2014 Kia Cadenza Premium Technology first drive review: Defining virtuous

2014 Kia Cadenza Premium Technology

2014 Kia Cadenza Premium Technology

The folks there may not know it, but Kia hit on the perfect name for the newest addition to their lineup, dubbing it the 2014 Kia Cadenza. And a cadenza, for those not musically educated, is a place in a concerto where a featured soloist displays, as they say, musical virtuosity. Or in more general terms, as Mirriam-Webster notes, “an exceptionally brilliant part of an artistic…work.”

Yes, that should do it.

The 2014 Cadenza is Kia’s new flagship, and it’s suitable for carrying the admiral’s flag. It’s the biggest car Kia has put on the market here (it’s dubbed the K7 in its Korean home market, under the larger, unfortunately-named K9). The Cadenza is based on the Kia Optima platform—the basic elements underpinning a car—though with two inches more between front and rear axles, and five inches longer overall. The Cadenza is also two inches taller than the Optima and the h-point, the height of passengers’ hips above the ground, goes up by one.

2014 Kia Cadenza Premium Technology dash

The 2014 Kia Cadenza Premium Technology dash is loaded, as the name suggests, with technology, and looks good too. (click to enlarge)

Most of the added length goes into making the rear seat roomier, though for better or worse, the Cadenza, not parked alongside its smaller sibling, doesn’t look bigger than the Optima. Perhaps that could be a problem for the Cadenza, as owners of the more expensive model want buyers to know that it is. However Kia’s American marketing chief Michael Sprague claims “value is the new cool,” based on the growth of Optima sales, at 150,000 per year, over the admittedly bland previous generation, which sold only at a 25,000 per annum rate.

Kia doesn’t expect to sell as many Cadenzas as Optimas, however. Although Kia U.S. sales veep Tom Loveless declined to give an anticipated sales—auto execs have learned that’s a losing game—the maximum for this year would be in the 12,000 to 13,000 range. Other than that, “I don’t know.”

2014 Kia Cadenza Premium Technology wheel

The 2014 Kia Cadenza Premium Technology package includes special 19-inch wheels. (click to enlarge)

The objective of the Kia Cadenza, then, is to offer somewhere for Optima owners to move up to, as well as owners of near-luxury cars to move over to. At $35,100, the price of the base Cadenza is just above that of the maxed out Optima.

In a move that sure to confuse shoppers, Kia says that the Cadenza is available only at the “Premium” trim level. There’s no base, no standard, just Premium. It’s justified, says Kia, by the Cadenza’s generous standard equipment list, including keyless entry, advanced navigation system with SiriusXM Traffic2 and UVO eServices, Bluetooth wireless technology3,an eight-inch touch screen, 550-watt Infinity4 12-speaker audio system, Rear Camera Display5 and leather-trimmed seats with heat and power adjustment in the front.

Instead of trim levels, the Cadenza adds two “packages.” The first is the Luxury package, adding a full-length panoramic sunroof with power retractable sunshade, Nappa leather trim with heated rear outboard seats and ventilated 12-way adjustable driver seat, HID headlamps with adaptive front lighting system, seven-inch LCD instrument panel, heated power tilt and telescoping steering wheel, two-position memory that sets the driver’s seat, outside mirrors, and steering column, at $3,000 for a total of $38,100.

The Technology package is priced at $3,000 as well, but it’s on top of and in addition to the Luxury package, bringing the MSRP to $41,100. It adds 19-inch alloy wheels, an electronic parking brake, adaptive cruise control, blind spot detection, and lane departure warning system.

2014 Kia Cadenza engine

The 2014 Kia Cadenza is powered by the Kia/Hyundai 3.3-liter direct injection engine. (click to enlarge)

An additional feature of the Technology package is hydrophobic treatment of the front side windows, which repels water—much like RainX, but permanent—for better side visibility in the rain.

With the Cadenza, Kia’s UVO infotainment system, which includes navigation with SiriusXM Traffic and satellite radio, instead of having the usual three-month subscription, has a subscription paid up for the life of the vehicle. And that includes updates.

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