Kia went back to the drawing board after killing off the Amanti luxury sedan in 2009. The Korean carmaker has learned a lot in the intervening years, and the 2014 Cadenza is proof positive.
The front-wheel-drive Cadenza luxury sedan is an attractive, eye-catching entry in the segment. It is powered by an all-aluminum, direct-injection 293-horsepower V6, which is paired with a 6-speed Sportmatic automatic transmission. The result is an EPA estimated 19 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway. The Cadenza is offered in one nicely appointed trim level -- Premium -- and rides on standard 18-inch alloy wheels, with four-wheel disc brakes and fully independent suspension. Standard exterior goodies include heated, power-fold mirrors, rain-sensing windshield wipers, auto-leveling LED headlights, and fog lights.
Inside is where the Cadenza shines. There you'll find a 550-watt, 12-speaker premium audio system with USB outlets, Bluetooth hands-free connectivity with audio streaming, a rearview camera display with back-up warning system, and a voice command navigation system with an 8-inch touchscreen display. Dual-zone automatic climate control, front power one-touch up/down windows, paddle shifters and steering wheel-mounted audio and cruise controls are all within easy reach. Wood accents and leather seating are standard as well, as is a 10-way adjustable driver's seat with power lumbar support, with heated seating up front.
Three packages add even more luxury and convenience to the already-loaded Cadenza. The $3,000 Luxury Package includes a panoramic sunroof, HID adaptive headlights, Nappa leather seating with driver's side ventilation and extendable seat cushion, driver's side memory functions for seating and mirrors, a tilt/telescopic steering wheel, a heated steering wheel and rear heated outboard seats. The $3,000 Technology Package adds 19-inch alloy wheels, adaptive cruise control to maintain safe following distances, blind spot detection and lane departure warning and more. Finally, the aptly named White Interior Package includes attractive white Nappa leather, wood grain accents, and Chamude suede for the headliner, pillar trim, sun visors and rear package shelf.
As I spent a week in the 2017 Kia Cadenza, I heard the same refrain again and again, "That's a Kia?" The incredulity was understandable, since Kia built up a reputation as an economy brand, yet the Cadenza shows off elegantly subtle styling.
The front end in particular gives the Cadenza presence. Departing from the Tiger Nose grille of other Kia vehicles, the Cadenza presents a refined-looking lateral slot with vertical bars, bookended by LED headlights accented by snazzy zig-zag parking lights.
Looks aside, the Cadenza proved a comfortable driver for day-to-day trips, with very modern electronics for driver assist and in the dashboard. However, it also showed me that not all Apple CarPlay implementations are equal.
The Good A gorgeous design and a full plate of driver assistance features, such as adaptive cruise control and a head-up display, make the 2017 Kia Cadenza a very desirable car with a price that beats the pants off the competition.
The Bad Apple CarPlay and the Cadenza's onboard navigation conflict when it comes to voice command. Torque steer shows up under hard acceleration.
The Bottom Line With the 2017 Cadenza, Kia brings just about everything you could want in a modern, premium sedan, except for any real sport character.
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