Kia is known primarily for its family cars, trucks and vans. So when the company announced that they were going to launch a high-line sedan to compete with the likes of Buick, Mercury and Toyota, naturally we were a bit skeptical. Then again, we've learned never to under estimate Kia and its parent company Hyundai, so after spending some time in the new Amanti, we humbly eat crowthis is one very impressive automobile.
First of all, lets talk for a minute about what the Amanti is and is not. It is not a super luxury sedan in the mold of Mercedes, Jaguar or Lincolnthough it does borrow strong styling cues from each of these manufacturers. The Amanti is competition for the larger car market, namely the Toyota Avalon and to a lesser degree, Mercury Grand Marquis and Buick LeSabre. On paper, the Amanti bests the Avalon on interior room, content and price but in the real world of everyday driving, the Avalon still has the upper hand when it comes to overall driving performancebut not by much.
The Amanti is a big car by anyone's standards. Based on a stretched version of the Hyundai XG350, the Amanti offers more backseat legroom then the XG and tips the scales at just over 4000-pounds. The only source of power is a V6 3.5-liter 24-valve twin cam engine that makes 200 horsepower and 220 lbs-ft. of torque at a low 3500 rpm. Even with this ample low-end grunt, the Amanti is no lightning bolt off the line. Acceleration is somewhat leisurely yet constant, allowing the Amanti to merge into high-speed traffic with little cause for panic.
One of the truly amazing things about the Amanti is just how quiet the interior is at highway speeds. Kia engineers went above and beyond to keep wind, road and tire noise out of the cabin and their efforts paid off big time. The suspension engineers have tuned the Amanti to deliver exactly the type of ride associated with a full size sedan. A double wishbone front and multi-link rear suspension allow the Amanti to float over most imperfections while still managing a fairly stable ride. The handling is decent and should satisfy most drivers' needs. Push the Amanti hard, and it will lean into turns and dive under hard braking, but no better or worse than its counterparts in this segment.
The Amanti's exterior styling at first struck us as a bit out there, but in short time, we grew to appreciate the bold front end with its large egg-crate grille and Mercedes-like lenses. Little things like the chrome surrounds on the bumpers and rear license plate frame add a touch of elegance to the Amanti's body. The long rear doors make entry and exit easy and the high roofline means you won't have to stoop low to get your head into the car.
Once inside, you're in for a real treat. This is one well-appointed vehicle, with leather and wood trim in full force and a sense of quality and detail that surpasses anything Kia has done to date. The controls for the eight-way power driver's seat are located on the door where they are easy to reach and the windows have a one-touch up/down feature complete with pinch protection. The handsome dash is split into two levels with a woodgrain strip running between the two-tone segments. The Amanti's audio unit was designed by Infinity; it includes a cassette deck, six-disc CD changer and nine speakers.
The Amanti's seats are very firm and supportive, wide at the hips and shoulders with adjustable head restraints at all five positions. Rear seat passengers enjoy excellent head and legroom as well as rear vents and a fold down armrest complete with cup holders and storage box. Occupant safety is also a high priority, so Kia has outfitted the Amanti with dual front airbags, front and rear side-mounted airbags and dual side-airbag curtains covering the length of the passenger compartment.
For a mere $25,535, you get power windows, power locks, automatic dual-zone climate control, power driver's side lumbar support, leather-wrapped steering wheel with touch controls, power heated mirrors, front fog lights, 16-inch alloy wheels and cruise control. Options include the Infinity sound system, leather seating, in-dash LCD monitor, heated front seats, power sunroof, auto dimming rear-view mirror, traction control, stability program and electronic brake assist.
As with all Kias, the Amanti comes standard with a 10-year/100,000-mile warranty.