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The arrival of the redesigned 2007 Kia Amanti only three years after the original sure makes Kia look like an automaker on the move, ready to advance past those other guys. After all, Kia's full-size flagship sedan is riding on an all-new, lighter-weight platform, and it has a new, more powerful V6 engine under its hood. These are good things on a large car that's had a reputation for being an overweight, underpowered, serious gasoline drinker.
But we're not sure many shoppers will know just how new and improved the 2007 Kia Amanti really is. Aside from its wider grille and new taillamps, this Amanti has the same basic sheet metal as the '06 model — and last year's body already looked about a decade old. It's an odd move on Kia's part, and alongside the more modern-looking competition, the Amanti is at an immediate disadvantage.
See, I've Changed.... Really
Although the new 2007 Kia Amanti is roughly the same size as before, it now shares all major underpinnings with Hyundai's well-regarded Azera, and as a result, the full-size Kia sedan weighs about 200 pounds less than before.
Less weight is always good for acceleration, but so is more muscle, and the Amanti has that, too. In place of last year's iron-block 3.5-liter V6 and its 200 wheezing horses, the Amanti has rearmed with an all-aluminum DOHC 3.8-liter V6 cranking out 264 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. As in the past, a five-speed automatic transmission drives the front wheels.
Other than the new engine, a newly standard tire-pressure monitor and newly optional power-adjustable pedals, the Amanti's equipment list hasn't changed. Kia's flagship comes in one trim level, which gives you antilock disc brakes, comprehensive side airbag coverage, an eight-way power driver seat, dual-zone automatic climate control, a CD player and a full set of one-touch power windows as standard.
Our Amanti test car had the $2,500 Leather Package, and in addition to swapping out the cloth upholstery for cow hide, this option group provides an upgraded Infinity audio system, front-seat heaters and power-adjustable pedals. Our tester also had a sunroof, stability control and 17-inch alloy wheels (in lieu of the standard 16s), which brought the total bill to $30,425.
This is no small sum even for a full-size sedan, and it places the Amanti in direct competition with the Azera, Buick Lucerne and Ford Five Hundred, not to mention class leaders like the Chrysler 300 and Toyota Avalon. So we drove the Amanti for two weeks to see if it measured up.
Staying the Course
The first thing we noticed is that despite its new platform and revised suspension, the 2007 Kia Amanti has not traded its approach to life on the road. This is still a softly sprung comfort cruiser specializing in steady speeds and straight lines. Hit a bump and the suspension goes through its cycle — sometimes twice — to shield you from the shock. Turn the wheel and the Amanti's slow but accurate steering likewise shields your hands from the nuances of the road.
And kudos to Kia for an astute job with the sound deadening, as what little noise that enters the Amanti's cabin is of the low-frequency variety. Kia clearly remains firm in its commitment to comfort in the Amanti, and there's nothing wrong with doing one thing and doing it well.
But we're not sure this is the correct approach in a class where handling dynamics have begun to take on greater importance. Those who relish in marshmallowing down the road will have a soft spot for the Amanti, but more demanding drivers will be put off by the Kia's excessive body roll around corners. In addition, having a suspension set to max lax gives the car a buoyant feel at higher speeds, leaving the king of Kias with a less regal ride than intended. Plus, the car squats under hard acceleration and belly flops with every firm brush of the brakes.
Actual braking performance is average for this class, as our Amanti test car needed 129 feet to stop from 60 mph. However, pedal feel is overly soft and our test-driver noted considerable fade on successive braking runs, with the pedal eventually going to the floor — not good.
New Lease on Life
At least there's that fresh bolt of energy in the powertrain department. At the test track, our Kia Amanti accelerated to 60 mph in 6.9 seconds, which is quick for a large, V6-powered sedan. In fact, it's faster than anything else in the class, save for the Azera and Avalon, which run similar times.
On the street, the V6 delivers strong launches from rest and effortless passing at speed. Partial credit goes to a smart, smooth five-speed automatic that's quick with downshifts when you need them.
Also notable is the 2007 Kia Amanti's more sparing fuel usage. Its EPA rating has improved to 19 mpg city/26 mpg highway (compared to 17 city/25 highway in '06), and we managed a respectable 19 mpg in mixed driving. In the midst of the daily grind, the Amanti's healthy heart and toned body largely made up for its missing soul.
Drab but Functional Inside
And nowhere is that soul more absent than in the cabin. Although refreshed with new instrumentation and materials for 2007, the Amanti's inner workings were treated like a science — a cold, hard science. Everything's laid out by the book in a formal, functional fashion, and even this model's beige interior could not escape the monochromatic tyranny of the gray dash and black wood trim. It gets the job done, just with none of the warmth of the Azera.
Nor the logic. The center stack is laid out as follows: climate controls, stereo controls, big blank spot, more stereo controls, more climate controls. Pressing the desired function calls for careful study of the long, horizontal slabs of buttons, and visual confirmation takes a glance far to the north at the colorless screen atop the dash, where a navigation screen would likely go had Kia decided to offer one. Finally, the impression of cheap steering wheel buttons was echoed by our test car's habitually sticky cruise control set/decel button.
Still, the Amanti gets it right more often than not. Most buttons and levers feel solid and operate with precision, cupholders are simple and effective, compartments and pockets abound, and if the displays come up short on color and character, they're long on crispness and clarity. The Amanti's optional leather is as soft and supple as they come, and with that leather come heaters for the fronts, two-position memory and power-adjustable pedals for the driver. Despite its unforgivable lack of MP3 playback by any means, the Infinity stereo distributes relatively rich sound to all occupants.
The Amanti doesn't have a telescoping steering wheel either, but everyone, driver included, gets dealt a good hand in the comfort picture. Rear-seat measurements nearly match the fronts in every dimension but legroom — and even that's fully adequate. Support is sufficient, contours curve correctly and rear riders even get their own center console, two power outlets and airflow temperature control. If not for the snug toe space and missing center head restraint, the Amanti's rear passengers would take a backseat to no one.
Better — but Not the Best
Functionality still counts for a lot in a full-size sedan, and the 2007 Kia Amanti is roomy, comfortable and quiet. It's also quick — quicker, in fact, than the car it tries hardest to emulate: the V8-equipped Buick Lucerne. These two have an eerily similar list of pros and cons, yet the Amanti exceeds the Buick's performance in most areas and costs a good $5 grand less when comparably equipped. And there's always Kia's class-leading warranty to consider — five years or 60,000 miles of basic coverage, and 10 years or 100K miles on the powertrain.
Still, the picture is less clear against the rest of the large-sedan class. Ford's Five Hundred (soon to be renamed the Taurus) isn't as fast, but it offers a more controlled ride, more real-world interior space and a lower base price. More compelling are the 300, Azera and Avalon. Chrysler's rear-drive sedan isn't for everyone, but for shoppers seeking uncommon levels of style and performance in a large car, it's a compelling package. Traditionalists will prefer the Hyundai or Toyota, and of these two, the more expensive Avalon has the edge in opulence and overall polish.
That leaves the bargain-priced Azera as the Amanti's toughest rival. Although these two share the bulk of their mechanicals, the difference is in the details. Whether you're talking interior design, ride quality or steering feel, the Hyundai feels like a more carefully executed product. While undemanding drivers may be satisfied with the 2007 Kia Amanti, most full-size-sedan shoppers would be wise to ask for a little more.
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.
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