The 2021 Kia K5 GT Out-Performs the BMW 330i. Here's How the Data Proves It
BY KYLE CHEROMCHA
NOVEMBER 17, 2020
BY KYLE CHEROMCHA
NOVEMBER 17, 2020
Facts matter. Not much these days in America, or in the soundproof confines of our personal echo chambers, or, generally speaking, in the fallow intellectual fields spreading across the internet in 2020. But they do matter—even at this moment, there are these immutable aspects of reality even the most fervent beliefs cannot change. The sky is blue. The earth is indeed round. And a Kia can out-perform a BMW.
I should be more specific, because this isn’t a story dealing out half-truths in pursuit of a delicious, delicious take. Just the facts, ma'am. Ergo: The front-wheel-drive 2021 Kia K5 GT, the Korean automaker’s edgy Optima reboot with a 290-hp turbo four and a DCT, has a quicker 0-60 mph time, better cornering and better overall handling performance than the rear-wheel-drive 2020 BMW 330i.
These are now basic facts in the automotive canon, sure as the difference in cargo space between a Mini and a Suburban or the maximum speed you can take that corner up ahead without crashing. The acceleration gap does make sense given the horsepower difference (the BMW has a 255-hp turbo-four) and dual-clutch box—but cornering? Handling performance? In its base form, at least, the Ultimate Driving Machine is bested by a newcomer with the FWD bones of a budget midsize sedan that's $10,000 cheaper. 2020, you continue to delight in surprises.
Want us to get specific? And scientific? Gladly. All tests were performed on the stock tires for each trim—245-width Pirelli P-Zero all-seasons on the Kia, and 225-width Bridgestone Turanza all-season run-flats on the BMW. They're not on the same tires because this is an evaluation of how the cars are equipped from the factory, and OEM tire choice is part of that package. (And despite what you may have read elsewhere, the K5 GT does not come with summer performance tires.)
For acceleration: With traction control off and no rollout, the 2021 Kia K5 GT scoots from 0 to 60 mph in 5.70 seconds while the 2020 BMW 330i does it in 5.98. Moving along, that gives the Kia a quarter-mile time and trap speed of 14.21 seconds and 103.3 mph, respectively. The BMW is there in 14.41 seconds at 99.5 mph.
In a highway merging test, the K5 GT needed less tarmac than the 330i to get from 20 to 65 mph, 327 feet to 374 feet. That 50-ish foot margin or victory for Kia endured on AMCI's highway passing test of 40-70 mph.
For handling—where, it should be noted, the Kia's stability control can't be shut all the way off, while the BMW's can—the K5 GT pulled 0.947 g in a fast 180-degree corner versus the BMW's 0.920 g and managed the slalom 1 mph faster (60.27 mph to 59.05 mph). The difference between 59.05 mph and 60.27 mph may be almost impossible to perceive when you're traveling in a straight line, but it'll become a lot more clear when suddenly the BMW is in a spin and the Kia is carrying on.
You know you've got BMW's number, so what next? You ring AMCI Testing to prove it.
"We have a lot of manufacturers who come to us and say we want a rubric of every potential advantage we have against these five cars, or these three cars," Mangiamele says. "Or a client may come to us and say, and this was the case with Kia, they say it’s a sports sedan, and we’re looking for a sports sedan comparison so what we really want you to focus on is handling and acceleration. Because that’s where our engineers are telling us we’ve made really great strides."
"Where the magazines are universally setting the equipment to start at their start speed. So if that’s 40 mph, they floor it at 30 and set the equipment to start at 40 and go to whatever, 75," Thomason says. "We’re using a switch, so we’re measuring downshift, boost build time, they’re ignoring all that. So I have to get it to 39.7 mph, which is displayed on there, and then floor it, so that it captures all that."
Another thing those damn magazines always screw up is measuring the 0-60 time, in Mangiamele's book. There's no rollout, no correction necessary if you do it right, he says, because that push stemmed from people using substandard equipment that just wasn't good at measuring the 0-5 mph bit of a launch. What AMCI Testing measures using that fancy downward-facing camera is a true 0-60 time. "Plus, they’re all in their own battle to post the best number," he says.
AMCI take the same methodical approach with the corner, slalom and evasive tests, ticking up entry speeds into the various cone courses in tiny increments until they find the absolute limit (a repeatable result across multiple runs by their professional drivers). And that really is what it's all about—handling performance doesn't take into account what "feels" better or any sort of subjective judgment about FWD versus RWD.
As Doganis says about the BMW's slalom speed of 59.05 mph: "If you try it at 60 mph in the BMW, you are out in the weeds. The difference is just one mph, but it's huge. There’s no way it can make it."
"I don’t care how much a car costs, there are compromises. Everything mechanical is a compromise," Mangiamele says. I've finally gotten him to get a little deep.
"This is the other part," he says. "To be as blunt as possible, everybody tries to do the best they can with what they’re given in their jobs, right? So the engineers are always very well… they’re extremely competent, at all manufacturers. They all have a lot of talent, a lot of ability. But they’re dealing with a lot of other issues. They’re not just given a blank check to do whatever they want, unless they’re at a place like, you know, Koenigsegg."
"So in many ways, a car that does a lot of things well, where you’re just surprised at how good it is, it’s a testament to that internal mechanism, how those people worked together, what those compromises were, and how good the whole process is."