This is your father's Oldsmobile. Well, not quite. My Dad's Olds was a '65 Starfire with a 425. A lead sled, sure, but not in the pejorative sense that the phrase "your father's Oldsmobile" is supposed to connote. Okay, so the Kia Amanti is more like the hyperbolic manifestation of your father's Oldsmobile, were that car to be exceptionally plush and fitted with a suspension made of marshmallow.
The Amanti is a very well appointed vehicle; you get a lot for your dollar. If your idea of a good car equates to the most stuff for the lowest expenditure, the Amanti's value proposition is difficult to top. The engine room is occupied by an amply torquey 3.8 liter V6, so you'll be to bingo on time, and with the Kia's capricious accommodations, you will end up being the chauffeur. We already knew that the Amanti was a well-fitted ride for a very reasonable price, so our time with it offered insight into how the package works as a whole.
The Amanti is a distinctively nondescript car with its amalgam of borrowed lines. The slightly revised front end apes the Mercedes C-Class, while the greenhouse says Lincoln Town Car and the trunk has a snifter of Bentley. The mish-mash is not drop dead gorgeous, but it does show handsome restraint from some angles. Class rival Avalon has more crisply pressed trousers, but the Amanti trades slight blandness of form to successfully stave off pointless frippery. The trunk's squared-off shape, along with the bubblicious back window give the Amanti a formal profile, and the strong shoulder line doesn't have any untoward whoop-de-doos to break its path. The style pretty much flies under the radar, but we did collect a couple comments on that Mercedes-esque grille, which came in for rhinoplasty for 2007.
The Amanti's appeal amongst the text-message and iPod set is severely limited, we're afraid. There's far more Greatest Generation than Millennial in the Amanti's mission. Folks aged enough to drive the AmeriBarges of the 1970s when they were new will find the same mien in the Kia. It's not a total throwback to the bad old days in the way Ford's Panther platform is; the Amanti's more of an emulator. It does a great job driving like a '74 Newport, with its ultra-compliant ride, slow steering, and muted powertrain. It even feels like it rotates from the same spot in front of your feet, just like the old days.
Luckily, the Amanti can Gangsta Walk, but merely prefers the Charleston. There's four-wheel independent suspension under there, with double wishbones up front and a multilink setup in the rear. Pitch the Amanti into a bumpy turn, and it'll obediently carve the radius, chromed 17-inch rims pumping furiously. It hates this, and to let you know, the Amanti heels over and taps the suspension bump stops in protest. Wheel control is loose, crying out for a dollop more spring and a heaping tablespoon of damping. Clearly, the Amanti wants to throw its weight around at its own pace.
The doors open extra-wide, revealing cushy chair-height seats. Our tester came with every option box besides pearlescent paint ticked. The leather package added perforated leather upholstery, heated front seats, memory functions to the mirrors and driver's side seat, power adjustable pedals, as well as an uprated audio system with Infinity speakers and a subwoofer. Materials inside look and feel almost on par with what we found in more prestige rides. The nicely textured materials and metal trim call to mind the G35, especially the way the gauge cluster has the same type of blue glow. Fits are tight, attention has been paid to matching colors and textures, and the tasteful dash houses simple, straightforward ergonomics. The aluminum trim was part of the $1,300 premium package that most notably also added the garish chromed rims.
The LCD in the center of the dash is kind of a strange touch. Without a navigation system to make pretty pictures on the display, it's more like having a Pong console permanently installed. It does display radio and trip computer data, but those details could have been easily incorporated into the face of the radio or gauge panel, where we've been conditioned to find such information. At least Kia can claim in its ad copy that there's an LCD in the dash. The smoky-looking woodgrain trim also sucked a little character out of the cabin – something bearing less of a resemblance to charcoal would make the interior more welcoming.
Under steam, the interior is quiet. Only when you prod the 264-horsepower V6 does it clear its throat. If you want some noise, there's always that Infinity stereo, or you could buffet the chatterboxes in the back seat by demonstrating how all four windows have auto down/up. Tap any window button you wish, and the pane sails into the door on its own. That's a trick that's lacking even in some much bigger dollar rides. The rear doors are large enough to accommodate windows that roll all the way down; you can get enough vortices going in the cabin to suck that hairpiece right through the moonroof.
Long highway jaunts to the Indian Casino suit the Amanti. The formal C-pillar makes for good headroom in the back seat. Legroom, too, is accommodating. There are plenty of cubbies in the interior, and nice touches abound. The center console's got two-level storage, one in the armrest, and a deeper bin down below. The rear seat passengers get treated to HVAC vents on the back side of the center console, and this baby's got a whole raft of ashtrays, too. The trunk is positively cavernous, easily swallowing a 5 1/2 foot-tall auto writer with room to spare. Luggage for four would be no problem, so plan that weekend of playing slots.
There are more stylish competitors, but fully optioned for $31,000 makes it hard to ignore the Amanti. I had the strange urge to wear a porkpie hat for the entire week, and the suspension tuning induced motion sickness, but the biggest Kia makes a case for itself. The drivetrain is slick and unobtrusive, and while the mushy tuning let us down, it clings to the road with decent tenacity once you get past the nautical body motions. The overall effect doesn't light a fire in our enthusiast hearts, but the Amanti makes no athletic overtures in the first place. The Amanti is spacious and well outfitted, and like the rest of Kia's line, it offers a solid value for the buyer who's able to overlook the mild stylistic dischord.