2012 Kia Optima SX: Turbo with the trimmings

2012 Kia Optima SX

2012 Kia Optima SX

Be careful when you say Kia Optima Turbo because it could be one of two cars. One is the Kia Optima EX Turbo and the other is the Kia Optima SX. The former is a Kia Optima EX with a turbocharged engine, as the name suggests. The latter is the Optima with the turbo engine and more sporting accoutrements, the turbo motor just assumed. It’s that car this review is about, the 2012 Kia Optima SX.

Perhaps the extra power of the turbo engine isn’t needed. Indeed, we were perfectly happy with the non-turbo  2011 Kia Optima EX when we drove it. Its 200 horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine was sprightly and slick, and Kia’s now homegrown (well, as part of the Hyundai group) six-speed automatic transmission is a smooth shifter and well-matched to the engine.

Except now we’ve driven the 2012 Optima with 2.0-liter turbo engine.

The new 2.0-liter turbo engine made its Kia debut in the 2011 Kia Optima SX and as an option with the 2011 Kia Optima EX. And it’s a honey. The engine is rated at an impressive 274 horsepower–more, for example, than the 2.0-liter four in Subaru’s sporty Impreza WRX (165 hp) or Audi’s 2.0-liter four (211 hp).  The turbo engine also has a broad torque curve, rated at 269 lb-ft from 1800 to 4500 rpm.

Technically named the 2.0 GDI-T (for gasoline direct injection – turbo), the engine (warning: tech stuff follows) has an advanced twin-scroll turbocharger of Hyundai/Kia design and unique “air guide duct” cooling for the intercooler. The “twin-scroll” refers to the way the turbo (oil-cooled, by the way) supplies boost to the engine, with cylinders one and four paired and two and three paired for a more consistent air flow to each cylinder. Combined with direct fuel injection, it increases the precision of control of the combustion event, producing more power while making it possible for the turbo engine to run on regular fuel.

2012 Kia Optima SX engine

The 2012 Kia Optima SX comes with a potent 2.0-liter turbocharged engine.

The engine, for those concerned about durability, carries the same warranty as other Kia engines–10 years/100,000 miles–Kia noting that as part of its development, the engine had to be able to survive 300 hours at its 6500 rpm redline, plus a shorter duration at 6800 rpm in an overspeed test.

The 2012 Kia Optima SX has 18×7.5-inch wheels with 225/45R18 tires, and the Optima SX wheels are what define distinctive. The wheels have flat disc faces with radial lines that extend to the rims and are anything but traditional. We found ourselves headscratching but others love the style. Beauty is in the eye… and for those whose eyes see differently than Kia’s, 18-inch “luxury” alloy wheels the same size are optional.

The 2011 Kia SX shares a blacked-out grille with the EX Turbo but features exclusive to the SX include HID self-leveling headlights and LED taillights, a rear lip spoiler and SX-only front and rear lower bumper design, and “sculpted” side sill design. The SX also gets its suspension sport tuned.