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2017 Kia Cadenza Limited SXL Review by Rob Eckaus +VIDEO


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Impressively equipped with top notch refinements

By Rob Eckaus

                  • SEE ALSO: Kia Research and Buyers Guide


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When thinking of a roomy luxury car for a suggested retail price of $45,000 what comes to mind? Think of some legitimate four or five passenger luxury cars, are any of them in that price range? One look at the interior of the Kia Cadenza which was redesigned for the 2017 model year is convincing enough. It’s a luxurious, roomy, front wheel drive sedan with a suite of computer driving aids making for a quiet and comfortable luxury car. This Kia makes a strong case in the segment. This particular loaded Limited SXL model styling is crisp, elegant with a touch of chrome and likely timelessness in the era of the modern sedan. If the name doesn’t carry the panache like Lexus did, the vehicle itself will be considered a gem, if an obscure one right now.

Equipped with the white Napa quilted leather seats, one feels guilty wearing old jeans and sitting in it. The dash layout is logical, clean and probably best described as elegant. A cute greeting ditty plays when entering the car, then a pretty slick graphical system check is displayed as if preparing for takeoff. A quiet driver with great outward visibility, it’s a very pleasant driver although more shelf for the elbow on the top of the door would be appreciated. Yet such an uncouth driving position is unbecoming in this elegant tourer.

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Quite capable on the high speed sweepers, it has a composed feel of proper suspension tuning and a long(ish) 112.4” wheelbase to straddle the bell curve between sport and bouncy old-school luxury. It’s the tighter turns where you feel the front wheel drive push with subdued tire squeal. Of course that is beyond the intended demographic driving profile. Keep up that behavior and you’re simply betraying the message of the classy exterior chrome accents.

Multiple driving modes are offered and response in the Sport driving mode is noticeably sharp and will immediately spin the tires from a stop despite the classy pretentions. The only other drawback is a slight whine is heard while it continuously holds a lower gear in Sport. Comfort mode offers easy throttle response for driving in traffic, also very well executed with hardware and code. Smart mode is a decent compromise of both but Eco mode kills throttle response and one taste of that lag earned an immediate ban from further use. Despite frequent full throttle usage and over-the-speed-limit cruising speeds, 25 mpg was observed, falling right between the 20 city and 28 highway ratings.




Using all the configurable electronics is fun customization of the features, done on the center driver’s screen. The Surround View Monitor provides a 360 degree view of the vehicle when parking. A close-up view is also selectable for the front, side and rear. It even has a Rear Cross Traffic Alert in case of a passing object when backing out of space or driveway. The heads-up displays just enough information and it is both height and intensity adjustable, even working with polarized sunglasses. A night the LED headlights could be mistaken for brights from the driver’s perspective for the first few trips after dark.

On the 76 mile round-trip drive to the office and back, the Advanced Smart Cruise Control is great for relatively steady speeds. Despite the adjustable following distance, the closest setting was the ideal one as a “two one-thousand” count. Some more tweaking is needed when a large speed differential of the vehicle in front causes a sudden slowdown versus a gentle fade. It’s a little slow to react when a car moves out of the lane but when it does clear, the acceleration is brisk. The programming is logical, the closest setting is much different at 85mph than it is a 35mph, thankfully. In slow traffic when coming to a stop, it becomes necessary to reapply the throttle and the display says as much. Fading over to the lane divider activates the lane departure warning as well as the blind spot warning. Both are effective and not particularly jarring and thankfully not embarrassing if you’re talking on the integrated Bluetooth and the warning(s) beep.

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Stopping at Black Heart Racing’s fabrication shop to discuss a custom tool I needed, the 360 degree cameras were a blessing in the confined parking area of multiple businesses, trucks, etc. The owner Lloyd, a hot-rodder, fabricator and artist I had arrived in a Lexus, which is high praise indeed.

With the weather now getting hot, the air conditioning blows very cold and the ventilated seats are a great luxury, not too cold and very quiet although a higher setting would be welcome for even quicker cool downs. It also has a switch to do it manually. Other little thoughtful touches noticed are shifting into reverse automatically lowers the rear sunshade lowers and silently comes back up after shifting to drive. Locking the vehicle with the remote automatically and silently folds the side mirrors and unfold upon approach. The refinement level is top notch.

A few lacking features that have been out for year in other marques does seem a little odd. Parked car ventilation scheduling isn’t offered. Along the same thinking, holding the unlock button on the key fob does not lower the windows. The moon roof shade doesn’t seem to be able to be moved independently of the moon roof tilt or slide function. It’s either open or closed but the panoramic roof is going to the rear is a nice touch. These are all likely programmable since the hardware is already present.

Regardless of what is lacking, whether a few random features, cylinder count or where the drive wheels are, the Cadenza Limited SXL is impressively equipped. The Kia name may not be synonymous with luxury like the long established brands, yet, but the Cadenza is a strong argument for a roomy, very well equipped luxury sedan that makes driving an enjoyable, efficient and effortless endeavor.

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