Kia moves upscale with 2014 Cadenza

  • 09-Sep-2013 01:18 EDT
Kia Cadenza front exterior.jpg

Peter Schreyer’s European-influenced design philosophy for the Cadenza: simple, powerful, and sophisticated.

Kia’s first full-size sedan represents the company’s most powerful and technologically advanced product offering ever for the North American market. Several months after the Cadenza’s January debut at the 2013 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, automotive and lifestyle media including AEI had the opportunity to test-drive the car and experience its 293-hp (219-kW) gasoline direct injection (GDI) V6, sport-tuned suspension, and suite of active safety technologies including Kia’s first application of advanced smart cruise control (ASCC) on the roads surrounding Del Mar, CA.

The Cadenza succeeds in moving the Kia brand up-market, from its European-influenced design driven by Kia Motors’ President and Chief Design Officer Peter Schreyer (who previously worked at Audi), to its long list of premium features such as an advanced navigation system with SiriusXM Traffic and UVO eServices telematics displayed on a high-resolution 8-in touch screen. (To read more on Kia’s UVO infotainment system, go to

Thus far, the buying public appears to be buying into Kia’s effort to merge value and luxury. Sales of the 2014 Cadenza continued to climb in August, exceeding 1500 units for the second consecutive month, Kia reported. More than 4830 Cadenzas had been sold year-to-date by the end of August.

Pricing for the new sedan starts at $35,100; a fully loaded Cadenza costs $41,100.

Technology tour de force

Powering the new Cadenza is the second generation of Kia’s Lambda engine series, also featured in the latest Sorento. The 3.3-L GDI V6 engine produces its peak power at 6400 rpm and 255 lb·ft (346 N·m) of torque at 5200 rpm. [The V6 produces 290 hp (216 kW) and 252 lb·ft (342 N·m) in the 2014 Sorento.]

“We’ve added a lot of technology to it,” said Orth Hedrick, Vice President of Product Planning at Kia Motors America. “In addition to the direct injection, it also has 12.0:1 compression ratio. The big benefit there is it allows us to deliver 293 hp and 255 lb·ft of torque, all on regular fuel.”

The all-aluminum engine also features dual continuously variable valve timing for improved fuel economy and better response, a maintenance-free timing chain, and a three-step variable induction system for enhanced torque. Power is transferred to the front wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission with a new compact case design for overall packaging efficiency. It includes a Sportmatic manual shift mode and steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters.

The car’s FE rating is 19 mpg city/28 mpg highway, for a combined 22 mpg.

A hybrid variant is not an immediate consideration, according to Kia executives, who said that the technology makes more sense in its core vehicles. They would not rule out a hybrid Cadenza for the future, however.

Kia engineers spent a great deal of time and effort refining the chassis and suspension, to find a nice balance between comfort and sportiness. “If it looks like a European sedan, [customers] want it to drive and feel like a European sedan,” Hedrick explained. “Going into this luxury space, it is very important to pay attention to the dynamics.”

The Cadenza features a sport-tuned fully independent suspension with a MacPherson strut setup in front and a multilink rear design with dual flow shocks. The Cadenza rides on standard 245/45R-18 tires; 245/40R-19 tires are included with the Technology Package (i.e., fully loaded).

“The performance dual flow shocks—amplitude-specific dampers—are new for us,” Hedrick said. The system “has a dual path, depending on what kind of surfaces you’re driving over. If you go over an undulating surface, there’s one path that controls those body motions; if you have a very rapid input, like you go over a speed bump, hit a pothole, or change surfaces, there’s a second path that quickly corrects and maintains that composure.”

The Cadenza’s modified front-wheel-drive platform is shared with the Optima, but it’s about 2 in (51 mm) longer in the wheelbase—112.0 in (2845 mm)—and nearly 5 in (127 mm) longer in overall length at 195.5 in (4966 mm). The luxury sedan also sits about 1 in (25 mm) taller than the Optima.

“Most of that extension of the wheelbase is to the benefit of the rear-seat passengers,” he said.

Kia claims class-leading interior volume, at 106.8 ft³ (3024 L), with 15.9 ft³ (450 L) of cargo volume with rear seat up.

Extensive use of high-strength steel (HSS) helps to improve torsional rigidity and reduce both vehicle weight and NVH, an important characteristic in the premium segment. About 60% of the body structure is comprised of HSS, which is produced through a 1650°F (900°C) hot-stamping process.

Curb weight for the Cadenza is 3668 lb (1664 kg) and rises to 3792 lb (1720 kg) when equipped with the Technology Package.

Cadenza’s list of standard equipment includes a rear-camera display and backup warning system, a premium 550-W Infinity 12-speaker audio system with rear surround speakers and subwoofer, dual-zone automatic climate control with rear-seat ventilation, keyless entry with push-button start, and Bluetooth wireless technology.

The Luxury Package, at $38,100, adds such amenities as a panoramic sunroof with power retractable sunshade, HID headlamps with active front lighting system, and a ventilated driver’s seat. The Technology Package adds a bevy of active safety technologies: electric parking brake with auto hold; ASCC, which maintains a set distance to the vehicle ahead and helps bring the car to a full stop if necessary; radar-based blind-spot detection with lane change assist; and Kia’s first-ever lane departure warning system, which provides both audible and visual alerts.

NVH a major focus

The biggest difference between the powertrain in the Cadenza vs. its application in the Sorento is “a steadfast attention to detail on refinement and NVH,” said Hedrick. A great deal of technology and work went into sound isolation and vibration control from the powertrain.

“There’s a new subframe with big [high-durometer] bushings to control powertrain inputs into the body,” he said.

In addition, engineers designed a new patented exhaust system. “With large V6 engines, at about 2000 rpm you hear this resonance,” Hedrick explained. “A lot of work went into designing a new exhaust system that controls the way the two paths come together from the front and the rear; a lot of work went into managing the pulses coming in. The payoff, of course, is there’s a nice scavenging effect, so we actually get a little bump in torque in the 2000-3000 rpm range.”

Controlling noise inputs during the driving experience and pinpointing specific areas to apply sound-deadening materials were major focuses for Cadenza developers. “We have a thick three-layer pad that fits underneath the IP, and each of the individual layers is specifically tuned for individual frequencies,” Hedrick said. “Also under floor, a thick mat prevents road noise from coming inside the vehicle.”

Other noise-reducing technologies include a tuned damper on the rear crossmember, triple door seals, and specially designed wheels (Kia claims that the multiple fins help reduce wind noise at highway speeds).

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