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Road Tested: 2017 KIA Cadenza SX-L

Written By | Mar 13, 2017

2017 Cadenza SXL

SAN FRANCISCO, March 13, 2017 – Seriously? A Kia? That is a common question one hears when driving the Cadenza SX-L. This modern, well-appointed sedan has the makings of a world-class competitor in the semi-luxury, full-sized sedan market. Let’s break this down, shall we?

For starters, it’s time to put away any preconceived notions you may have about the brand – Kia ranks as one of the most reliable automakers out there and is one of the few that offers a 10-year / 100,000 mile powertrain warranty. It’s great to see a company stand behind its product by having an industry-leading warranty. On the 2016 reliability chart by Consumer Reports, Kia ranked in at number 5 – let that sink in a bit. If you would have asked someone about buying a Kia, even 10 years ago, they would have looked at you funny. This is a company that is revamped its game.

Under the hood is the potent 3.3 liter, double over-head cam, V6 with variable valve timing, that is good for 290 horsepower and 253 lb-ft of torque. The mated an eight-speed, “sportronic” transmission provides smooth shifts and snappy gear shifting when needed. However, the car is a bit bloated in the weight department, topping the scales at 3,670 pounds.

Its EPA rating for fuel economy is 20 around town, 28 on the freeway for a combined average of 22 miles per gallon. Not exactly stellar but not bad, all things considered.

The Cadenza starts at a base price of $32,990 and creeps up to just over $44,000 with all the bells and whistles in the “Limited” model. This pricing puts it head-to-head with the likes of the Buick LaCrosse, Toyota Avalon, Nissan Maxima, and the Chrysler 300.

Kia has done a very nice job of giving its customers a well-appointed interior. From the soft, Nappa-leather seating surfaces, to the fact they both heat and ventilate to the wood-like finishes and classes touch of diamond-shapes on the seat bolsters. Additionally, the interior space simply feels “huge” – there’s more than ample leg room for grown adults in the rear – it’d be difficult for most anyone to feel cramped while in the Cadenza.

If you appreciate stellar sound quality, then you’ll absolutely love the Harmon/Kardon system that powers the Infotainment center. Its 12 speakers and 630-watt amplifier deliver one of the best audio experience you can find in any new car, at any price. We’re talking about bass response that literally shakes things up, silky midrange frequencies and smooth highs that don’t rip your ears off. It really does rival some of the better after-market solutions out there. While the mapping system looks a bit antiquated by today’s standards, it’s still easy to use and the touchscreen is very responsive.

Driving the Cadenza is a mixed bag for this auto editor. On one hand, the car does a great job of providing adequate acceleration performance and a quiet cabin yet on the other hand – all the power going to only a front-wheel-drive system. Why no all-wheel-drive, Kia? There’s some slight torque-steer present on hard-launches and a bit of understeer around some of the sharper corners we took. While we acknowledge that many of its competitors also rely on front-wheel-drive, this is an area we’d love to see Kia take the lead on.

Its handling is good but not superb in the sense of the dampening around corners – there’s still a bit of body roll, however, its large brakes do an admirable job of bringing things to a halt.

While the Cadenza can be a bit lost in the current Kia line-up – being being jostled between the formidable Optima and the K900 – it is a good answer to the entry-level luxury sedan market segment and with the slight refinements for the 2017 model year, hopefully sales will increase.

If you’re in the market for an entry-level luxury-class sedan and are shopping around, you really should considering test-driving this car. In many cases, it’ll offer you better features than more expensive alternatives. It certainly has the styling, power and interior build-quality to go toe-to-toe with any of them.

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Duane Pemberton

Duane Pemberton is a lifestyle writer and CDNs Auto Editor. Pemberton loves anything that helps bring people together which is why he writes about food, wine, cars, and travel.