Reportedly, Kia Motors is readying to launch its first hardcore sports sedan next year, and if it is anything like the insane twin-turbo K900 seen here, the performance sedan establishment should be on its guard. It’s an interesting move, considering we found the latest version of the turbocharged Optima to be plenty competent in the performance department, even though it’s front-wheel drive and doesn’t come with adaptive dampers.
Dubbed vaguely as “people familiar with the matter,” a group of insiders recently told Reuters that Kia is actively seeking ways in which it can “burnish a sporty, younger image as larger sibling Hyundai Motor builds up its premium offerings.” This is while Hyundai slowly torques on its own Genesis luxury line leaving Kia to twiddle its thumbs, like a hyperactive little brother whose older sibling has just moved out of the house.
Even though cars like the billowy $67,000 K900 luxury sedan have some oversights and miscues, it’s pretty amazing to see how far these brands have come in the last decade alone. For as expensive as the K900 is, you would have to pay nearly double that amount to get the same amenities in a comparable European vehicle. Will Kia ever oust luxury leaders with a sedan like this? Probably not. But it sure as hell is fun to watch the Korean automaker take everyone head-on.
According to one anonymous individual, who Reuters says has extensive knowledge of the automaker’s inner workings, “As Kia has no luxury brand, it is trying to position itself as a sporty brand.”
This may still sound laughable, but Kia is not dicking around when it comes to performance. Every year that it grows, it flexes its sports car muscles bolstered by things like its race programs, twin-scroll and variable turbocharged technology, and an arsenal of performance-musts like properly gated manual gearboxes and clever traction control settings.
According to two separate sources, “Kia aims to start producing the sedan, codenamed CK, in May 2017 and will target annual output of 60,000 vehicles.” Reuters goes on to mention that Kia plans on targeting BMW’s 4 series, as well as the Audi A5, which means that it all boils down to what’s beneath the bonnet.
Reportedly featuring 2.0-, 2.2-, and 3.0-liter engine options, the CK will be featuring single- and dual-turbocharged engines and, with a little luck, an all-wheel and/or rear-wheel drive configuration. Remember, the aforementioned K900 luxo-barge already comes equipped with a rear-wheel drive layout, so Kia already has that knowledge to work off of. With an array of all-wheel drive cars in its fleet already, transitioning over to a sport sedan might end up being easier than you’d think.
Designed to be smaller than Hyundai’s mid-size Genesis Coupe while still rocking four doors, the CK concept would be the first compact sports sedan to ever be offered by either nameplate. Sources say that production is slated for kick-off at a Kia factory outside of Seoul once the Rio gets moved to Mexico for assembly early next year. But manufacturing logistics aside, there’s another conundrum: Kia can’t afford to cannibalize Hyundai sales with this endeavor. Kia’s larger sibling already has plans in place to launch a duo of performance variants under the freshly minted Genesis brand, and with the cars bearing the N designation as well.
Albert Biermann, former chief engineer for BMW’s “M” performance division and all-around mechanical mastermind, abandoned ship over a year ago and is now working for Hyundai in South Korea. While Kia hopes that its sports sedan can capture some of the success it has seen with cars like the Soul, without the direct influence of someone like Biermann it may be a losing pony in the performance sedan sprint.
On the bright side, cars like the Soul are a direct representation of a design-driven rally that chief designer and veteran Audi creator, Peter Schreyer, has been able to infuse within the brand. Kia also has the proper underpinnings in the sedan segment, as cars like the Optima SX-L seen here offer an outstanding turbocharged alternative within the mid-size sedan segment.
“Kia hit a home run with the Soul – they figured out how to keep it fresh and fun,” says Dave Sullivan, product analysis manager at consultancy AutoPacific. “Apply this formula to a rear-wheel drive sedan and they might be able to go after a younger consumer who is bored with the played-out BMW 3-Series but wants to move out of their Soul they have had since college.”