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2017 Kia Cadenza: Three Hits

Have you ever heard a song and thought "This is going to be a huge hit," yet it never really happens? I’ve thought that about three specific songs — "Do You Wanna Hold Me" by Bow Wow Wow, "Promises, Promises" by Incubus and Lana Del Rey’s heartbreakingly brilliant "Video Games." Certainly, some people know these songs, and the Incubus track even reached number 13 on the Billboard Alternative chart. Still, they never really hit that blockbuster "Rolling in the Deep" level like I thought they should.

I think the Kia Cadenza is like that, too. Even though some sedans are seeing steep "no thanks" rates, I think the newly updated 2017 Kia Cadenza could surprise a lot of luxury sedan shoppers, even if it remains an underdog — another thing I’m super fond of.

Lap Of Luxury

When I pick up the keys to the Cadenza, I’m staying at the St. Regis hotel in downtown San Francisco. Plus, I had been spending a lot of quality time in the new 2018 Lexus LS 500. Both experiences artificially elevate my personal threshold for luxury. For a brief moment, I’m living above my means. I’m usually more of a Marriott Rewards-type traveller.

As the Cadenza sits in the hotel valet area, I walked around the back of the car and notice huge exhaust outlets at the bottom of the rear bumper area. It’s really cool-looking and something I wasn’t expecting from Kia. I think I need to adjust my expectations. The Cadenza looks at home among the other high-end cars parked in the valet lane. The Cadenza’s white leather seats don’t hurt, either. From a distance, the Cadenza appears to be $55,000 car.

As far as overnight accommodations, I’m about to take a road trip back to reality. I have an Airbnb booked for a single room in Nevada City, CA. Not exactly the St. Regis.

Most of the trip is a simple drive up Interstate 680 through lesser-known Bay Area towns like Lafayette and Benicia. The Cadenza handles the highway quite well — it’s an excellent place for Kia’s adaptive cruise control to take over. The 290-horsepower V6 isn’t shockingly fast, but it does deliver plenty of power for passing and climbing hills. I’m guessing this 3.3-liter engine will soon give way to an all-new design or a turbocharged unit of some kind. At times, the engine feels slightly coarse.

Reality

As far as handling goes, the Cadenza can hold it own. It’s not going to fool any 5 Series owners, but it has good combination of comfort and sport. I decide to skip highway 49 and opt to go farther north to Highway 174. Highway 49 used to be a pleasant drive, but now it just feels more and more like a crowded freeway — granted with a really nice foothills view. Also, 174 allows me to see very small towns like Chicago Park, Coleman and Peardale. Later, the roads in and around Donner Lake prove the Cadenza is good at many things, comfort being front and center.

My room in Nevada City is nice enough, exactly what the ad promises. If you’re in the area or on Airbnb, look for a small place near the old downtown area rented by Joe.

But Nevada City is an old Gold Rush town, and the years haven’t really made it more civilized — cruise over to Summer Thyme’s coffee shop and bakery in Grass Valley if you want a taste of civility.

Still, the Cadenza does not fit in in Nevada City, CA. In fact, it stands out. Most cars are Subarus, Chevy pickups and Ford Expeditions, as well as a handful of all-wheel-drive BMWs of late-2000s vintage. Also, Nevada City must have some kind of ordinance that requires residents to have loud, open, modified exhausts, because literally every other car sounds like it’s about to hit the Nevada County Fairgrounds for a demolition derby … which might actually be a real thing.

Fancy Feast

The truth is, you feel fancy in the newly reworked 2017 Kia Cadenza. It has all the luxury-car features: a power rear sunshade, heated and cooled seats, 19-inch wheels and beautiful white leather inside.

Also, if you want to debate me about those three songs I mentioned earlier, I will physically fight you. Instead, how about come up with your own "Shoulda been bigger" list. Easy to do in the Cadenza thanks to the 630-watt 12-speaker Harman Kardon audio system. Plus ClariFi sound enhancing technology, which actually fills in missing information for low-quality sound sources like MP3 or satellite radio — and yes, it really works.

It’s easy to think of the Cadenza as fragile in this harsh mountain-outpost environment — but JD Power has ranked several Kias (including the Cadenza) as highest in their class two years in a row.

Sure, the Cadenza is probably never going to be the automotive equal to "I Want to Hold Your Hand," but it’s a really good luxury sedan. It has plenty of luxury trappings at an almost luxury-car price. It starts at about $32,000 for the Premium model. The car I was driving and the one in the photos is a Limited, and that’s a $45,000 car.

If you’re looking for a competent, premium sedan that loves highway miles and softens the daily commute — plus has the latest in-car tech– the updated 2017 Kia Cadenza is for you.

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