2016 Kia Optima will roll out with Android Auto, Apple CarPlay

NEW YORK -- Hot on the heels of the Kia Sportspace concept that we saw in Geneva, the 2016 Kia Optima that debuted at the New York auto show today. The production version of the sedan shares many of its design cues with the concept, but sadly not its sweet wagon backside. The Optima will be available in five trim levels when it reaches dealerships in late 2015.

Approaching the Optima on the show floor, I am immediately struck by how shiny it is. Kia makes heavy use of chrome trim around the grill, headlamps, and windows of the displayed SXL model. Even the wheels are finished in a highly reflective chrome.

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The vertical intakes at the front corner aren't just for show; they're aerodynamically functional. Antuan Goodwin/CNET

Marginally larger in all dimensions, the 2016 Optima is less than half-inch longer in wheelbase and just one inch wider than its predecessor. Kneeling down, I noticed that the vertical intakes at the front corners aren't just for show; they're functional vents that pass air around the spinning wheel to reduce turbulence at highway speeds.

The front end is punctuated by headlamps that flow integrate into the K900 -inspired grille. The HID projectors steer into turns in sync with the front wheels and feature high-beams that automatically deactivate when oncoming traffic is detected. LED daytime running lights surround the headlamps' projector housings.

The 2016 Optima largely retains the dimensions of its predecessor and two of its available engines. Sarah Tew / CNET

UVO, Kia's voice commanded infotainment system comes standard on all 2016 Optima models and features an 8-inch touchscreen and a few new UVO eServices telematics features aimed at families with teen drivers, including geo-fencing, speed alert, curfew alert and driving score reports.

Smartphone toting drivers will be happy to learn that the 2016 Optima is will be the first Kia vehicle to feature Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration. This, of course, comes as no big surprise as we've already seen the smartphone interfaces demonstrated on the 2015 Hyundai Sonata, the Optima's fraternal twin sister. Both systems operate similarly: plug an Android Lollipop or iOS 8 device into the fast-charge USB port and the UVO interface is replaced with a car-specific version of the phone's operating system, complete with voice control, navigation, and more.

The Optima will be the first Kia model to roll out Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Sarah Tew / CNET

A rear camera joins the Optima's list of standard safety features, while SX and SXL step up trim levels offer an available 360-degree Around View Monitor. Other driver aid technologies that can be optioned include adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring with cross traffic alert, and a forward collision warning system with auto-braking.

Prospective Optima drivers will have three engine options at their disposal, including two that carry over from the previous generation. The holdover 2.4-liter GDI four-cylinder is good for 185 horsepower and 178 pound-feet of torque and will be available on LX and EX models. Kia's 2.0-liter GDI turbo engine makes a return appearance on the SXL and SX Turbo models, producing 247 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. Kia states that "both engines have been retuned for fuel economy and better performance and drivability with maximum torque now available at a lower RPM."

The third and newest engine option is a 1.6-liter four-cylinder turbo engine, offered at the LX trim. Its estimated 178 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque slots its expected performance somewhere between the two other, older engines. Where other engines use six-speed automatic gearboxes to transmit power to the front wheels, the 1.6-liter is mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, a first for the Kia brand.

Be sure to check out the rest of CNET's coverage of the 2015 New York auto show.

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