2016 Kia Optima: Next Generation

2016 Optima SXL 2.0 turbo

Experience by Kimatni D. Rawlins

It’s autumn in Aspen, Colorado and the landscape is as idyllic as a Rembrandt painting of the inquisitive sea. Singing trees have shown their true colors as peaceful winds bring rhythm to the nature of Colorado’s energetic flow. A special place indeed with its colorful history, incredible roads and magnetic scenery, Kia was left with minimal location choices for the launch of their all-new 2016 Optima sports sedan. Already a highlight reel of itself, the old Optima has been invigorated with bigger proportions, stronger and more efficient engines and one of the better premium audio systems in the business thanks to harman / kardon by HAMAN.

If you haven’t noticed by now Kia is riding a title wave of success since 2001 when they were at the bottom of the J.D. Power Study in Initial Quality. After 14 hard-earned years Kia is now ranked second behind German sports car brand Porsche in the J.D. Power 2015 U.S. Initial Quality Study. Both the 2015 Kia Soul and the 2015 Sorento have received top awards in overall quality. Pretty impressive don’t you think?

As you can see the Korean automaker is continually challenging automotive convention with their innovations, styles and knack for technological breakthroughs while doing so with value pricing. As the 8th largest auto brand in the U.S. by volume, sales are currently up with 40% of the lion’s share emanating from Optima and Sorento. We can probably thank the LA Clipper’s superstar Blake Griffin for his commercial scripts, alter egos and death-defying dunks for the increased awareness of the Optima moniker over the last several years. Keep your eyes peeled for his hilarious “In the Zone” ad campaign!

2016 Optima

“The Optima changed the way people felt about the Kia brand, and Kia owes much of its growth and success in this country to the car’s head-turning design and sporty performance. The all-new Optima encompasses everything the outgoing model did so well but does it even better. It has matured in all the right ways, from the European sport-sedan design to the premium materials to its improved ride and handling,” said Orth Hedrick, vice president, product planning KMA.

Introduced at the NY Auto Show in 2010 the Optima is Kia’s best seller for last three years and has enjoyed increased sales ever since. It’s anything but ordinary in the eyes of the Koreans. A three-day trip and stay at the Viceroy Snowmass Hotel and Resort in Aspen, Colorado would soon reveal all of the vehicle’s latest attributes. In fact, the persona of the fully loaded White Optima conveniently displayed at the cornerstone of the Viceroy was primly correlated with the luxuriant mountain theme and needs of vacationing guests.

With three engines and five trim levels starting at $21,840 (same price as outgoing model) to decide between, the Optima becomes a situational vehicle for the various driver types in the market place. They consist of the LX, LX 1.6T, EX, SX and SXL, with the LX representing the most popular Optima. Power and performance resonates from carryover engines including the 2.4-liter GDI 4-cylinder (185 horsepower / 178 lb.-ft of torque) found on the LX and EX or the 2-liter GDI turbo engine (245 horsepower / 260 lb.-ft. of torque) that gives life to the SXL and SX models. Both are paired with Kia’s shifty 6-speed automatic transmission with Sportmatic. A new and third engine is the 1.6-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder with 178-horsepower and 195 lb.-ft. of torque. It gets down with a progressive 7-speed Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT). Not bad for a non-German auto! Trekking up to 12,000 feet of elevation on mountain roads the 2-liter turbo felt comfortable without any lag from the thinning of air. In addition steering was positive and on center. Not to mention the leather-wrapped, heated steering wheel itself was thick, bold and multi-functional. With thumb indentions, race-inspired flat bottom and paddle shifters, steering on my SXL model was prepared for the curvature of the snaky Aspen roads. Depending on your mood or road conditions the Driver Mode Select (DMS) lets you customize the type of ride you wish to enjoy between Normal, Sport and Eco modes. Overall, the Optima has been massively improved in every area of dynamics.

2016 Optima SXL 2.0 turbo

Aesthetically, the Optima was already a beautifully chiseled vehicle. It looked dynamic even when sitting still. Yet, Kia endeavored for more to clamor such as increased dimensions and intriguing touches like the Satin metal finishes on the grille. Attractive features include alloy rims (16” to 18”), dual exhaust tips embedded in the lower body rear diffuser, menacing front fascia and chin spoiler, a panoramic sunroof and new, wrap-around Bi-Xenon HID headlights and LED taillights. Around town during typical errand runs the Optima was fine maneuvering, parking and getting through simple traffic. For safety and added performance the rigidity of the Optima’s high-tensile strength steel frame and chassis have been increased considerably.

Step inside and the mass appeal continues. Redesigned front seats, precision stitching, Nappa leathers (rich Merlot and Dark Aubergine) and UVO with either Android Auto and Apple CarPlay raise the stakes. The seats in particular are comfortable, dynamic and offer the option of heating and cooling. UVO, Kia’s infotainment center, is upgraded with new capabilities including Geo-fencing, Speed Alert, Curfew Alert and Driving Score. The 8” touchscreen is simple to operate whether its navigation or music selections. And with Apple CarPlay UVO basically turns itself into an iPhone as it replicates your top featured apps. For the extended drive Bob Marley never sounded better as I rocked station 42 The Joint from the aforementioned harman / kardon premium audio system. With 10 speakers and 630 watts, it uses Clari-Fi to restore audio signals from music compression and QuantumLogic Surround to replace original recording inputs.

Welcome to a brave new world for Kia. They take on positions that most brands are afraid of, and do so with consistency and excitement. Yet, they still keep you safe and sound with advanced technologies such as Blind Spot Detection System, Front Collision Warning System, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Lane Departure Warning System, Surround View Monitor and Autonomous Emergency Braking which can bring the Optima to a halt if need be. With all this, I must be In the Zone!

Camping at Dunton Hot Springs, Colorado

Camping_at_Dunton_Hot_Springs..20Experienced by Kimatni D. Rawlins

The camping experience at Dunton Hot Springs brought back fond memories as a child sleeping with Mother Nature. Of course the fresh air, inspiring views, freedom of life and simplicities of survival in the countryside are the antithesis of modern day luxuries and convenience. But for me, I love disconnecting from technology more often than most so I can enjoy the world as a minimalist, which in turn makes “one” more aware and observant.

To experience the campground we headed to the sensational views of Colorado for a short stay and impressionable experience. Our ride was quiet as we took in the sounds of Colorado life, especially through San Juan National Forest. Upon arriving to the area we proceeded on gravel for the next 12 miles to Dunton Hot Springs’ main entrance. Magnificent is an understatement!

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Founded in 1885, Dunton was originally a gold rush mining town. Its peak population reached 300 residents until only two were left after it became deserted. For decades the couple operated it as a cattle ranch while living off the land. The latest rendition of the town was purchased in 1994 and restored over the following seven years. Today the luxurious, rustic escape sits atop 8,700 feet of altitude and substitutes as a haven for those looking to hike, mountain bike or burn campfires in the middle of the mountains. The log cabins look as authentic as 1885, but step inside and you will feel like a high roller. Moreover, the hot springs are soothing to the skin and satisfying to your soul, especially the featured tub in the meditative bathhouse.

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The journey to Colorado was memorable and my camping fixation has increased.

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Mercedes-Benz Sprinter and Metris: Van Camping at Dunton Hot Springs, Colorado

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Experienced by Kimatni D. Rawlins

I slept in a van last night and it was pretty cool! Actually it was cool since the evening temperature drops considerably in Colorado. The camping experience at Dunton Hot Springs brought back fond memories as a child sleeping with Mother Nature. Of course the fresh air, inspiring views, freedom of life and simplicities of survival in the countryside are the antithesis of modern day luxuries and convenience. But for me, I love disconnecting from technology more often than most so I can enjoy the world as a minimalist, which in turn makes “one” more aware and observant. For that reason I had a highly enjoyable time van camping with Mercedes-Benz (M-B) and their all-new Metris and updated Sprinter Vans.

The ubiquitous Sprinter, that tall European van has been updated for 2015 to continue its impressive array of amenities for suitors. An odd ball to some since hitting the scene in 1995, the Swiss Army knife covers everything from RVing to cargo to industrial delivery applications. M-B, which created a separate division for their van unit sold 26,000 Sprinters in 2014 and is currently up 19.5% year-to-date in correlation to the industry, which is up 14%. The United States is the second biggest market in Sprinter sales behind hometown Germany. My wife’s boss has a custom Sprinter that is more like a condo than any type of automobile. Yan takes it road tripping with his wife at least once a quarter to get away from the intense demands of his consulting job at Deloitte. No need for a hotel room since his pride and joy is embellished with sleeping quarters, a mini kitchen and lounge.

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Since vans generate 1 billion dollars in annual business it isn’t surprising that M-B needed to expand the US line-up with the aptly dubbed Metris. The mid-size commercial application has been around in Europe since 1996 and now makes its American debut. Built in Spain, expect the Metris to provide services for hotels, taxi companies and airport shuttle businesses. It’s basic for now and offers no leather, wood trim, power sliding doors or anything fancy. The Metris is much smaller than the Sprinter but has similar capabilities such as towing 4,960 lbs. or seating up to 8 people, and gets around by way of a 2-liter 4-cylinder direct‐injection turbocharged gasoline engine (208-horsepower) and is paired with a 7-speed automatic transmission with available ECO start/stop. In Europe the Metris rocks a diesel engine – my first choice – but M-B is not seeing the demand in the US currently. Which is peculiar because the Sprinter is outfitted only with diesel engines. I didn’t get to drive the Metris since this trip was only a preview for the pronouncement of its introduction into the American roster. With standard airbags (up to 8), ATTENTION ASSIST, Crosswind Assist and load-adaptive ESP expect the commercial van to go for $28,950 and $32,500 for the passenger model. Optional safety technologies include Blind Spot Assist, Collision Prevention Assist and Lane Keeping Assist.

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To experience the Sprinter Vans from behind the wheel and the Metris as hostiles, we headed to the sensational views of Colorado for a short stay and impressionable experience. Upon landing at La Plata County Airport in Durango M-B turned over the keys to a Jupiter Red 2015 Sprinter 2500 Crew Van with the new Low & High Range 4×4 Package ($6,800), Active Safety Plus Package w/Parktronic ($2,545), the Driver Efficiency Package ($1,485) and much more. In fact, all optional conveniences escalated the $38,270 MSRP to $57,440. My riding partner and I drove for about four hours because we got lost in the Rockies but didn’t mind as the optional 3-liter V6 BlueTEC turbo diesel and 5‐speed automatic transmission ($985) were powerful and efficient. Along with two 4×4 powertrains, the new Sprinter also comes with an elective Super High Roof and Crosswind Assist to keep the van on its path during strong gusts. The base engine is the 2.1-liter 4‐cylinder BlueTEC turbo diesel with the 7G Tronic automatic transmission. The 4×4 came in handy when we stopped for photos and had to traverse off the beaten path for the most optimal view. The audio and Nav system were pretty basic so our ride was quiet as we took in the sounds of Colorado life, especially through San Juan National Forest. Upon arriving to the area we proceeded on gravel for the next 12 miles to Dunton Hot Springs’ main entrance. Magnificent is an understatement!

Founded in 1885, Dunton was originally a gold rush mining town. Its peak population reached 300 residents until only two were left after it became deserted. For decades the couple operated it as a cattle ranch while living off the land. The latest rendition of the town was purchased in 1994 and restored over the following seven years. Today the luxurious, rustic escape sits atop 8,700 feet of altitude and substitutes as a haven for those looking to hike, mountain bike or burn campfires in the middle of the mountains. The log cabins look as authentic as 1885, but step inside and you will feel like a high roller. This is why I chose the Metris for my stay. The hot springs are soothing to the skin and satisfying to your soul, especially the featured tub in the meditative bathhouse.

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Although the Metris is suited for mostly commercial use, M-B did bring a few Marco Polo camper models over from Europe. The roof extension is actually the bunk and one of two sleeping quarters. In total it can sleep up to four, but only two comfortably. Yet, the van is flexible enough for personal purchases and has an array of configurations. For example, I partially wrote this story from the cabin’s mobile office. Nifty features include front swiveling seats, omnipresent storage pockets and bins, table/desk, sliding rails for various formations, curtains to cover all windows and a cadre of 12 volts.

The journey to Colorado was memorable and my fixation on recreational vehicles has increased, especially with the stealthy Overlanding Sprinter by Sportsmobile West. With over 44 floor plans and the ability to design your own studio, the platform is perfect for nomads like myself.

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