(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.
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;
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.
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;
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.
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.