Engine: 3.3-liter direct injection V6
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
EPA Ratings: 20/city, 28, highway, 23/combined
Base Price: $44,390
As Tested: $46,280
Overview: Redesigned for 2017, the Kia Cadenza presents a more formal and upscale presence than the first generation. While the larger K900 remains Kia’s flagship, the 2017 Cadenza looks and feels more like a luxury sedan than the original.
Kia’s workhorse 3.3-liter, 290-horse V6 delivers 253 pound-feet of torque to the front wheels via a new 8-speed automatic transmission.
Walkaround: Styling is more evolutionary than groundbreaking. While just about the same size as before, the 2017 Cadenza is considerably more elegant. A longer roofline adds rear headroom coupled with additional rear legroom. The European-styling influence features fewer sheetmetal creases, more brightwork and a more ornate grille. All models have Z-shaped LED running lights, with full LED headlights and foglamps included with Technology and SLX trim.
Interior: The cabin is also a modest evolution. Immediately noticeable are upgraded and seemingly handcrafted materials, achieving a softer and warmer character as soft leather debuts in many places. The touchscreen sits between climate-control vents, with logically positioned dashboard controls. There’s a traditional gearshift — not gimmicky push-button controls like the Acura MDX and others. Seating accommodates five and is quite comfortable, with a lower driver’s seat for more headroom and a new extendable cushion for taller drivers. Safety includes nine airbags and a rearview camera. Plus there’s Kia’s UVO infotainment system, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto standard. Optional packages feature lane-departure warning, automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane-change assist and blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert. Standard on the two upper trim levels are automatic high-beam headlights and surround-view cameras.
Behind the Wheel: The Cadenza is dedicated to comfort and church-like quietness at highway speeds. This isn’t a European-style sports sedan or as crisply responsive as some rivals on the highway. Of the four selectable drive modes — Comfort, Eco, Sport and Smart — Comfort seems best. Steering is heavy; braking is strong. Performance is adequate but not the Cadenza’s strongest suit. The 3.3-liter V6 needs more torque at lower engine speeds. However, the new 8-speed automatic shifts smoothly, downshifting quickly when necessary.
Bottom Line: The new 2017 Kia Cadenza is the benchmark for full-sized sedans, delivering exemplary roominess, comfort and quiet. Buyers who aren’t married to one particular brand owe themselves a serious look at it.