2014 Kia Cadenza - Ringer For a Four Ringer - Review


At a time of overwhelming SUV popularity, nothing in the junior executive lot proclaims “You’ve arrived” better than a premium full size sedan.  Like the 2014 Kia Cadenza. It’s Bavarian handsome, with a milder rendition of the “tiger nose” culled from the mid-size Kia Optima , is nearly a  ringer for a previous Audi A8 über-wagen. These things happen when Kia snatches its Global Design Chief, Peter Schreyer, from the “Four Intertwined Rings of Ingolstadt”

Different vs. Improved:

Greater restraint in body creases and less chrome make the Kia Cadenza a more reserved rendition of extrovert cousin, the Hyundai Azera.  Glowing LED white front parking and rear tail lighting lend prominence.

The Cadenza cabin is less over-the-top. In the place of Azera’s faux metallics and carbon fiber: smooth dark plastics and imitation wood grain. Soft-touch materials are found wherever hands and arms will rest. Nappa leather seat surfaces have that grippy satin texture common to Lexuses.  A rapid-heating wood and leather trimmed steering wheel with redundant audio/ voice and cruise controls has a wide range of power adjustments.

The 7″-inch LCD “Supervision Meter” gauge cluster easily calls up trip data and systems settings. Black plastic climate control buttons are probably friendlier to the poorer eye-sight set than capacitive touch controls in the Ford Taurus. Shouldn’t the audio, navigation and settings controls be located immediately below the 8″ display, where touch selections are required? See the Kia Optima.

Power seat switches can’t match the visual elegance of the Mercedes-style seat-shaped satin metals ones on the Azera. Their location on the outboard side of the seat cushion, rather than the upper door panel, though, is a plus.

Steering wheel + front seat heating/ cooling, backlight sunshade, and E-parking brake switches are clustered direct fore of the center armrest.  That resting driver’s right forearm is going to obscure them.

Fire In the Belly:

On dry pavement – between some goodly snow storms – the direct-injected 3.3L gas DOHC V6 could spin the front Kumho all-season tires all day. Plowing through squishy white stuff, tires jerk first in one direction then in another until traction control kicks in. Paddle down-shifting the 6-speed automatic at freeway speeds is met with tardiness.

As big as this sucker is, the Kia Cadenza‘s sprightliness belies dimensions. That’s probably because it registers about 150lbs-lighter than cousin Azera at the scales.

The independent suspension is sprung high enough restrain body lean. The Cadenza makes supple triple railroad track crossings. Low-flex bushings and slower dampers don’t take kindly to direct hits from road craters. Steering, exhibiting wallow at speed, could benefit from the variable assist setup available in other Kia’s. Four-wheel disc brakes offer consistent pedal feel but don’t take kindly to hard jabs.

Your Voice:

All Kia Cadenza‘s get UVO hands-free communications with SD navigation. The easy-reach 8″ LCD touch display seems slightly more pixelated than in competitors. Making simple tone adjustments to the Infinity 5-channel stereo is arduous. Once in radio or media mode engage the hard “Settings/ Info” button, then make a “Setup” selection on the screen to locate the Audio Settings sub-menu. Otherwise the interface is fairly straight-forward.

Voice commands are limited to telephony, media and navigation selections. Implementation of UVO persists with a very spartan POI selection system. Upon selecting a  Category, scroll by the command “Next Page” to find more geographically distant Points of Interest. It’s less flexible than speaking a city/ state and POI name in Ford’s Sync My Touch.  Nor is UVO climate setting conversant as in the Chrysler 300’s  U-Connect.

New to Kia for 2014 are E-apps. Driver assistance telematics include Lost Vehicle Locator and Vehicle Data monitor, which will help explain why every time your teen brings the car back there’s a funny burnt rubber odor. While there’s no live valet as in GM’s OnStar, here it’s free. Third party infotainment applications, from mobile data devices, won’t fly in the Cadenza.

Room for a  Road Trip?:

Four adults in the Kia Cadenza are spoiled with virtually separate enclaves.  Few sedans offer some 4″-inches of rear seat knee-room. Front seats envelope without being constrictive. We put the driver’s seat power knee extender to good use. Our quibbles are with but a rear seat cargo pass-through instead of folding backs and a glass panorama roof which impinges on rear center headroom.

Cadenza‘s land yacht length of 195-inches “, is noticeable come parking time.  The standard reverse-camera seemed overly exposed to road grime and salt. Adaptive HID lights, adaptive cruise control, blind spot and lane departure warning builds on Kia’s drive to be “assist drivers.” However, the inclusion of back-up warning sensors without cross traffic capability smells of a “bean counter kibosh.”

Would We?

The  Toyota Avalon may hold the title in this segment for craftsmanship, refinement and fuel economy. Yet the 2014 Kia Cadenza rides more absorbent. It’s a tough value to beat at $41,000, fully optioned. Suddenly, the aura of glowing LEDs, killer smoked fan-blade 19″ wheels, and power jack-knife wing mirrors tempts us back to premium large sedans.

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