Kia’s last stab at building a luxury car for North America was the Amanti that ceased production in 2010, but with its Cadenza model revealed at the North American International Auto Show this week, the Korean automaker seeks to obliterate any memory of the older car.
According to a Kia press release, the Cadenza will feature a raft of high-tech features in keeping up with the luxurious Joneses, among them Advanced Smart Cruise Control (ASCC), Blind Spot Detection (BSD), and a Lane-Departure Warning System (LDWS).
Kia Executive Vice President of Marketing and Communications Michael Sprague said Kia saw the need for a range-topping luxury model based on strong demand for its Optima SXL, previously the most loaded-up Kia one could buy in America.
“Since the introduction of the range-topping Optima SXL last year, we have seen an increasing number of customers in our retail outlets looking for a sedan with even more upscale amenities and technology,” he said.
“The Cadenza is the new flagship for Kia in the U.S. market, and when it goes on sale later this year, it will introduce a number of advanced systems that promise to set a new standard in the premium segment.”
The car will come in only one trim level, and that trim level will feature as standard an 8-inch high-resolution screen that will serve as the display for Kia’s UVO with eServices infotainment and telematics suite as well as the company’s advanced navigation system featuring XM Traffic. There will be two option packages available:
- The Premium Package gets you a full-length sunroof, HID headlamps with adaptive front lighting system (AFLS), a 7-inch TFT LCD instrument cluster, premium Nappa leather seats (apparently they’re supposed to be nicer than the Cadenza’s standard leather seats), memory-enabled 12-way power driver’s seat with ventilation and seat cushion extension, heated seats front and rear, heated steering wheel with power tilt and telescope feature, and a power rear sunshade “for comfort and privacy,” the release said.
- The Technology Package gives 19-inch alloy wheels, electric parking brake, the ASCC system, water-repellent “hydrophobic” windshield (Kia’s word, not ours), BSD, and LDWS.
Those who like to bump their music will want to take the Cadenza’s standard 550-watt Infinity stereo system for a test drive. It pumps music through 12 speakers, including a subwoofer. Bluetooth connectivity is standard, Kia says, as is advanced voice recognition that the company says makes it easier than ever to command the UVO infotainment system or the navigation system by speaking naturally– no special phrases or commands to remember.
The Cadenza gets a 3.3-liter direct-injected gasoline V6 Kia says is its most powerful V6 ever, good for 293 horsepower at 6,400 RPM and 255 ft-lbs of torque at 5,200 RPM. That power is routed to the front wheels via standard six-speed automatic transmission. For those feeling froggy enough, there’s a manual mode featuring the “slap-stick” in the console or shift paddles behind the steering wheel.
GM isn’t the only one using high-tensile steel to increase rigidity and decrease weight, as Kia says it made extensive use of the material to strengthen the torsional rigidity of about 60% of the vehicle. That should do good things for handling, and Kia says in concert with noise-reducing features such as a hydraulic transmission mount, it should also reduce noise, vibration, and harshness (NVH).
The ultimate question remains: Can Kia pose a serious challenge to the entry level luxury market? Coming hot off its best sales year ever, one would be wise not to make any big bets against the brand’s success.
The Cadenza is scheduled to be in dealers’ inventory during the second quarter of this year.