The 2017 Kia Cadenza isn’t by any means the brand’s first outing into the luxury car world, but it’s certainly the brand’s best effort yet. A near facsimile of what Lexus used to offer, the Cadenza doesn’t necessarily advance the luxury game—but it does prove that the Korean automaker’s push upmarket is here to stay.
It would be easy to fault Kia for its lack of focus in moving upscale. The first Cadenza looked good, but in an oversized Optima sort of way. And then the K900 popped up, boasting a big V-8, rear-wheel drive, and a decidedly mid-1990s feel. You’ll score 1,000 points in automotive bingo if you spot a K900 on the road (driving by a Kia dealer doesn’t count).
DON’T MISS: Our 2017 Kia Cadenza expert review
But let’s talk about the Cadenza a little longer. Outside, it’s an evolution of its predecessor in profile, but the difference is in the details. The 2017’s grille, for instance, is intricate and convex, and it mates well with the sedan’s complex headlamps and foursquare fog lamps.
Inside, there’s no reminder that this company used to build the dour Sephia. Even the Premium is well outfitted with leather seats (power and heated up front) and a 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system. But it’s the Technology model that represents supreme value with a host of safety tech headlined by automatic high beam LED headlamps, automatic emergency braking, and adaptive cruise control, as well as air conditioned seats and a wireless cell phone charger for right around $40,000.
Under the Cadenza’s hood sits a largely unchanged 3.3-liter V-6 rated at 290 horsepower and 253 pound-feet of torque, figures down a bit from before but compensated for thanks to a new 8-speed automatic transmission offering two more gears than last year. The 8-speed was designed internally by Kia and its parent company, Hyundai, and it’s a winner in this application.
It’s not a sedan that will stoke the flame for enthusiasts, but the Cadenza’s sophisticated feel and quiet, refined demeanor mean that it’s a serious contender for The Car Connection’s Best Car to Buy 2017.