2018 Kia Cadenza Limited – Bottom Line Review

(Contributing Editor: Peter Stamatis)

In keeping with the spirit of this year’s first steps towards potential unification of the Korean peninsula, Hyundai Kia announced a unification of large family sedans offered in North America.

The Hyundai Azera has departed from these shores in favor of a sole sibling flavor from Seoul, the Kia Cadenza, which received a marked makeover in 2017.

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WHAT: 2017 Kia Cadenza Mk.2 N platform flagship large sedan, surviving sibling to the now defunct Hyundai Azera.

Standard Power: transverse 3.3L DOHC 24V DI gas V-6 = 290 hp/ 253 lb-ft @ 5200 rpm + 8-spd. torque converter planetary transaxle, steering wheel shift paddles; 3 Drive Modes.

WHAT (A) STYLING DIFFERENCE:  Cadenza Mk.1 tiger nose is transformed into a shark’s grin with vertical grille slats, concave and chromed on upper trim;  LED’d Z outlined wrap around headlamp housings project a razor’s edge; The butt = less bubble with a sharper upturned trunk-lid spoiler crease; License plate housing is moved to bumper cover, emphasizing the thinner wrap around LED tail-lamps and slimmer convex trunk back; In keeping with a razor theme, dual exhaust pipes have gone from oval to trapezoidal.

2017 Kia Cadenza Limited: facelift includes available all-new Intaglio toothy concave vertical slat wide grille flanked by Z-shaped DRLs and available LED headlights

The coke bottle fuselage with chrome banded rising lower valance imparts a sporty elegance.

WHY: Spiritual successor to the Land Yacht dinosaur which used to rule American roads

WHEN: On-Sale (in the U.S.) since late Autumn 2017

WHERE: Kia new vehicle dealers

WHERE MADE: Asan, South Korea

HOW ROADWORTHY: Naturally aspirated 3.3L 24V DOHC Lambda makes its thrust more than midway up the throttle band; Direct injection adds to the powerplant’s gritty sound;  8-speed transaxle = straight-laced upshifter either averse to or confused by rapid sequential manumatic downshifts;

Springing nearly wallows and damping often is caught off-guard with unruly road surface bumps;  Copious wheel fight occurs on full throttle; Improved steering winding is offset by feathery resistance and poor road feel; Corner turn-in is further dulled by a bit of body sway and nose dive, with all the makings of tail plow; Brake pedal = acceptable pedal modulation with predictable reaction.

HOW FAR: 22 combined miles per gallon;

HOW BIG/ LITTLE: 112+” wheelbase splits splits difference between incoming and outgoing Toyota Avalon; 195+” inches total length will allow garage spill-over space than a Ford Taurus of comparable cabin volume; Front seat legroom at 45+” inches = Royal throne;  Rear divan generous knee space;  Legitimate center seat position;

2017 Kia Cadenza Limited: Rear seat entry; Rear doors fitted with manual sunshades

HOW USEFUL: Trunk center pass-through; Trunk space = segment par; Cargo tie-down net; Proximity power trunk open & close; Large front ceiling soft-hinged sunglass caddy; Large mouse-fur lined glove box; Center-stack hinged-covered electronics phone bin w/ optional Qi wireless charging = 2 devices; Deep clamshell front center armrest bin; +1 Generous door pockets; +1 Cupholders x 4, Bottle holders x 4 (each door) -1 Tall trunk lift-over, narrow well;

HOW SAFE: 9 airbags; IIHS Top Safety Pick; Bird’s Eye view Rear camera; sonar front & rear Park Distance Control, Blind spot, rear cross traffic & lane departure warning; Driver Attention alert; Auto parking brake hold; Auto high beam headlamps; Heads-Up display.

2017 Kia Cadenza Limited: Surround view camera w/ predictive motion grid

Partial Autonomous Driving: Full adaptive cruise control, Lane Keep Assist, Forward Collision avoidance braking. -1 Lane keep assist challenged by sharper road bends;

HOW PEOPLE FRIENDLY: Heated & cooled 14-way driver, 10-way front pax power seats, w/ 2-setting driver’s memory;  Heated rear seats; 4 power windows w/ full up/ down express; Manual rear door sunshades; Rear backlight power sunshade w/ reverse auto retract; Puddle lamps x 4 doors; Standard panoramic roof;

2017 Kia Cadenza Limited: Diamond quilt patterned leather stands out on 14 way driver’s / 10 way heated / cooled front pax seats

Cool Gizmo(s): Comfort approach entry and lighting, exit power folding wing mirrors; Power driver seat knee extension;

Details Done Right:  Micro-suede headliner, pillars, sun-visors and rear parcel shelf; Contrast stitched, diamond-pattern quilted leather seating, door panels; LED cabin map & ambient lighting; Power Tilt / telescoping heated leather steering wheel;

Nearly Non-Descript: -1 Thinner leather, Faux embossed dashtop stitching; Faux ash gray woodgrain; Shiny gloss black accents; Coarse dark hard plastic grains below the belt and on front seat backs.

HOW “APP” -LICABLE: 8″ tri-pane touch LCD infotainment screen; Voice recognition command hands-free communications; 3-D SD GPS navigation; Subscription based Sirius XM radio & TravelLink; 14 speaker, 630 Watt Harman Kardon Q-Logic HD radio;  Android Auto / Apple Car Play wireless device overlays; free My UVO 911 service, Personal assistant, Geo-fencing, park minder, Pandora, Yelp; USB x 2, 12V x 3.

2017 Kia Cadenza Limited: hands free communication & available native GPS voice activated and guiding navigation integrates with HUD; Android Auto (Apple Car Play) bring redundant wireless device navigation, and entertainment

HOW MUCH: $45,290 = as tested 2017 Kia Cadenza Limited ($300 price increase for 2018 MY)

WHAT’S MISSING: Better front seat torso support; Native SMS messaging; More accurate lane keep assist; LTE Wi-Fi.

ANY COMPETITION: Buick LaCrosse: +1 AWD option, Avenir; Chrysler 300: +1 AWD option, cabin size; Ford Taurus: +1 AWD option; Sync3; massive trunk; Nissan Maxima: +1 sporty aspirations, hugging seats; Toyota Avalon: +1 Lexus in sheep’s clothing; solidity; fuel economy, Hybrid option.

FINAL WORD: A bigger Optima, with plenty of K900 luxury hand-me-downs, seeking a following.

An automotive enthusiast since an orange toy VW Beetle ended up in his playpen and following him everywhere, George Straton has been chief editor at ChicagoNow.com/Drive-He-Said automotive lifestyle blog since 2010. In 2017 George established Roadblazing.com, dedicated to accurate automotive reviews, news and road trip stories. George is a member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association and the Phoenix Automotive Press Association. George also happens to be an attorney and Loyola University of Chicago Ramblers fan. Present ride: 2022 Mazda 3 Turbo AWD Hatchback.


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