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Seoul Seeks to Sell a Lexus Substitute
by Luke Vandezande
Buying a Lexus ES is a lot like eating lunch at Chipotle. You donít need to be particularly wealthy to do it, but extras like a bottle of beer, chips and guac add up quickly. It can be expensive but that doesnít matter because customers are never hard to find.
And so it is with Lexusí mid-size sedan. Like the burrito chain, thereís a degree of implied quality. The product never changes much and thatís OK because nobody really wants it to. Long live reliable brands.
Hereís another premium fast food analogy for you: imitators are never far behind. You might be familiar with Qdoba. If not, youíre definitely familiar with Kia. Qdobaís burritos arenít really any cheaper than Chipotleís, but Kiaís vehicles are usually priced at a discount to their competitors. Earlier this year, the South Korean brand began selling the Cadenza in North America; a V6-powered, front-wheel drive premium highway cruiser meant to compete with Lexusí ES 350. At any rate, thatís what the marketing material suggests. We spent a week driving them side-by-side to find out.
Sometimes the Specs Say Very Little
Engine size, vehicle size, drivetrain, and transmission type are all similar. The Cadenza costs $35,900, or $1,480 fewer paper portraits of George Washington than an ES 350. The Cadenza is a little bit longer and wider, but not by much. With 293 hp, its 3.3-liter direct injection V6 is smaller, more modern and more powerful than the 3.5-liter, 268 hp motor moving the ES 350.
Transplanted Audi designer Peter Schreyer penned Kiaís recently-handsome product line and itís hard to argue with his logic. Like Audi, Kiaís cars adhere to a singular design with varying lengths. The Cadenza currently holds the crown as Kiaís big kahuna sedan.
The Cadenza is establishing itself in its segment. if the K900 can do the same then slowly Kia will be able to build higher-end cars into their brand reputation and not be seen as an outsider in those segments. It'll be pretty hard to outdo Lexus right now, but Kia could set their sights on this goal in the future (6-10 years.)
It would make sense for Kia to have a performance wing since all the luxury brands they want to compete against have them. Kia could make use of it for the Cadenza and the K900. If they did it well, it would make them seem far more legitimate as a up market brand.