Kia has a habit of releasing new models in its home market first — we’ve been tracking the K5 as the next Optima, for example — but the updated K7 Premier, which now comes to the U.S. as the 2020 Cadenza and is appearing at the 2020 Chicago Auto Show, flew a bit more under the radar … much like the Cadenza itself, which continues to be still sold here even as shoppers and automakers abandon big sedans in favor of SUVs.
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That the Cadenza exists at all is a testament to Kia’s commitment to the sedan body style, and the 2020 model is certainly a comfortable, premium four-door car. Cabin materials are very nice for its segment, which includes the likes of the Toyota Avalon and Chrysler 300, and there’s tons of cabin space front and rear without requiring front-seat occupants to compromise for those in the backseat.
The new 12.3-inch touchscreen multimedia system is a welcome addition, as are the newly standard advanced safety features and added USB ports (one more in front and two for the back) and wireless charging. Even the retention of a mechanical gear selector in the era of non-lever designs and electronic selectors isn’t a bad idea, particularly for an older segment of car shoppers.
Aside from some mild changes to its appearance, the remainder of the upgrades to the Cadenza are under the skin and meant to improve ride quality and passenger comfort via reduced road noise. Since we haven’t driven the new Cadenza yet, we can’t say how well those work. The lone engine, a 3.3-liter V-6 making 290 horsepower and mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission, is unchanged from the 2019 model.
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The final product is a handsome, full-size sedan with a high-quality, high-tech interior and the promise of a comfortable ride and adequate (but not eye-opening) power. But I have to ask: Why? What’s the point? The Stinger is right there with nearly 100 more hp, a lot more cargo space, a more stylish appearance and more than enough rear legroom for most passengers. And for a more upscale — and more expensive — choice, there’s the K900 sedan. It’s nice that the Cadenza still exists, but it feels like a car without a purpose.
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