Redesigned for 2017, Kia Cadenza is more refined than the first-generation model and presents a more polished appearance. Though the larger K900 has taken over as Kia’s flagship sedan, the 2017 Cadenza looks like it has moved into a higher class than before and it feels more like a luxury car than previously.
Each gets the same powertrain. Largely a carryover, Kia’s 3.3-liter V6 engine develops 290 horsepower and 253 pound-feet of torque, driving the front wheels through a new 8-speed automatic transmission. (First-generation Cadenzas had a 6-speed.) Moving to an 8-speed helps with both drivability and fuel usage.
Developers of the current Cadenza specified substantial use of high-strength steel, as well as adhesive materials. As a result, the 2017 body is lighter as well as stiffer. These modifications also paved the way for suspension improvements, adding to the new level of refinement.
On the outside, the 2017 Cadenza looks considerably more elegant than the original. In addition to abundant leg space in the back seat of the luxury-level cabin, occupants can expect a blissfully quiet journey.
Neither the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has crash-tested the latest Cadenza. Safety starts with nine airbags, including knee airbag for the driver. A rearview camera is standard on all three versions.
Technology and SXL trim levels come with several standard active-safety features: lane departure warning, automatic emergency braking, and adaptive cruise control. None of those items can be installed on the Premium version, but an available option group includes lane-change assist and blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert.
Also standard on the two upper trim levels are automatic high-beam headlights and a surround-view camera system. The SXL edition adds a head-up display, which has an unfortunate tendency to disappear if the driver is wearing polarized sunglasses. All Cadenzas contain a version of Kia’s UVO infotainment system, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. A panoramic sunroof is standard on Technology and SXL models, and optional for Premium trim. Upper trim levels have no options at all.
The 2017 Kia Cadenza is available in Premium, Technology, SXL trim levels. Cadenza Premium comes with leather seat trim, heated front seats, heated power mirrors, foglamps, power front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, a 7-inch touchscreen, 8-speaker audio, satellite radio, Bluetooth, rearview camera, and 18-inch alloy wheels.
Cadenza Technology adds a batch of safety technology, led by automatic high-beam LED headlights, automatic emergency braking, blind-spot detection with cross-traffic alert, lane-departure and forward collision warnings, and adaptive cruise control. Also standard are ventilated front seats, a sunroof, paddle shifters, 19-inch wheels, LED foglamps, power tilt/telescopic steering column, navigation, heated steering wheel, and Harman Kardon 12-speaker 630-watt audio.
Cadenza SXL adds a head-up display, hands-free trunk opener, power rear sunshade, rear side window shades, Nappa quilted leather, Dark Satin 19-inch wheels, and heated outboard rear seats.
Dimensionally, the 2017 Cadenza is virtually identical to its predecessor, though a longer roofline boosts rear headroom for taller riders. Wheelbase has grown a bit, increasing leg space.
Even though this second-generation design is evolutionary, the 2017 Cadenza does display a slightly more organic appearance than before. Influence of European sedan styling is clearly evident. Fewer sheetmetal creases are visible, and brightwork has increased. In contrast to the original Cadenza’s simple grille, its replacement looks more ornate.
All models have Z-shaped LED running lights. Full LED headlights and foglamps are included with Technology and SLX trim levels, which also get a mildly different front fascia.
At a glance, the cabin looks like a modest evolution of the first-generation, but plenty of differences may be discerned. Especially noticeable is the greater emphasis on upgraded materials and seemingly hand-crafted details.
Though still conservative overall, the car has moved subtly upscale, achieving a softer and warmer tone. Door panels and the dashboard display actual stitching. Soft leather is found in more places. Even Premium-trim occupants get leather seats. SXL models get softer-yet Nappa leather with quilted bolsters and diamond-theme stitching.
Dashboard buttons are logically positioned. A touchscreen sits high, between climate-control vents. One feature deserves special applause: a traditional-type gearshift lever, rather than one of the gadgety controllers that have become common.
Passenger accommodations also have moved well ahead. A lower driver’s seat, for instance, yields greater head clearance. A new cushion can be extended to please taller drivers. Immense back-seat space, coupled with a hushed cabin, have turned the Cadenza into a veritable benchmark for full-size sedans. Cadenzas promise excellent space for five occupants, and real stretch-out room for four.
Trunk volume is substantial at 16 cubic feet.
Visually, the 2017 Cadenza might suggest a European sports sedan, but sportiness isn’t its forte. A Cadenza isn’t as composed on the road as some of its rivals, lacking the crisp responses that several other large sedans can provide.
Instead, Kia has focused strongly on comfort and, especially, refinement. Occupants can expect a gentle ride in a nearly-silent motoring environment, attributes that are helped by the sedan’s stiffer structure and a softening of its suspension. The Cadenza can anticipate a relaxed session behind the wheel.
Performance isn’t quite a strong suit, largely because the 3.3-liter V6 fails to provide a bounty of torque at lower engine speeds. To elicit satisfying response, the gas pedal needs to be pushed a bit harder than usual. On the plus side, the new 8-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly and downshifts promptly when needed.
Four drive modes are selectable: Comfort, Eco, Sport, and Smart. Each provides slightly different road behavior, but Comfort typically seems to yield the best result. Steering is on the heavy side normally; but if you choose Sport mode, it becomes heavier yet, inappropriate for a large sedan. Suspension’s settings are unaffected by mode choice, but definitely oriented toward comfort. Still, body control bests that of some rival sedans, and brakes are strong.
At highway speeds, wind noise is practically absent and road rumble minimal. Though helped by the 8-speed automatic, fuel economy trails most prominent rivals, EPA-rated at 20/28 mpg City/Highway, or 23 mpg Combined.
The new 2017 Kia Cadenza scores highly for front- and rear-seat roominess, overall fit and finish, and the capacity to seat five occupants in exemplary comfort. Shoppers who aren’t tied to a specific brand can get a serious luxury-sedan feel, as well as abundant features, in a Cadenza.
Driving impressions by Andrew Ganz, The Car Connection. James M. Flammang contributed to this report.