2017 Kia Cadenza Limited Long-Term Update: Drivability
"Drivability" is one of those funny terms that for some, doesn't make a lot of sense. After all, technically any car is drivable; that's the whole point of a car. If it's not drivable, it's just a fancy paperweight. But what we mean by "drivability" is how the engine, transmission, suspension, steering, brakes and various electronic enhancements to those systems work together. Do they work in harmony, enhancing the appeal of the overall ownership experience? Or is there something wrong, a faulty component or badly thought out system that turns the daily commute into a grating pain in the neck?
Luckily, the 2017 Kia Cadenza in our long-term fleet is very much the former, with virtually none of the latter. The engine is a well-known quantity: A 3.3-liter V6 putting nearly 300 horsepower to the front wheels. That could be a recipe for torque-steering disaster at full throttle, but the Cadenza manages its power very well, with only the slightest hint that so much power is going to the front wheels. Complementing the engine is a smooth-shifting 8-speed automatic of Kia's own design. Yes, there are paddles you can use to shift if you like, but the shifts aren't very quick, and after a little experimentation you're likely to just leave it in "D."
Subtle mode differences
There are selectable drive modes, although in all honesty we see very little difference between Comfort and Eco modes. The Sport mode does give the Cadenza better throttle response and quicker shifts from the transmission, but only slightly; this big sedan's primary mission is comfort, not quickness. The subtlety of the differences between the three modes means we usually just leave it in the "Smart" setting, which makes assumptions about what mode to choose based on whether you're stomping or feathering the gas, how hard you're cornering, and so on.
The Cadenza is primarily a cruiser, and no driving mode actually adjusts the firmness of the suspension. This big Kia glides over imperfections, swallowing bumps large and small with aplomb. However, if you think it's a floating and bobbing mess in a corner, you'd be surprised. While no sport sedan, if you want to drive briskly the Cadenza is up for it. Those shocks feature trick internal valving that results in a firmer ride the harder the suspension is pushed. Put another way, if you hustle through a corner the Cadenza's suspension is up to the task, but if you try to go legitimately fast through the corner, it's a bit of a letdown. Still, we're impressed that such a comfortable car can manage even quick corners, with the steering feeling firm and responsive in your hands no matter the task.
If we had to pick a car that the Cadenza most reminds us of, it would be the Lexus ES 350. Similar to that stalwart Lexus, the Cadenza makes no bones about being anything more than what it is: A comfortable, handsome, quiet, and pleasant-driving front-wheel drive sedan. Kia must think the same thing because our loaded Cadenza Limited winds up priced surprisingly close to the Lexus. However, the base model comes with pretty much the same engine, transmission, and suspension setup for far less money, giving you a lot of comfortable and luxurious drivability starting at about $33,000.
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