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Quick Take: 2018 Kia Cadenza SXL

Ballers welcome

Ed Tahaneywriter, photographer

EAST LOS ANGELES, California — Here are seven words I thought I would never hear: "Hey, Ed your Kia is totally baller," said my friend Jeannette Harshbarger the other day.

At first I'm wasn't sure if she was kidding or not, but after taking a closer look at the front of our tester, a 2018 Kia Cadenza in a fresh coat of Snow White Pearl paint and a rich chocolate brown Napa leather interior—well, it actually looks kind of cool.

Well, at least up front, anyway, the grille doesn't remind me of a Tiger's nose—it looks more like teeth or fangs and it's flanked by a set of cat eyes for headlights. It definitely looks better than most kidney and spindle-shaped grilles out there. Design chief Peter Schreyer, formerly at Audi, had a hand in its recent facelift.

Around back, the Cadenza is a bit plain, but the overall basic design is pleasing, if a bit generic—but in a good way for an executive sedan.

I never thought much of the Cadenza and its name for some strange reason reminds me of Costanza, as in George Costanza from "Seinfeld." More vehicles should be named after celebrities or fictional characters—who wouldn't want to own a Kramer, Newman, or a Seinfeld? But a Cadenza? Sure, why not, it sounds better than Azera, Hyundai's now-discontinued-in-the-U.S. version of the sedan.

The Kia proved a pleasant people mover for the daily grind from downtown L.A. to El Segundo. Though its not as dynamic as a German sedan, but it's all business and gets the job done.

Under the hood, it packs a 3.3-liter V-6 engine that lays down 290 hp and 253 lb-ft of torque. It's mated to a smooth eight-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters so you can pretend it's sportier than it actually is.

While the Cadenza is not the quickest sedan on the block, its beautiful panoramic sunroof can open or close in a stealthy 5-seconds or less. It's big and awesome—and I thought I might lose a finger in it. The liner shade trails in a second or so later, which is also pretty impressive. Our Four Seasons Kia Stinger has the same setup.

I can live without the Cadenza's rear window power sunshade, but it's there if you want to try and sneak into the carpool lane during rush hour.

Inside, the cabin is quiet, comfortable, its controls are easy to find, the shifter knob is normal (unlike the Stinger's), there's an AUX jack and USB port. There's also an 8.0-inch touchscreen and there's even a volume knob AND a tuning knob for the 12-speaker Harmon-Kardon sound system. How cool and retro is that?

EPA fuel numbers tout a 24/30-mpg city/highway mileage with a combined total of 26 mpg. We averaged about 21.6 mpg in mostly freeway and city crawling.

Our biggest complaint about the Kia came from co-workers who couldn't fit their surfboards and gear in the rear because the seats don't fold down. Boo-hoo—get a hatchback or crossover already.

With a base price of $45,590 to the top of the line trim (our tester topped out at $45,720 with a cargo net and tray option) which seems pretty steep. It's a lot of cash when you can get a fully loaded Honda, Toyota, or even a Mazda for less.

Granted, your chances of having someone tell you your car is "totally baller" are next to nothing. But if you want something that stands out from the pack, give the 2018 Kia Costanza—err, Cadenza—a closer look.

2018 Kia Cadenza SXL Specifications

PRICE $45,590/$45,720 (base/as tested)
ENGINE 3.3L DOHC 24-valve V-6/290 hp @ 6,400 rpm, 253 lb-ft @ 5,200 rpm
TRANSMISSION 8-speed automatic
LAYOUT 4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, FWD sedan
EPA MILEAGE 32/40 mpg (city/hwy)
L x W x H 195.7 x 73.6 x 57.9 in
WHEELBASE 112.4 in
WEIGHT 3,770 lb
0-60 MPH N/A
TOP SPEED 120 mph (est)