Spicy Red Paint; EX Premium Package PB ($2,250 -- includes panoramic sunroof with high-gloss B-pillar, front passenger's four-way power seat, two-position driver seat memory, heated and cooled front seats, heated rear seats, heated steering wheel, wood trim door inserts and center console, metal PRND bezel); EX Technology Package With EX Premium Package EST ($2,000 -- includes DVD navigation system with back-up camera, Infinity premium audio system and eight speakers); Carpeted Floor Mats ($95); iPod Cable ($35 est.).
With traction control off, there doesn't appear to be enough torque (or there's too much grip) to get much wheelspin. The Optima is a little pokey from a stop, but once under way, it starts to feel revvy, but not as free-revving as the Sonata. Does this Kia Optima weigh that much more than the Hyundai Sonata? Feels like it. Auto upshifts in Manual mode make manual shifting a moot point here.
Good pedal push-back, so-so initial bite, but obviously better/grippier tires on the Optima over the Sonata. Similarly good fade resistance and fast cycling ABS make for undramatic and repeatable stops.
Skid pad: With stability control off, there's a remarkable balance with only a hint of understeer; steering mostly with the throttle. With stability control on, there's a similar balance, though at a much lower speed, as the throttle closes well before the understeer begins. Steering weight is appropriate for this speed, and there's a sense of building/waning grip levels through the steering wheel. Slalom: With stability control off, by the fourth cone this car begins to rotate and oversteer progressively. I had to abort several passes. I tried the "slow-in, fast-out" technique, but it was just slower. Best run came when I successfully timed the rear slide at the exit cone, but it wasn't entirely repeatable. With stability control on, the system was fighting against the propensity to rotate that the best I could manage was nearly 4 mph slower.