It’s been a challenging year for the auto industry, what with plunging sales, factory shutdowns and the lack of the auto shows that normally serve as backdrop for new product introductions.
That’s one reason why Kia is running late with the U.S. rollout of the new K5, the Optima replacement it first showed in Korean trim late last year. The new model, which it hopes will “disrupt” the midsize sedan market, finally made its debut thanks to a media webinar on Tuesday afternoon.
Based on an all-new platform that’s longer, lower and wider than that used by the Optima, the 2021 Kia K5 will get a new look, a new line-up of turbocharged engines, optional all-wheel-drive, and an assortment of new creature comfort and safety technologies.
The Optima was one of the most important products in Kia history, transforming a brand known for cheap, small products into a serious contender across a broad segment of the market. The K5 “represents the latest milestone in Kia’s transformation into a creator of desirable, world-class cars,” Thomas Schemera, head of the Product Division for Kia, previously said of the new product line. He’s going to have to hope so, anyway, considering the sharp decline in demand for sedans in today’s SUV and CUV-crazed market.
While final U.S. specs haven’t been released yet, the model shown in Korea late last autumn grew about an inch wider and two inches longer, its wheelbase stretched by 1.8 inches. But it also was lower by about 0.8 inches as it migrated to the new N3 architecture.
The new sedan’s styling clearly was influenced by the Kia GT. It features the latest take on the marque’s familiar “tiger-nose” grille, here stretching nearly the full width of the front end and wrapping under new, more slit-like headlamps. From a profile perspective, the sedan features a chrome strip rising up the A-pillar, running along the roof line and then wrapping around the rear decklid. The back end features equally aggressive, wrap-around lighting.
Depending upon the model, the K5 will be offered with 16-, 17 or 18-inch wheels, with 19s offered on the GT version, the automaker noted, “as well as more aggressive front and rear bumpers, special ‘GT’ badges, as well as dual twin exhaust tips.”
The K5 GT and GT-Line models, meanwhile, will feature a “shark skin-inspired mesh design on the front grille and dual chrome exhaust tip garnish,” Kia noted in a news release.
Inside, the move to create a more luxurious appearance carries on with more premium materials and finishes. The sedan now features a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster and offers a 10.25-inch touchscreen infotainment display, depending on market and model.
Other upscale features include adjustable mood lighting and wireless cellphone charging. There’s also an optional, 12-speaker Bose audio system. Kia has not confirmed whether the 8.0-inch head-up display offered on the Korean K5 will be an option in the U.S. The two GT models, meanwhile, will feature a flat-bottom sport steering wheel. The GT also gets special Pirelli “summer-tuned” tires and an additional Sport+ driving mode.
Other features will include wireless versions of both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, wireless smartphone charging and active noise cancelation. The K5 will feature a base, 8-inch touchscreen, with an upgrade to 10.25 inches available.
In terms of advanced driver assistance systems, forward collision warning with brake assistance, lane following assistance and driver attention warning come standard. A number of other features, including blind spot detection, rear cross-traffic alert and highway driving assistance, are options.
The K5 offers two initial powertrains, a 1.6-liter turbo-four making 180 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque. It features a continuously variable valve duration system, first introduced by Kia and sibling Hyundai a year ago, to deliver both better performance and improved mileage.
The alternative is a 2.5-liter turbo-four making 290 hp and 311 lb-ft, enough to launch from 0-60 in 5.8 seconds.
The smaller engine is paired with a new eight-speed automatic, the bigger powertrain featuring a new wet-clutch eight-speed DCT. Both engines can be ordered with a front-wheel-biased all-wheel-drive system.
The 2021 Kia K5, which is built at the automaker’s plant in West Point, Georgia, will launch in the U.S. over the summer in four trim levels, the K5 GT will follow this coming autumn. Pricing has not been released yet. The current 2020 Kia Optima starts at $23,390.