In case you were wondering just how complex and sophisticated automobiles have become . . .
Henry Bzeih, Kia's high priest of electronics, told me that the central nervous system of an F-35 jet fighter contains six million lines of code.
The electronics in the Cadenza, Kia's new entry in the near-luxury sedan Olympics, host 10 million lines of code.
That's pretty amazing, I allowed, given the number of computer chores that F-35s must perform.
"Yeah, but they don't have lane departure warning," a smiling Bzeih replied.
In addition to sharing the code-happiness of other well-equipped cars, the Cadenza engenders a bit of Kia history. The quiet, comfortable, and competent newcomer is the automaker's first full-size sedan, as well as its most technologically advanced and expensive vehicle.
A price tag that ranges from $35,100 for the base car to $41,900 for the top-of-the-line Technology model that I drove poses an obvious question: Can a carmaker that started out in this market 20 years ago with some pretty cheap, dreary wares sell a car in that price range?
The answer is that Kia, like its corporate cousin, Hyundai, has taken a quantum leap forward in the intervening years. Its quality, like its sales, is way up, and its el cheapo image has metamorphosed into one of good value. Let's put it this way: If Hyundai can sell a large, luxurious Equus Signature for $59,250, Kia can probably peddle a premium car for a lot less.
Built in South Korea, the new Kia flagship is starting to trickle into Philadelphia-area dealerships, according to Michael Sprague, Kia's vice president for marketing, and should be in good supply by mid-June.
What people will find in the showroom is another handsome effort from the styling studios headed by Peter Schreyer, the talented designer that Hyundai and Kia lured away from Audi. This car is not as stylish as the Optima midsize sedan that his studios brought forth, but it is attractive and evinces a conservatism and civility appropriate to this kind of machinery.
The interior is also an exercise in comely conservatism. The test car's innards were predominantly black with a contrasting oyster on the door-panel inserts and leather-trimmed seats.
That leather is standard on the base Premium model, as is a navigation system, Bluetooth, a rear camera and sensor, heated power front seats, and an Infinity sound system. The upmarket Technology that I drove adds goodies such as a sunroof, better leather, front seat coolers and backseat heaters, adaptive cruise control, and blind-spot and lane-departure warnings.
Like virtually all Kia models, the front-drive Cadenza shares structure and mechanicals with a Hyundai counterpart, in this case the Azera. Like the Azera, It is built on a variation on the FF large platform also used in the Kia Sorento and Optima, and the Hyundai Sante Fe. Think of it structurally as an Optima with a two-inch stretch for more rear legroom and a special front subframe to accept the V-6.
While the Cadenza's emphasis is on cabin comfort and quietude, performance is hardly forgotten. The 3.3-liter V-6 it shares with the Azera is a techy critter that employs direct injection and variable valve timing to generate 293 horsepower. Couple that with a low curb weight (3,755 pounds) and you get a brisk 0-to-60 time of under 6.5 seconds.
That engine, buttoned to a six-speed automatic, produces EPA ratings of 19 city and 28 highway on regular fuel. That's not bad, but not as good as competitors like its corporate cousin, the Azera, or the Toyota Avalon.
Handling is a plus. A modicum of suspension firmness pays off in flat, composed cornering.
2014 Kia Cadenza (Technology model)
Base price: $41,100.
As tested: $41,900 (including shipping).
Standard: 3.3-liter engine; six-speed automatic transmission; front-drive and a luxury recipe including ingredients like leather,
a navigation system, cooled and heated power front seats, a premium sound system, adaptive cruise control, and blind-spot and lane departure warnings.
Fuel economy: 19 city and 28 highway (regular gas).
Ride comfort: Fine.
Styling: Civil good looks.
Basic warranty: Five years / 60,000 miles.
The Ben key: Four Bens, excellent; three Bens, good; two Bens, fair; one Ben, poor.EndText