2008 Kia Amanti review: Is that your Lincoln?

2008 Kia Amanti

2008 Kia Amanti

“I parked next to your Town Car.”

Uh, it’s not a Lincoln.

“Really? What is it then.”

Go and look.

“There’s nothing on the front.”

Right. No badge, no logo.

“Oh, here it is. It’s a Kia! Who’d a thought…?”

OK, so now you know it’s a Kia. Look inside and tell me, based on what you see, how much it costs.

“Hey, it’s really nice in there. Nice leather, and look at all the stuff. Can I sit in it?”

Absolutely. Now how much?

“Oh, thirty-five, forty thousand.”

Kia would be very happy to hear you say that. It’s a Kia Amanti, the flagship of the Korean maker’s lineup. It has a base price of $26,220. Add $725 for delivery, subtract whatever you can bargain away and add title, tax and license and it’s out the door: power driver and passenger seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, eight-speaker audio system, auto-dimming inside rearview mirror and all the usual power stuff and of course cruise control, all standard equipment.

And it will, if you’re in the right demographic/psychographic, impress your neighbor, particularly if your neighbor drives a Sonata. That, really, is the target market for the Kia Amanti. Kia is driving towards building cars you want to drive rather than cars that are good for the price. The Amanti isn’t fully in that category yet.

Still, it has the look, even if the front view, with its oval headlamps and “formal” grille has vague Mercedes overtones and the profile mimics the traditional Lincoln limo bait, At least the rear is relatively anonymous, though it wears the large taillights common among the luxury brands.

To imitate our test Kia Amanti requires dipping into the option book. Leather is part of, naturally enough, the Leather Package, which in addition to lining the Amanti with cow, includes heated front seats, memory driver’s seat and outside mirrors, heated plus auto tilt down, Infinity AM/FM/6-disc in-dash CD Audio, nine Infinity speakers, a four-inch monitor with trip computer and outside temperature readout, all for a reasonable $2,500.

Or for $1,450, one can have black one-tone interior trim, black leather seat trim, “Supervision Meter Cluster,” power adjustable pedals, brushed-aluminum (not aluminum-look plastic) interior Trim, 17-inch tires with chrome-finished alloy wheels.

The wheels are available in a standalone option for $350, and we strongly recommend spending $500 for the electronic stability control system. A sunroof is a $900 option.

Of course, there are restrictions on what has to go with what, but our fully equipped Kia Amanti totaled $30,345.

Of course, a static analysis of the Kia Amanti is one thing, driving it another, and there’s where the comparison to a Town Car is particularly apt. It’s not from the specifications. The Town Car is traditional body-on-frame, front-mounted V-8 engine and rear drive. The Amanti has a more modern layout: front engine front-drive, unit-body construction and V-6 power. The 3.8-liter double-overhead cam engine is rated at a creditable 260 horsepower and 264 lbs-ft of torque; the transmission is a five-speed automatic.

So equipped the Amanti’s acceleration is reasonably quick for general purposes, mergeworthy and relaxed on the Interstate. It’s quiet at speed, with road noise and wind noise well controlled.

But where it seems they’ve really channeled the Town Car is in ride, which is soft and floaty, best described, perhaps, as nautical. Aye aye, cap’n. Steady as she goes.

Seriously, the Kia Amanti has a huge trunk and a roomy back seat, and with the pending demise of the Methuselahn Town Car, the Amanti is a respectable alternative to the Lincoln, or more appropriately, the Ford Crown Victoria.

“Really?”

Well, maybe not to most Crown Vic drivers, who have been driving Miss Vickie since before they qualified for Social Security. More likely it’s a move-up for Kia Optima drivers, a way of keeping them in the brand. Certainly that may change as Kia turns over its entire model line within the next 18 months, the Amanti among them. Meanwhile, this generation of Amanti is one of those “good for the price” Kias. The next generation? We’ll just have to wait and see.

“OK.”

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