Kia, mirrors one you’ll find in an aircraft, while sporty trims will come with a flat-bottom steering.

New tech features on the K5 include an 8- or 10.25-inch touchscreen with split-screen capability, Bluetooth that can be paired to two smartphones simultaneously, an available 12-speaker Bose audio system, as well as wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto on the smaller touch screen. In terms of safety, forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection, driver attention warning, and lane-keeping assist are standard on every K5. A variety of advanced safety features are available, including a navigation-based adaptive cruise control system that can automatically lower the car’s speed if it knows a corner is coming up.

When the 2021 K5 goes on sale later this summer, it will initially be available in four trims: LX, LXS, GT-Line, and EX. The performance-oriented GT trim will follow shortly after. Only front-wheel-drive models will be available at the beginning, as all-wheel drive is set to arrive before the end of 2020. Pricing hasn’t been announced yet, but we wouldn’t be surprised to see the vehicle crest the $25,000 mark with all of the changes. The 2020 Optima started at $24,115 with the destination fee.

Learn more about the 2021 Kia K5 »

, Automotive Editor

Based out of the Washington, D.C. area, Joel Patel is an automotive journalist that hails from Northern Virginia. His work has been featured on various automotive outlets, including Autoweek, Digital Trends, and Autoblog. When not writing about cars, Joel enjoys trying new foods, wrenching on his car, and watching horror movies. 

Follow On: Twitter

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