In a world where brands like Lincoln and Acura have seen their identities evaporate in a gentle breeze of competent, but forgettable products, it’s unusual to see a luxury vehicle like the 2014 Kia Cadenza come into being. The Kia Cadenza sashays onto the world stage wrapped in a startlingly eye-catching package that conceals a remarkably old-school take on how a premium car should drive - and one that doesn’t seem to line up with the successful strategy of innovation and re-definition that the Korean brand has followed in recent years.
In fact, it’s hard for me to describe the 2014 Kia Cadenza in accurate terms without it sounding as though I am criticizing the car. Typically, any vehicle that hints that it might be more interested in not spilling your coffee than winging through the slalom with its tires on fire draws the ire of automotive journalists. In this case, however, because I am so certain that Kia designed the Cadenza to be exactly what it is and that it’s less-than-engaging driving character is not accidental, I am happy to evaluate the vehicle on its own merits rather than hold it up to a standard that was clearly never part of the sedan’s design brief.
The 2014 Kia Cadenza’s bulk pays off rather nicely in the form of a passenger compartment that delivers acres of space both front and rear. In addition to offering a single trim level that bundles such equipment as heated leather seats, a cooled driver’s seat, dual automatic climate control, and the UVO multimedia and navigation system, it’s also possible to push the car’s MSRP past the $40,000 mark with options packages that include niceties such as a panoramic sunroof and a heated steering wheel. No matter how the car is decked out the interior feels high end, with a pleasantly upscale execution that masks its affordable character quite well. Perhaps the only real fault is the sedan’s sound insulation, as the cabin isn’t quite as peaceful as it really should be given its premium aspirations.
The low cost of entry for Cadenza ownership is made even more remarkable by the graceful, bold styling that defines the sedan’s exterior design. One of the most attractive models in a line-up that boasts a number of styling wins, the Cadenza maintains all of the important Kia cues while stretching them across a larger canvas that doesn’t present a single awkward viewing angle.
The 2014 Kia Cadenza doesn’t just look plus-sized from the outside, but it also makes its bulk known from behind the wheel. This isn’t to say that that Cadenza is slow – far from it. The sedan’s 3.3-liter V-6 (which generates 293 horsepower and 255 lb-ft of torque) roars to life when the gas pedal is mashed to the floor and thrusts the Kia forward with authority, so much so that on cold November streets the car’s traction control often engaged when accelerating around a corner.
With more than enough power to motivate its not insignificant bulk, the Cadenza reveals its throwback colors in its ride quality. Whereas latter luxury sedans used to brag in their respective advertisements about ferrying passengers from point A to point B while floating on a cushion of air, the Kia’s suspension tuning appears to take that concept and add a couple of extra inches of helium on either side of the cushion. The theme that I gathered from the Cadenza’s handling package was one of detached introspection, with the car effortlessly wallowing over bumps in the road while simultaneously assuring me that there was no need for me to feel any connection between the steering wheel and the front tires. The big sedan’s extremely insulated character ensured a pleasant time for my passengers, but at times left me not all that confident mid-corner. One doesn’t so much drive the Cadenza as navigate it, a quality that can’t be said about any other vehicle in the Kia stable.
For Those About To Rock
The 2014 Kia Cadenza is that rarest of creatures – a tribute band that has honed its skills and practiced in front of the toughest bar crowds until it has become even better than the act which it faithfully copies ever was. It’s shocking to hear Barry White’s soothing baritone coming out of the mouth of a sharply-dressed American Idol singer in a cocktail dress, but that’s very much the situation here with the Cadenza. This car doesn’t so much re-imagine American luxury as it does take it to a level that was never quite achieved in the earlier era thanks to the dedicated acolytes who studied hard and put all of the pieces together with startling precision.
Will the Kia Cadenza find a market, or is it doomed to hawk its own albums by way of late-night infomercials that bear the faint odor of having come so close to success? It’s hard to say. There certainly exists a subset of premium shoppers who desire all of the trappings of a luxury car without any of the brand recognition that comes from piloting a Lexus, especially when such comforts can be purchased at a relatively affordable price. How many of them will think to check the Kia showroom for such a vehicle remains an open question – and indeed, the raison d'être for this unique sedan.