Although they may not appear on many shopping lists, there's a lot to like in the lower-spec versions of both Chrysler's 300 and Kia's upscale Cadenza. The Chrysler is relatively ancient among current product platforms, while the Cadenza was Kia's first upmarket initiative, now supplemented by the larger K900 and the fall debut of Kia's Stinger GT. But you will not find a better transportation value in a Kia showroom than its underappreciated Cadenza. Here's a closer look at both:
CHRYSLER 300: This car is a testament to all that was right about the DaimlerChrysler merger of the late '90s. At the time of the 300 introduction, elements of its platform were taken from the Mercedes E-Class, and with proportions suggesting a mix of stately American and neoclassic German, the 300 continues to offer a "just right" mix of respectable accessibility. The guy owning the package store could "Dub" it, while Miss Daisy would have been eminently comfortable in its back seat.
In 2017, the 300 is an outlier in the sedan landscape. This is a large four-door with rear-wheel drive (all-wheel drive is optional). But in a sea of Accord this or Avalon that, the 300 impresses as an almost-relevant update of sedans in your murky past. The attachment to Chrysler products of 50 years ago goes beyond the Hemi that might be under the hood; it's the entire vibe of a car company trying hard to distinguish itself in today's marketplace.
Despite numerous updates, the Chrysler still seems last century, and that's just fine with older drivers with the cash – or credit rating – to consider a $40K car.
Behind the wheel, Chrysler's 300 exhibits all we love about American motoring. You would never confuse the handling with 'crisp,' but it's competent, while the ride is almost sublime. This is a car that in fully-loaded form deserves a Hemi, but the V6 is generally unobtrusive, and might net you 30 mpg on the highway. The conventional, 8-speed automatic goes about its business exactly as an automatic should.
If I were shopping for a 300, I'd eschew virtually everything in the accessory or option column, opting for a 300 Limited with nothing but its standard leather, smallish alloys and new-car luster.
KIA CADENZA: Just like the house on the block you'd hope to buy, the Cadenza walkup is impressive. The 2017 sheetmetal was an aggressive refresh and speaks fully to its press blurb: "Elegant and Confident." Unlike so many of its contemporaries in the full-size sedan segment (the Cadenza sits in the EPA's 'large cars' category), there's nothing extraneous in the metal or the detailing; a massive grille doesn't deface it, excessive sculpting doesn't distract, and its stance is purposeful. From the three-quarter angle front or rear we love it, while in profile we wish it had less front overhang, a common failing.
Inside, in the Cadenza's Limited trim, the interior is covered in soft, tastefully applied leather. The seating is the closing argument, with quilted seat bolsters and diamond-shaped stitching. The seat shape contributes to an in-control comfort level, the dash proves both informative and (generally) intuitive, and there's room in the back for two of your favorite large-size adults or even three. The backseat and trunk are where you'll find the biggest bump in space relative to Kia's midsize Optima.
Under the hood, Kia provides only its 3.3 liter V6, supplying 290 horsepower, 253 pound-feet of torque and – from the EPA – an estimated 20 City/28 Highway / 23 Combined. Acceleration is responsive, any and all highway speeds are relaxed and there's absolutely no reason to not believe the EPA estimates.
With front-wheel drive and weighing 3,800 pounds, the handling is composed, the steering reasonably well connected, and the braking. There's nothing to dislike and a lot to enjoy.
The base Cadenza is offered at just over $30K, while the Limited – with all the bells and whistles – ends up running $45K. At that price you can get to know quite a few Infiniti or Lexus salesmen. And while near-luxury Japanese models won't have the over-the-top appointments of the Cadenza, the resale values are well established.
If shopping for a 'bang for the buck' Cadenza, the Luxury package and Panoramic Sunroof offers a 'Premium' window for just under $38K – we'd suspect a transaction price of around $35,000.