Kia ups the ante with its newest luxury sedan

Kia isn’t known for its luxury sedans, but that might be changing soon. The automaker’s new-for-2017, second-generation Cadenza moves the bar well beyond anything previously found in its lineup. Even the range-topping K900 lacks some of the niceties found inside this BMW 5 Series competitor. Just look at that quilted leather!

I’ve been driving the 2017 Cadenza for the last week. The car has not only impressed my cynical, jaded journalist self, but also everyone who’s sat inside. Aside from the quilted bolsters, the leather seats are butter soft, not to mention heated and cooled up front. Rear passengers enjoy tons of legroom, while a padded center armrest makes elbows happy. A suede headliner frames the massive panoramic moonroof. Even the detailing around the switches and trim work is outstandingly posh. Sure, its no S-Class Maybach, but you’d be forgiven to mistake its fit and finish for a standard E-Class.

Real metal accents are placed where it counts – at high-touch areas like the gearshifter and steering wheel controls. These contrast well with the leather-wrapped shift knob and steering wheel, too. Oh, and that steering wheel is heated as well.

Now the Cadenza isn’t perfect. The piano black plastic along the center console shows the smallest specks of dust and even signs of scratches, despite the car’s young odometer reading. This might be the telltale wear point for pre-owned Cadenza shoppers. Nevertheless, the interior – as a whole – is genuinely striking. Even more so considering the price. Kia charges right at $45,000 for the range-topping Limited trim, like my tester. You’d pay $6,000 more just to have a base-trimmed 5 Series. A highly equipped Lexus ES costs nearly $49,000. So needless to say, the Kia represents value.

Of course, what the Cadenza provides in luxury, the Kia name still represents bargain vehicles. That will continue to change, just as it has over the last 15 years. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Kia finally shake its econobox stigma by the decade’s end.

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