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With all the excitement at the Kia stand surrounding the new Soul EV, it's easy to forget that there were other cars on display at the Korean marque's Chicago Auto Show display. The Niro Concept from the Frankfurt Motor Show made an appearance, but the other production model on display was the refreshed Optima Hybrid (which was tucked away in a corner).
Like the standard Optima, which was refreshed at the 2013 New York Auto Show last year, the hybridized sedan gets a slightly restyled face and rear end. As we told you in our official post on the car yesterday, the gas-electric powertrain of the 2014 Optima Hybrid still deploys 199 total system horsepower and 235 pound-feet of torque. Buyers of the base LX car will net 36 miles per gallon in the city and 40 on the highway, while the upmarket EX loses a mile per gallon in both environments.
Have a look at our live gallery of the new Optima Hybrid, from the floor of the Chicago Auto Show.
Earlier this week, we got our first glimpse of the 2015 Kia Soul EV out on the road, completely uncovered. And even before then, executive editor Chris Paukert had the opportunity to drive a camouflaged electric Soul prototype on Kia's home turf in Korea. But now, finally, officially, the electron-happy Soul makes its debut at the Chicago Auto Show.
Powering the Soul EV is an 81-kilowatt electric motor that sends 109 horsepower and 210 pound-feet of torque to the front wheels. That's not immensely powerful, with Kia quoting a 0-60 time of "fewer than 12 seconds," but we're big fans of the instant torque thrust that EVs like the Soul provide. Top speed is electronically limited to approximately 90 miles per hour.
Kia says the Soul EV is good for roughly 80 to 100 miles of driving range.
Think back to the 2013 New York Auto Show, and you'll recall that the already attractive Kia Optima midsize sedan was re-schnozzed for the 2014 model year. The hybrid version was left alone, visually, though its powertrain was updated to provide more oomph and slightly better fuel economy. And now, the whole thing comes full circle - the fresh-faced 2014 Optima Hybrid is making its debut here at the Chicago Auto Show.
The new look is really the only news here, with a reworked front fascia that combines restyled Hybrid-specific LED lighting elements and new enhancements that Kia says improves aerodynamics. A similar touch-up has been given to the rear end, and new 16- and 17-inch wheel designs are also available.
Under the hood, the Optima Hybrid's powertrain is unchanged, the four-cylinder gasoline-electric system still putting out a combined 199 horsepower and 235 pound-feet of torque. Fuel economy is also unchanged for 2014, with the LX model estimated to achieve 36/40/38 miles per gallon (city/highway/combined), and the higher-grade EX estimated to net 35/39/37 mpg.
Kia made a splash when it announced that Laurence Fishburne would revisit Morpheus, his bespectacled, blade-wielding badass character from the Matrix trilogy for a Super Bowl commercial. When we originally broke that story, we offered up a brief synopsis of the spot, produced by David&Goliath.
Now, we have an extended, 90-second version of the 60-second Kia K900 commercial that's slated to air during this weekend's Super Bowl. While it does stick to the brief we reported on a few weeks back, there's a big, ridiculous twist in the last bit of the video, not to mention a few easter eggs for fans of the movies. We won't spoil it for you, so scroll down and have a look.
After you've watched the video, scroll just a bit further down and have a look at Kia's official press release on the commercial.
Let's be honest, Rich America. When you drive your fullsize luxury sedans, you don't clock any laps of the Nürburgring. You don't view your car as an alternative to air travel, ready to wheel between countries at triple-digit Autobahn speeds. Heck, you don't even take the long way home. Instead, you commute in fender-to-fender gridlock looking to be assuaged by sybaritic luxuries, your ride serving as a four-wheeled extension of your living room. Yet when it comes time to vote with your pocketbooks, you overwhelmingly skew toward European driving values - German ones, more specifically. You favor the firm rides, firmer seats and quick steering of cars like the BMW 7 Series and Audi A8. What gives? That's what Kia is clandestinely asking with its new 2015 K900.
According to Kia PR director Scott McKee, this 200.6-inch bruiser of a sedan is all about "at-ease luxury." That's a notion that was once very much synonymous with American automakers' approach to big high-end sedans - effortless comfort above all other considerations. Sprawling room in every direction. Fine materials no matter where the hand falls. The automobile as an isolative cocoon. Once upon a time, Cadillac and Lincoln owned the Comfort First game, but these days, there's almost nobody playing - the Lexus LS and Hyundai Equus are the only cars in this end of the market, everyone else is busy aping German values.
Kia planners could claim that the K900 has been intentionally targeted at a different sort of customer - and indeed, during the press conference ahead of our first drive in Santa Barbara, there was some discussion of "a different kind of luxury" and seeking "confident individualist" buyers. But the truth is, the Korean premium car shoppers that this car was primarily designed for crave exactly the sort of plush luxury experience the K900 dispenses. In other words, Kia is hoping that there are a few thousand like-minded Americans willing to overlook the badge on its nose and give this car a chance.
Hold on to your sippy cups, America. The Kia Sedona minivan may have gone to recess for the 2013 model year, but it mounted a quiet comeback for 2014 sporting the slightest of updates. Thankfully, those minor tweaks will only have to sustain it a short time. Kia knows it can't afford to nap for another year against strong rivals like the Honda Odyssey and Chrysler Town & Country, and the Korean automaker remains committed to duking it out in the kinshlepper segment. So committed, in fact, that Autoblog has learned it will launch its third-generation minivan at April's New York Auto Show.
As seen in these spy shots captured last August, the 2015 Sedona will incorporate styling cues from Kia's well-recieved 2012 KV7 concept, and it's predicted to feature more refined drivetrains and interior appointments, including Kia's latest UVO infotainment system and available rear-seat entertainment. We further expect fuel economy figures to get a nudge upwards thanks to fuel-saving features like electric power steering and direct injection.
Given the minivan segment's 'safety first' mindset, look for the next Sedona (known elsewhere as the Carnival) to offer a full quiver of active safety features, including blind-spot detection and a lane-departure warning system - two popular features the 2014 model does without.
Super Bowl XLVIII is barely a week away, and some of the early ads are already leaking out. It's timely then that The Street has released rankings of the top five Super Bowl advertisers since 2009, showing Chrysler and Hyundai/Kia taking two of the spots with $131.7 million in cumulative spending.
Since 2010, the cost to air a 30-second Super Bowl ad has risen from $3 million in 2009 to about $4 million in 2014, and about a fifth of advertisers opt for a one-minute ad, which doubles costs. Last year, the ads brought in $292 million, and they have brought in roughly $2 billion since 2010.
Chrysler has spent $64.3 million since 2009 to make it the fourth highest spending company in the last five years. In that time, the company has rebranded itself as it emerged from bankruptcy with the Imported from Detroit ad campaign that premiered in 2011 and last year's God Made a Farmer Ram Trucks ad. Its 2012 Halftime in America sparked national debate about whether it was also a reference to the upcoming presidential election.
This is part of an effort to ensure that the vehicle brand itself registers with consumers more than the model name.
The new Kia K900 luxury sedan stands as a four-wheeled flag in the ground of the financially fertile turf of the world's premium automakers. It's a bold move for a Korean manufacturer that was best known for inexpensive MSRPs and easy credit only a few years ago. The company has made sure it has the requisite trappings of premium motoring: indulgent size, rear-wheel drive, a powerful V8 engine, real wood trim and rich leather seats. It has also ensured the model has another important earmark of luxury - an alphanumeric name. These days, everyone from Audi to BMW to Cadillac to Lexus to Volvo rely on a jumble of letters and numbers to make up their model names. We've been told this is all part of an effort to ensure that the vehicle brand itself registers with consumers more than the model name.
When we named the Kia GT4 Stinger Concept as our top debut at the 2014 Detroit Auto Show, our comments section had, let's call it, a tantrum. People were not pleased. Debuting alongside hugely significant production cars like the Chevrolet Corvette Z06, Ford Mustang, Ford F-150, Lexus RC F, BMW M3/M4 and Chrysler 200 (not to mention great concepts like the Toyota FT-1, Infiniti Q50 Eau Rouge and Volvo Concept XC Coupe), what business did a tiny, turbocharged, rear-drive Kia concept car have winning the prize as the best of Detroit?
Well, as it turns out, it has every right to be there. Our own Michael Harley sat down with the head of US design for Kia, Tom Kearn, to discuss the GT4 Stinger and find out just what the brand was thinking when it decided to create such an enthusiast-oriented concept. The interview gives a great insight into the car and its design, while Harley goes into some detail at the end of the video about why the GT4 was the Autoblog Editors' Choice of the 2014 Detroit Auto Show.
Scroll down to watch the full interview.
News of the Kia brand's inclusion in this year's onslaught of Super Bowl ads got out in December of last year, but other than the fact that the coming K900 flagship would carry the day, we knew nothing about the spot. Now AdWeek has revealed that it is Morpheus - he of The Matrix and guru for The One - who will guide us into a previously inconceivable reality in which Kia is a luxury car maker.
What we'll get is a 60-second spot produced by David&Goliath agency, following Morpheus (played by the man who made him famous, Laurence Fishburne) as he does the thing he does best: presenting a choice to a couple at a valet stand, allowing them to choose a red key or a blue key and, Kia would certainly want us to believe by the end of an "unforgettable ride," the truth.
It's Kia's fifth straight trip to the Super Bowl so it knows what to expect, but the task Morpheus has this time - to free your mind concerning the K900 - could be a task just as large as defeating all the agents and sentinels seeking Zion.
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