We recently gave the all-new Kia K5 our MotorWeek Drivers’ Choice Award for Best Family Sedan, but it looks like Kia is turning the K5 into a lot more than just Mom and Dad’s grocery-getter. So, it’s time for a Quick Spin in the 2021 Kia K5 GT; Kia’s most powerful midsize front-wheel-drive sedan ever.  

Just a bit of catching up for those new to the K5; it replaces the Optima sedan, and along with the name change comes a new N3 platform shared with the Hyundai Sonata, as well as a shape that is longer, lower, and wider than the Optima, with a lot of inspiration from the Stinger sport sedan.  

This GT is a high performance variant of the K5, something they never did with the Optima. 

Considering the standard K5 engine is a 180-horsepower 1.6-liter turbo-4, Kia could have just dropped the Stinger’s 255-horsepower 2.0-liter in, and called it a day. But, they decided to go next level, with a new 2.5-liter turbo-4 with 290-horsepower and 311 lb-ft. of torque; then coupled it with a unique 8-speed wet dual-clutch transmission. 

The K5 brought all-wheel-drive to the lineup as well.  But either the system can’t handle all of the GT’s power, or they’re just saving it for later; as for right now, the GT remains front-drive only. 

And it could use AWD help, as with all that power the GT’s fronts definitely struggle for grip under full throttle. Still the GT rockets to 60 in the mid 5-second bracket; almost a full 2-seconds quicker.

The 8-speed DCT, which comes over from Hyundai’s N performance division, is a real highlight; with firm and direct shifts under hard acceleration. It also comes with rev-matching and launch control.    

Building upon the K5’s more sporting demeanor, the GT adds a unique mesh grille and dual chrome exhaust tips for the outside; while inside you get upgraded sport seats and a nice flat-bottom steering wheel.   

Kia has also done some relatively minor suspension tweaks; enough to quicken steering a little, but not venture too far into sport sedan harshness. 

One final word of caution, Kia also offers a K5 GT-Line; which has much of the same looks as the GT, but not the performance. So, make sure you’re getting the right one before you sign on the dotted line.

When you do, you’ll get sport sedan performance, for a price that’s still well within family sedan range; as the 2021 Kia K5 GT starts at just over $30,000. 

And we’ll have more Quick Spins...soon!


  • Engine: 2.5L Turbo 4
  • Horsepower: 290
  • Torque: 311 lb-ft
  • 0-60 mph: 5.5 seconds