Car Tech Video: 2014 Kia Cadenza
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Car Tech Video: 2014 Kia Cadenza

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If you're interested in a Mercedes or a BMW and you're not taking a look at 2014 Kia Cadenza, then CNET's Brian Cooley has some words for you.

-Not that many years ago, the greatest luxury you might expect from a Korean car is that it would run two days in a row. Things have changed. Let's get an example from Kia where they are raising the bar with a new top-of-the-line model-- the 2014 Cadenza. We've got a pre-production sample. Let's drive it and check the deck. Now, where Hyundai has the Genesis and Equus Sedan kind of way up market, this is gonna be a new high-water mark for Kia. They don't have anything in this space until this guy drops. So this is going to redefine what a Kia is. Now, head designer Peter Schreyer, from Audi, has put some real nice sharp lines and kind of young, urban tones on this car. That said, the overall shape and design is not revolutionary. It looks like kind of a mélange of GS and 5 Series and a few other cars on the market today. I'm gonna show the interior. Whenever there are convex kind of like this bulging out at you, to me that communicates an older kind of a car, an older customer. When they're concave like so, that tends to feel sportier to me. I don't know if you agree or not but this car is definitely in the former. It kinda bulges out to you very much like a Mercedes does this day and age, and I think it prints a little staid in here as a result. Now, within all that, you've got two screens. We'll get to the head unit in a minute. The surprising one is that digital speedometer. Cars at this price point don't normally have one of those. It's all LCD which means that the center of that gauge can become an info display for anything from your next navigation direction to your media state, what's playing right now, alerts from the car in terms of its own maintenance needs. Almost anything can show up in there and it's a really beautiful piece of LCD. On the other hand, the dial gauges around it start to look even more dated because of what's in the middle. Now, to the main event. This head unit here, of course, is the latest Hyundai Kia rig with UVO eServices but let's start with the basics. That's a great-looking navigation screen. It calls out street names really well. Underway, the navigation is exceptionally clear as it shows you the next event coming up. It's almost doing a-- sort of a Sim City to show you the next intersection, what have you. It's really top notch in that respect. But, it does not have any of that 3D bird's eye stuff. That's an interesting omission. Kia does not use a controller like iDrive or anything. You just use touch or voice. Touch command on this guy is rather quick. Not the fastest I've run across but very crisp. But the real start here is the voice command. This is arguably as good or better than any I've driven yet, even BMW. Check it out, navigation. -Navigation. -Street address. -Find address. -235 2nd Street, San Francisco. So as you can see, I can blurt out entire street addresses. I can say 2, 3, 5 or two thirty-five. It understands both. There's a lot of good smart comprehension in this system. Let's get to media. Now, you got EMF and satellite radio, of course, with a very clear display. This is one of the least busy you're ever gonna see. When you have an HD station pulled up, you do have the tagging buttons so you can tell your iPods, tell iTunes to remind you later to buy the song. There is an ability to rip to a hard drive here, nobody cares. It displays HD radio stations very well in terms of the one, two, even three channels they're sending out. Under media, you're gonna find access to your [unk], your USB port here on the dash for iPad or Thumbdrive. You've also got Bluetooth streaming audio, of course. All of this stuff is standard, as is rear camera, as is navigation on this car, by the way. What we're missing though is any sort of apps-base; no Pandora, no Yelp, no Google Services, nothing like that. What you do have is UVO eServices which are mostly telematics. You can use your phone app with this car to remember where it's parked so you don't lose it, to do maintenance updates, to do emergency roadside service requests off your phone. But that's more in the telematics world, not the infotainment apps world that is really hot today. So this car is a step behind in that respect. And it's interesting because the new Kia Soul, also a 2014, will at least have a Pandora app support in an almost identical head unit; but this car doesn't have that. Now, one last note. This car is a tech-trim level. That's not a pack. It's a trim level of the vehicle they're gonna be bringing to market. And that rolls in three major technologies: adaptive cruise controls so you can maintain speed and distance-- and it's interesting, the digital speedometer here will show you where the yellow band on this speedo where you have your cruise control speed is set. It's very digestible. You've also got departure control for lane drift and blind spot technology. Both of those though are passive. They do nothing to bring you back into your lane, they just beep like hell and make little lights flash. Now up in the bow, we've got nothing too dramatic in terms of Hyundai Kia. They've been doing direct injection gas engines for a while. That's what we have here, 3.3-liter V-6 front-wheel drive on this guy. Rear-wheel drive tends to be what the competition does on the German side but that's not where they're going. 293 horsepower, 255-foot pounds of torque. Good numbers. We don't have zero to sixty or the weight of the car dialed in yet 'cause this guy is pre-production. But we do know 20 to 28 is the expected MPG according to Kia's testing. Not bad for a big boy with a lot of mass to move around. Only one transmission choice at this high tech trim level which is a six-speed automatic with interestingly no sport mode. They do have paddles on the wheel. But what really intrigues me is you can get a base trim Cadenza with a six-speed manual. Now, that's interesting. Let's hit the road. Okay. Riddle me this, Batman. How do you know you're a pompous ass? When you're shopping for one of the affordable Mercedes models but refuse to consider a Kia or a Hyundai. Those days have got to be over because this car is an absolute contender in what they call a-- the near luxury or near premium class. It's not the really high dollar boats, but the cars that are really much finer than an Accord, let's say, and the standard vehicles of Ford or variety. This is a really nice car. In specific, the power comes on a very smooth, linear fashion. There are no hiccups and no hesitations. On the other hand, the transmission does mute that performance or responsive to a degree. That's where I'd like to have a sport mode. Instead, all you have are various versions of manual mode that's not the same thing. And for the most part, I think Kia's got the ergonomics down. In fact, this is one that I rarely see. The visibility out of this car is actually quite good. Never mind the fact that it's got a standard rear camera. You almost don't need it and that's pretty rare this day and age. And every controlling button falls to hand properly and then that is backed up by a ride that is firm enough to be-- to feel young and to feel like it's not an old person's car; but at the same time, insulated enough from the road so that it's a refreshing, enjoyable car to drive in everyday commuting. I think they've got a nice balance here; but of course, I've gotta see what the pricing is for real and I also wanna know how the final delivery is gonna be on all this technology. And this car is still pre-production as of today. We're shooting today so I don't have any prices for you. Kia is telling us low 30 is base with that fascinating 60 [unk]. Low 40 is loaded up on the tech trim which will be their top-end car. So, pretty reasonable for the amount of technology, performance, and I'd say, refinement in this vehicle. We'll wait to see a final production version to see how the pricing works but I have a hunch I would take almost all the tech options because of the value and how well they seem to work.

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