Like a drag queen throwing a spiral, Kia almost universally surprises its audience. Especially when the Kia in question is one of its high-zoot models like the Cadenza, the next-rung-up model above the popular Optima sedan. The Cadenza’s design is decidedly elegant, with LED lights front and rear and, on Limited models, gleaming multi-spoke 19-inch wheels. My tester was rendered in a delicious brown metallic paint that would garner plenty of compliments on a Bentley, let alone a Kia. They could have sweated certain details a little more, like adding grippy material inside the cupholders and making both front seats heated and cooled, not just the driver’s seat.

And the ride is a little stiff, too, thanks to the low-profile tires wrapping around those pretty wheels. But otherwise, it drives nicely enough, with 293 hp from its V-6 engine and front-wheel drive.

With its leather-and-wood-lined interior, tons of tech features and a strong, masculine presence, the Cadenza can be regarded as Kia’s Lincoln, if not Kia’s Mercedes. That’s coming later this year in the form of the ambitious new K900 sedan. As our drag queen quarterback might say, “Go long, Kia!”

2014 Kia Cadenza
Base Price (including destination): $35,900
Power: 3.3-liter V-6 (293 hp, 255 lb-ft of torque)
Tranny: 6-speed automatic with manual shift control
Fuel Economy, city/hwy: 19/28 mpg

Or you could buy:
Lincoln MKS
Toyota Avalon
Chevrolet Impala

Renowned automotive journalist and gay car geek Steve Siler has turned his life-long love of cars into a fruitful and enthusiastic career traveling the world to test thousands of new vehicles as they are introduced. Siler is s regular contributor to Car and Driver Magazine,,, AOL Autos and Yahoo! Autos, and also pioneered automotive writing for the LGBT community more than a decade ago.