Today, nearly every carmaker has a large luxury model, some on the sporty side, but more favoring the luxury end, emphasizing smoothness and quietness.
Into this market Kia re-introduces its Cadenza, a large luxury sedan that falls between its even larger K900 and its popular midsize Optima. Competitors include the likes of Chevy’s Impala, Toyota’s Avalon, Ford’s Taurus and Dodge’s Charger.
I praised the first-generation Cadenza for nearly everything but its ride. Consumers met it with a yawn. The revamped 2017 model should receive cheers from those who like soft leather seats, a supple ride, excellent power and all the electronics we’ve grown to expect in a car, especially one starting north of $40,000.
Before that figure scares you off, consider the base Premium model starts at a reasonable $32,890 and the Technology model at $39,890. Both include delivery and both have all the same mechanicals as the tested top-level Limited, which lists at $45,290.
Cadenza feels lighter than some of the comparable sedans, but solid, well-built and absolutely what you’d expect in comfort and quiet levels found in a Lexus or Infiniti.
Power is downright spunky when it’s in Sport mode, one of four power modes, also including Eco, Comfort and Smart. Each adjusts gearing, feedback from the electronically assisted steering and ride.
Power comes from Kia’s well-proven 3.3-liter direct-injected V6 that creates 290 horsepower.
Kia’s new 8-speed automatic, a Sportmatic system that allows the driver to shift via paddles behind the steering wheel if desired, is silky smooth but gives the sedan a more aggressive feel than many competitors. It’s also pretty efficient. The large sedan is rated 20 m.p.g. city and 28 m.p.g. highway. I averaged 22.8 m.p.g. in an even mix with up to four aboard and during a cold streak.
Handling remains lighter than in some competitors, but steering feel is more refined than in earlier models. This one is easy to drive and simple to park. Braking is fine.
The metallic Pluto brown test car’s interior was gorgeous and luxury quiet with one of the cleanest dash designs on the market.
This one had a soft black dash top with ivory lower section, ivory soft leather seats with quilted bolsters and black gloss trim on the doors, console and armrests with gray fake wood trim on the dash. There’s also satin silver trim around the air vents and on door pulls.
Overhead is a giant sunroof, which is much nicer and more attractive than the previous model’s twin sunroofs.
Seats are powered and exceptionally comfortable. The driver’s seat has 14-way power, including a bottom cushion that can extend to make long-legged drivers more comfortable. The passenger’s seat also has multiple power adjustments and both front seats have three levels of heat while the rear seats also are heated. The driver’s seat also features two memory settings.
There’s also a heated steering wheel that heats quickly and becomes comfortably warm, a bonus during a Wisconsin winter. I don’t know why this isn’t standard on some European luxury makes. I also should mention that the Cadenza’s rear seat is cavernous with excellent leg and headroom.
Then there’s the cleanly styled Kia dash that is basically two levels with a nice 8-inch touchscreen at the top that’s easy to use, and then buttons logically arranged on the lower level. These are big buttons for radio and climate controls making them simple to press while driving, even if wearing gloves. The screen also features a 360-degree-view camera that aids in parking, plus you can activate it anytime with a dash button.
There is a full host of safety features, as you’d expect, from dynamic cruise control and cross-traffic alerts to lane departure and blind-spot warnings. Kia says its blind-spot system actually helps steer the car away from an accident if it detects something in your path. I didn’t experience that during my drive.
Speaking of blind spots, the Cadenza, as do so many of today’s vehicles, has a large one on the passenger side where the big A-pillar and mirror combine to create a sight blocker. That was the only fault I found with this car.
There are, however, many thoughtful features to enhance the Kia’s luxury credibility. In back, there’s a power sun screen and manual screens for the rear side windows. This one had a power trunk lid, too, and oodles of cargo space: 16 cubic feet.
I also should mention the Harman/Kardon stereo, which is excellent.
Be assured the base Premium model doesn’t have all this, but does come with fog lights, LED accent lights, leather seats and steering wheel, 10-way power driver’s seat, heated front seats, USB port, Bluetooth, dual climate control, a 7-inch touchscreen and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Move up to the Technology model, which includes everything from the Premium and adds power folding outside mirrors with puddle lights, along with LED headlights, heated steering wheel, wireless phone charger, 19-inch wheels up from 18, an 8-inch touchscreen, the Harman/Kardon stereo and automatic windshield wipers.
The tested Limited has all that and upgrades to Nappa leather, the 14-way driver’s seat with memory and the power trunk.
There’s no hybrid model yet, and this is front-drive. But really, at this bargain price for everything you get, plus Cadenza’s sleek handsome looks, it has virtually everything a luxury car owner would get for $10,000 to $20,000 more, except a fancy brand name stuck to the hood.
2017 Kia Cadenza Limited
Hits: Power, quiet interior, smooth ride, good handling and luxury look and feel. Heated, exceptionally comfortable seats, clean dash with big, logical buttons.
Misses: Big A-pillar-mirror creates a blind sport
Made in: South Korea
Engine: 3.3-liter GDI V6, 290 horsepower
Transmission: 8-speed Sportmatic
Weight: 3,799 pounds
Length: 195.7 inches
Wheelbase: 112.4 inches
Cargo: 16.0 cubic feet
Fuel economy: 20 m.p.g. city, 28 highway; 22.8 tested
Base price: $45,290 (includes delivery)
Test vehicle: $45,290
Major options: None
Sources: Kia, www.kbb.com
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