Ever since I first drove the 2017 Kia Cadenza in Virginia last year, I've been itching to take it on a road trip. The Cadenza seems born for long highway drives thanks to its quiet interior, comfortable seats, smooth suspension and, let's be honest, awesome audio system. So when it came time to drive back and forth from Los Angeles to Clovis, California twice in one weekend, the Cadenza was an obvious choice.

There was more to it than just the comfort, of course. The Cadenza sports an enormous rear seat, with an embarrassment of legroom. With three kids in the car, plenty of space to prevent "stay on your side" arguments was a paramount concern, making the Cadenza a slam dunk.

The beauty of the Cadenza is that it reminds me in a good way of the big highway cruisers we used to associate with Oldsmobile and Buick. It’s not a sport sedan, it's not a luxury sedan, and it's much more than just a sheer people mover. It's a car specifically designed to keep its occupants comfortable, happy, and contented as it soaks up long stretches of asphalt.

Great audio

The round trip to Clovis is almost exactly 500 miles, meaning in the course of a weekend I added more than 1,000 miles to the Cadenza's odometer. It was as comfortable as I'd anticipated. The front seats offer excellent padding and enough adjustability that finding a sweet spot was easy, and keeping it was just as easy thanks to the memory setting. The Harmon Kardon audio system really is superb, with definition so sharp that Hailee Steinfeld sounded like she was sitting on the dash snapping her fingers in "Starving."  If you like music, or if you just like nice-sounding things, it's worth the money.

The commodious rear seat makes the Cadenza one of the few sedans that don't make my kids immediately complain about legroom. As the Central Valley lived up to its reputation for sizzling heat, with temperatures solidly in triple figures the entire time, the Cadenza remained an oasis of cool thanks to its vigorous air conditioning, and the cooled front seats. There are enough storage spaces to keep road snacks, drinks, phones, wallets, and other must-have paraphernalia simultaneously within reach and out of the way. The massive trunk swallowed the kids' suitcases with plenty of room for more.

The Cadenza's road manners lived up to my hopes. Comfortable and quiet, the big Kia soaked up the innumerable road perfections on the more bombed-out sections as Highway 99 sliced through California's Central Valley. The active cruise control works quite well at maintaining a steady speed, although it suffers from the same hiccups we've noticed in other systems: it's lazy when resuming a set higher speed, and slow to react when a car suddenly pulls in front of you. Vigilance remains important, but on those long slogs, it's a must have.

Also: Get your first look at the new and redesigned cars of 2018

Seamless powertrain

The engine and 8-speed transmission were nearly invisible in their operation, as well they should be. About the only hiccup in the transmission's operation was a bit of hunting while climbing the steep grade of the Grapevine near Tejon Ranch, but that's an acid test, and the rest of the time it picked a gear and stayed with it. The engine provided a great combination of low-end torque for easy cruising, and high-end power for passing those pesky tomato-laden semis. Best of all, the 290 horsepower V6 got surprisingly good fuel economy on the round trip, cresting the 30 mpg barrier.

Like any sedan, the center position's hump puts a practical limit on the number of road trippers at four, since the fifth would ruin the vibe by complaining about the uncomfortable center position after a while. There's little doubt that dedicated road trippers, traveling salesmen (is that still a thing?) and those who just like the serenity of a long drive will find the Cadenza immensely satisfying.

See Past Reports for our Long-Term 2017 Kia Cadenza…


Long-Term Update: Comfort

Long-Term Update: Drivability

Long-Term Update: Utility

More 2017 Kia Cadenza…

See full review and pricing information for the 2017 Kia Cadenza or build and price your own to unlock its Fair Purchase Price, 5-Year Cost to Own, and more.


New Car Spotlight


Free Dealer Price Quote

Get the best price and be more prepared with your free, no-obligation price quote