K5 Benefits From Investment

By Derek Price

It’s been more than a year since Kia replaced the sharp-looking Optima with the even sharper, better handling K5.
The K5 does exactly what every car company ought to be doing to keep their four-door sedans relevant in the crossover era: make them sexier looking, more fun to drive and more fuel efficient, then pack them full of nice features for the money.
Kia deserves major kudos for actually investing in cars when the market’s appetite for SUVs seems insatiable. At a time when some brands are dropping sedans from their lineup, Kia smells an opportunity for winning sales by actually investing in traditional cars.
The K5’s sleek roofline, near-luxury cabin and crisp, sporty handling combined to make my drive more enjoyable than any crossover I’ve tested in the last year.
My GT-trim tester came with the bigger of two turbocharged, four-cylinder engines available in the K5. With 290 horsepower from 2.5 liters of displacement, it regularly leaves the front tires scrambling for grip, my one and only complaint in an otherwise beautifully engineered new car.
The tires really need to be stickier. Buyers shouldn’t have to spring for a new set as soon as they leave the dealership, but it’s almost a necessity in this car.

Introduced last year, the sharp-looking K5 replaces the Optima sedan in Kia’s lineup. It’s styled like a sleek hatchback, but the design cleverly hides a traditional and spacious trunk.

Tire-spinning isn’t as pronounced with the base engine, which makes a decent but uninspiring 180 horses.
Highway fuel economy is outstanding with both engines, an increasingly important selling point for traditional sedans as gas prices stay high. The base engine is rated for 37 mpg on the highway, while the bigger engine in the GT model gets 32 mpg, a remarkably good number for such a powerful car.
Like the deceased Optima, the K5 can be outfitted luxuriously enough to shock people who still think of Kias as cheap economy cars. The chestnut brown interior in my tester wouldn’t seem out of place in an Audi or Mercedes with its abundance of soft-touch surfaces and masterfully designed digital interfaces.
The K5 integrates technology as well as any car built today. Not only can it link to smartphones via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which should be a bare necessity these days, but it does so seamlessly and with just the right combination of physical buttons and touchscreen features. It strikes a perfect balance, neither forcing you to wade through gobs of digital menus and submenus, nor cluttering up the dash by sprinkling redundant buttons all over.

The K5’s cabin mimics the polished look and soft feel of luxury car brands. It’s impressively roomy and packed with a lot of features for the money at every price point, living up to Kia’s bang-for-the-buck reputation.

For people still thinking about buying a crossover, there remains a question: how practical is the K5 for families?
While it’s styled to look somewhat like a hatchback, including a sharply sloped roofline that slightly impedes head room in the back seat, it’s actually got a bigger-than-average trunk for storage space.
Not only does it have 16 cubic feet of storage volume, but the wide, low trunk opening makes it easier to load groceries and luggage than in a high-riding SUV or crossover. I also crammed three near-adult-sized teenagers in the back seat without complaints, and they fit more comfortably than they would have in a lot of two-row SUVs.
In short, the K5 makes sense for a lot of buyers if they’re willing to give it a chance. It’s gorgeous, efficient, practical, comfortable and — perhaps most importantly — far more enjoyable to drive than those high-riding SUVs.
It’s proof that sedans need investment, not abandonment.
Pricing starts at $23,790 for the base LX and tops out at $31,190 for the GT, which is oddly available with front-wheel drive only. You can get all-wheel drive with the smaller engine starting at $26,590.

At A Glance

What was tested? 2022 Kia K5 GT FWD ($31,090). Options: GT1 Package ($4,200), carpeted floor mats ($155).  Price as tested (including $995 destination charge): $36,440
Wheelbase: 112.2 in.
Length: 193.1 in.
Width: 73.2 in.
Height: 56.9 in.
Engine: 2.5-liter turbocharged four cylinder (290 hp, 311 lbs.-ft.)
Transmission: Eight-speed dual-clutch automatic
Fuel economy: 24 city, 32 highway

Style: 9
Performance: 9
Price: 9
Handling: 7
Ride: 7
Comfort: 8
Quality: 8
Overall: 9

Why buy it?
The K5 is beautifully designed inside and out. Its cabin is classy enough to pass for a luxury car, and its modern body is among the best-looking sedans available at any price.

Posted in Kia

BMW Redesigns Small Coupe

By Derek Price
BMW can print money by building sporty SUVs, but it’s nice to know the German company can still create the thing that made it great in the first place: a proper rear-wheel-drive sports coupe.
That’s the mission of the new 2 Series Coupe, not to be confused with the four-door, front-wheel-drive 2 Series Gran Coupe. BMW went back to its roots by giving a small, somewhat affordable two-door car the same sparkling handling and devilishly handsome looks of its pricier siblings.
The fact that BMW decided to build this car is somewhat shocking given the current car-buying environment.
Most companies are abandoning small, low-slung, fun-to-drive cars like this because consumers don’t seem to want them. Today’s buyers are all too happy to offer gobs of money for galumphing crossovers.
To an ordinary business, killing cars like this makes perfect sense. With a starting price in the mid $30,000 range, BMW can’t be making much profit on the base 230i, at least not compared to what it can make from selling an X-something-or-another for thousands more.

The 2 Series exists as a spiritual guidepost, though. And thank goodness for that.
This is a car designed for the pure joy of driving, starting with the way it carves corners. It gets the sensory experience right — taut steering, nimble suspension, burbly noises from the exhaust — and combines it all together in a way that feels completely magical at speed.
Even the base 250i makes 255 horsepower, enough for some fun and a bit of trouble if you push it hard enough.
My tester, the M240i, makes trouble even easier.
Not quite as raw and hammer-like as a proper M2 would be, the M-lite 240i can zip from a standstill to 60 mph in 4.1 seconds thanks to its 382-horse engine paired with a grippy all-wheel-drive system. That’s even quicker than the outgoing M2 Competition, according to Car and Driver’s testing.
I didn’t test both myself, but I’d believe it. The M240i doesn’t just explode with mind-bending speed, but it feels effortless in the process. The legendary smoothness of BMW’s inline-six engine layout is as buttery as ever, even when a turbocharger is strapped to it.

My biggest complaint about this car is something it lacks: the option for a manual transmission. I think the entire goal of a car like the 2 Series, in today’s world of electric cars and boring crossovers, is to shout, “We still get it! We’re still about the driving experience.” For BMW to leave out one of the best parts of that experience is a crying shame.
Fortunately, it gets a lot of other things right, including the look — at least to my eyes.
BMW is no stranger to visual controversy, most recently with oversized nostrils on its bigger coupes, sedans and SUVs. The 2 Series, though, looks downright restrained in comparison, and I mean that in the best way. It’s a classically beautiful car, the kind that will look just as gorgeous in 50 years as it does the day it leaves the showroom.
This new generation is lower, wider and longer than before, which makes it seem even more assertive with its elongated hood and sleek roofline. Back seat space shrinks a bit, but that’s OK given the 2 Series’ mission as a driver’s car. Making sacrifices for that goal is noble, as I see it.
Pricing starts at $36,350 for the 230i and $48,550 for the powerful M240i.

At A Glance

What was tested? 2022 BMW M240i xDrive Coupe ($48,550). Options: Premium paint ($550), black leather with blue stitching ($1,450), driving assistant package ($1,450), premium package ($2,750), passenger width delete (-$100), aluminum tetragonal trim ($150), passenger lumbar delete (-$175), lumbar support ($350), Harman Kardon surround sound ($875).  Price as tested (including $995 destination charge): $56,845
Wheelbase: 107.9 in.
Length: 179.4 in.
Width: 72.4 in.
Height: 55.3 in.
Engine: 3.0-liter turbocharged inline six cylinder (382 hp, 369 lbs.-ft.)
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Fuel economy: 23 city, 32 highway
Style: 9
Performance: 9
Price: 7
Handling: 10
Ride: 7
Comfort: 7
Quality: 9
Overall: 9Why buy it?
It’s a gorgeous sports coupe designed for people who love to drive. The M240i is spectacularly fast and thrilling in high-speed corners.

Posted in BMW

Two-Wheel-Drive Adventures

By Derek Price

Nissan’s all-new Frontier is available as an off-road pickup without four-wheel drive.
If you think that’s like buying an airplane without the wings, or a sound system without the speakers, you’re not alone. If I’m out in the wilderness, a good 4×4 system is the first thing I’d want to get through mud, ice or loose rocks.
Still, for people who want to save a few thousand bucks at the time of purchase, plus even more every time they fill up with gas, the Frontier Pro-X makes sense.
Compared to the Pro-4X, which comes with four-wheel drive, the Pro-X shaves $3,000 off the price but still carries serious off-road swagger. It has the same Bilstein shocks, aggressive fender flares, LED lights and “lava red” accents as its 4×4 brother.
It also saves 1 mpg in city driving and 2 mpg on the highway, according to federal ratings, which is a small improvement but enough to add up to big savings over the life of the vehicle — especially at today’s fuel prices.


Red row hooks set the PRO-X and PRO-4X apart from more street-focused versions of the newly redesigned Nissan Frontier.

With fuel economy ratings of 18 mpg in the city and 24 on the highway, the Frontier offers better mileage than a close competitor, the Toyota Tacoma, which is rated for just 20 mpg in highway driving for its TRD off-road versions.
On the flip side, the redesigned Frontier remains a lot less efficient than car-based newcomers like the Ford Maverick, which boasts a 30-mpg highway rating or 33 as a hybrid.
The Frontier, though, is 100-percent truck.
You can feel the heaviness and strength from the driver’s seat. The new Frontier’s chassis and suspension do a good job soaking up bumps on the highway, including with the PRO-X’s Bilstein off-road shocks. It’s one of the more supple, comfortable midsize pickups for sale today after its total redesign.
It’s also designed to do real work, including towing up to 6,720 pounds when properly equipped. It drives home the point with two tow hooks in front, up from one in the outgoing model.


The new Frontier’s cabin feels spacious for a midsize truck.

Inside, the new cabin embodies what designers planned for this truck: the right size.
The fresh Frontier feels roomier and more substantial than a lot of midsize competitors. Part of that is because of the seating layout, which does a smart job of maximizing the perception of spaciousness, but also because of supersized storage compartments.
The center console has four liters of storage capacity, about twice that of most midsize pickups, and the doors are fitted with massive storage bins that rival half-ton trucks.
It’s also a much more modern-looking truck, both inside and out.
A new dash layout follows the predictable pattern of all today’s new cars, focusing almost entirely on a huge, 9-inch touchscreen front and center. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come standard on all models, something I wish I could say about every vehicle.
Pricing starts at $28,690 for the base S trim with a king cab and ranges up to $38,120 for a crew-cab PRO-4X model.

At A Glance

What was tested? 2022 Nissan Frontier PRO-X Crew Cab 4×2 ($34,240). Options: Off-road style step rails ($750), bed access package ($540), pro convenience package ($1,990), pro premium package ($2,790), sport bar ($1,095), technology package ($990), off-road protection package ($400), carpeted floor mats ($160).  Price as tested (including $1,175 destination charge): $44,220
Wheelbase: 139.8 in.
Length: 224.1 in.
Width: 74.7 in.
Height: 72.9 in.
Engine: 3.8-liter V6 (310 hp, 281 lbs.-ft.)
Transmission: Nine-speed automatic
Fuel economy: 18 city, 24 highway

Style: 7
Performance: 7
Price: 6
Handling: 8
Ride: 8
Comfort: 7
Quality: 7
Overall: 8

Why buy it?
An all-new design brings the Nissan Frontier into the modern age. The PRO-X offers adventurous looks and off-road chops for people who don’t need a 4×4.

Posted in Uncategorized