Kia makes no grand claims for the Cadenza's performance; and for those wanting a big sedan that appeals mostly on value, comfort, and style, it's not going to disappoint.
The 2014 Kia Cadenza is relatively quick and responsive for a car its size. That said, those who want something verging on a sport sedan are going to find that the Cadenza is missing some of the fine aesthetic nuance that can make a large, front-wheel-drive sedan rewarding to drive, and much of that is a matter of steering and handling.
Power is provided by a 3.3-liter V-6, making 293 horsepower and 255 pound-feet. This new-generation, all-aluminum engine is direct-injected, with dual continuous variable valve timing, a timing chain, and three-stage variable induction.
The Cadenza's V-6 doesn't make all that much torque at the low end of the rev band (Toyota's V-6 in the Avalon feels perkier that way), which means that stepping away from a standing start, or up a steep hill, feel a bit more sluggish than you'd guess from its power output—until the revs build, and then you rocket ahead. Meanwhile fifth and sixth gear are quite tall, so the transmission downshifts frequently on long highway grades, or when simply resuming the cruise control from small drops in speed.
There's no sport mode for the powertrain or the stability control. There are however steering-wheel paddle-shifters, plus a manual gate, that let you manually command the gears.
Push the Cadenza (about 3,800 pounds as we tested it) hard into a corner, and you'll realize quickly that this is no sport sedan; the body control is better than some other large sedans, but it has neither the steering feel nor the transition chops to satisfy enthusiasts. Whether in steering feel, body control, or general responsiveness, this is a car that feels athletic enough on the twisty sections, provided you're not truly expecting to extract the most out of curvy canyon roads or hustling on country back roads. Brakes feel surprisingly strong and confident, however.
Steering feel is on the light side, and while it loads up enough off center to be helpful, there's very little, if any, feel of the road. It also requires more attention and small adjustments than it should at highway cruising speeds; although it adds up to great maneuverability at parking speeds.