Well, here we go again. Yet another unassuming automaker edges further into the luxury market — with Kia, this time offering a teaser shot of what’s to come in just a few short months. It may sound like a heavy departure from what most Americans think of when they hear the word “Kia,” but given what we found in the sumptuously sized, $67,000 K900 sedan, there is a strong chance that the Korean automaker could have a grand slam on its hands with this one.
Once considered a bottom-of-the-barrel alternative to Japanese engineering, Kia has reinvented itself tirelessly over the years, jumping from worst in initial quality in 2001 according to J.D. Power to second-best behind Porsche this year. Even I found this hard to believe, but once inside something like the newly redesigned Kia Optima, all of those prior notions disappear faster than a sizzling bowl of bibimbap as you realize that Kia is a top shelf contender in every way.
These cars have gotten so good that I felt obligated to go back and write several articles on the validity of Korean automakers just to reinforce this fact. Whether you love or hate them, there is no denying their American presence in the 21st century. Just like the days when no one would touch a Lexus or an Acura for fear of not getting a solid offering, so too have Korean automakers won us over as they prove time and time again that with time comes change.
So now it is Kia’s turn to change once more. While the automaker is not announcing a spin-off luxury brand like Hyundai did with the Genesis the other week, there is still good reason for rival automakers to quiver in their boots over the latest press release. No one ever thought Kia would get this far, so imagine what rival automakers are thinking if the new Cadenza concept seen here comes to fruition, followed by a redesigned K900, and a luxury SUV. It may sound like a stretch, but given the current state of the brand and America’s perception of it, there is a strong chance that Kia will remain in the zone for what some are calling a Korean renaissance.
On November 12, Kia announced that the all-new Kia Cadenza would “set new benchmarks for cutting-edge design, interior quality, and contemporary luxury” when it starts going on sale in 2016. Originally slated for release in foreign markets, this slick-looking concept appears to have a lot of what we were hoping the original Cadenza would feature: a sharp, angular approach to styling, and a far more European approach to design. It isn’t like the current version of the Cadenza is bad; it just doesn’t scream, “Look at me, I’m sexy!” when you see it.
What you see here today appears to be a fairly strong deviation from the current model, and while it still retains many of the same proportions, stylistically this conceptual drawing showcases a Kia that is light years ahead of what is being driven around today. Featuring a front end that hearkens to something resembling a British sports sedan, and a wider, lower stance that complements styling lines that are far sharper and more Optima-ish, these sketches indicate that Kia is genuinely entertaining the thought of upgrading the Cadenza with way more than just some quad LED fog lights.
Maintaining what Kia calls a “progressive, contemporary image of the current model,” these sketches showcase a decklid and bulging rear fenders that summon forth images of the 5-Series BMW, all with just enough Optima in the taillights to keep it distinctly Korean. With its low-slung roofline, intentionally steep rake, and sweeping interior lines, this might just become everything we wanted in the Cadenza since day one and then some. Plus, would you just look at the size of that center console armrest? Imagine how many pounds of caviar you could fit in that thing.
While the Cadenza’s new cabin is slated to “set a new standard for luxury and refinement in its class,” there are questions regarding available powerplants. It will more than likely retain some sort of V6 variant, and maybe even the torque-rich, turbocharged 2.0-liter found in the Optima SXL. Hell, maybe with a bit of luck we will see a twin-turbocharged six-cylinder version of the Cadenza one day, because if Kia is already that far in the zone, it might as well compete with luxury automakers in the performance department while the ball is in its court.