Rich and creamy, mmmmm hmmmm. That used to be a notion reserved for Lexus, but Kia’s new cracks the code and brings a new level of perfection to the mid-luxury sedan segment.
The new Cadenza is Kia’s flagship model, starting out at about $35,000. It shares its chassis with the Hyundai Azera which means it has front wheel drive, a 293 horsepower 3.3 liter V6 engine and a smooth as silk 6-speed automatic transmission.
It quickly became apparent to me that Kia closely studied cars like the Lexus ES350, the Lincoln MKS, even perhaps the Acura RL. They took all the things that make these cars good and put it them together. The result is a car that comes across with very upscale design, a near perfect level of features, and driving behavior that really puts a smile on your face.
The styling is not quite as daring as the smaller the Kia Optima. Instead it brings the Kia DNA into a more stately look that has hints of BMW’s 7-Series silhouette. In fact it sits on the ground like a rear-wheel drive car.
And the interior is simply a case study in good design. Not only is it very pleasing to the eye with rich wood-grain trim, top quality switchgear, but it has one of the best laid out dash and cockpits we have experienced in some time.
Fit and finish are more what you’d expect from Japan or Germany and every little detail seems to flow together with design perfection. The leather seats are multi adjustable, and the steering column power telescopes and tilts – all of which can be saved in memory quick sets.
The UVO Infiniti stereo sound system sounded phenomenal. Its associated touchscreen display, navigation and driver interface is second only to Lexus in how well it works and how easy it is to use. Kia makes this look so easy, its a wonder why some car makers still struggle to do this right.
Our Cadenza had the optional Luxury Package which gives front and rear seat heaters, but only the driver gets a cooled seat. This is a Hyundai-Kia quirk that we hope they grow out of. Rear seat room is extra generous though and there are vents back there to keep them cool or warm.
The Technology Package included a number of driver assistance features like radar based cruise control, blind spot warning, and lane departure warning just to name a few. The radar cruise control worked well unless your freeway has mild curves where it tends to get a little surprised and suddenly slows the car at times.
On the road the Cadenza makes no promises to be high performance car, but rather gives you a luxury car ride with precise enough handling control to make it fun to drive when you prod it. It never feels heavy or sluggish, having a light touch that always rewards your inputs with a willing response.
On a windy road it loves to play and run up to a point. The suspension and optional 19” wheels provide a firm enough platform to be sharp but still gives a boulevard ride when cruising in town. Brakes are adequate but do get warm and fade if you start treating the Cadenza like a BMW M3.
Its 3.3 liter DOHC direct-injected V6 is a gem of a power plant, with a nice sound and a smooth revving character. It never feels rough or thrashy, and is always happy to jump at the chance to you thrust.
The engine is paired with a smooth shifting 6-speed automatic transmission which has a manual shift mode and paddle shifters on the steering wheel.
Another area where the Cadenza impressed is fuel efficiency. The EPA rates it at 19 mpg city and 28 mpg highway with 22 mpg combined. In our own testing which included plenty of mountain romps, city driving as well as freeway drives we well exceeded this averaging 26.7 mpg.
For a more detailed review and photo gallery log onto GasMiler.com