View Full Version : 2008 Kia Amanti - retro luxurious!

Valentine One Radar Detector

10-25-2007, 08:13 AM
Luxury cars used to be very softly sprung - with a pillowy ride and seats that felt like family room Barcaloungers. That went out of style as the German-Japanese ethic of tight-handling (and along with it, firm-riding suspensions and heavily bolstered sport bucket seats) became the focal point of "luxury" car design. Even Buicks are sporty nowadays - and Cadillacs (formerly the "starter casket" of choice for affluent AARPers) are downright fierce.

All this is fine - if you want a high-end corner-carver/blingmobile built to keep up with roadsters on the twisties and muscle cars 0-60. But if you're looking for old school luxury car softness, you'll want to check out the Kia Amanti.

It is seriously soft. Stay-pufft seats - and suspension, too. It is completely unlike driving other modern luxury-type cars - which have very little body lean, high levels of lateral grip, tight, responsive steering - but which will not remind you of your 1975 Sedan deVille.

The Amanti will.

Honestly, it's just amazing that such a car is even available in These Days. The leather-glove wearing automotive press is relentlessly brutal to any car that dares to squeal a tire when tossed into a corner at 10 or 20 over the limit - even if it is blissfully easy on your backside when driven like most normal people drive.

Loving the Amanti is like hating PDAs and preferring land lines to over-teched cell phones that do a gazillion basically pointless things in addition to the basic function of letting you make a call. You are running against the current here, chief.

But what of it? The Amanti is super comfortable in a way that hasn't been common since the '80s.

And it's surprisingly cheap, too.

An '08 Amanti - loaded with 264 hp V-6, dual-zone climate control, optional 270 watt Infinity audio rig, 17-inch rims and heated driver and passenger seats is barely across the $30k threshold. Base models are just $25,495 - and they include the big V-6, which is as solid (and torquey) as anything you'll find in a Lexus ES, Caddy CTS or Lincoln MKZ - all of which cost a helluva lot more.

The Amanti's a big car, too.

Technically, it's listed as a mid-size sedan, but its overall dimensions (196.9 inches long overall; 110.2 inch wheelbase, 72.8 inches wide and 16 cubic foot trunk) put it several notches above the '08 Lexus ES350 (191.1 inches; 109.3 inch wheelbase, 71.7 inches wide and a 15 cubic foot trunk), '08 Cadillac CTS (which has a shoebox-sized 14 cubic foot trunk) and several other mid-size entry-luxury sedans.

In fact, the Amanti is actually bigger than the Mercedes E-Class in terms of overall length (the Benz comes in at a stubby 191 inches) and its trunk capacity is exactly the same (16 cubic feet). The Benz is narrower, too - just 71.7 inches wide. And its wheelbase is only about two inches longer (112.4 inches).

It should also be noted that the $50,900 E350 barely out-muscles the $25k Kia - which ought to be embarrassing to Benz. The '08 E350 comes standard with a 3.5 liter V-6 that's smaller than the Kia's 3.8 liter engine - and only makes four horses more (268 vs. 264).


Ok, so the Benz will cream the Kia in handling - and yes, it's a "status symbol" - if that's worth something to you. Ditto the Lexus and Caddy - and many others of higher marque.

And higher price.

But define your terms - and what you're really after here. If it's a large and roomy, soft and comfy, well-equipped, powerful - and very affordable, too - then the Amanti's a very appealing prospect.

As far as downsides: Well, for openers, it does not like to be pushed hard in a corner - and will let you know about it, audibly and otherwise. The tires screech unhappily; the weight of the car shifts uneasily. But only if you are driving it like an automotive journalist. The steering is super boosted and very light (shades of Sedan deVille; you can easily drive this car with one hand - one finger, even) just don't expect it to be "communicative."

If you want that, you want something else.

What else? The throttle tip-in is kind of abrupt. You get used to this quickly, though - and adjust your foot pressure accordingly. But the first couple of times you're behind the wheel, the Amanti lunges forward at the least provocation. Kia probably set the car up like this deliberately - to make it feel fast during the initial test drive. It works. It does. The V-6 - already plenty punchy - feels downright racy, especially from a standing start.

Exterior styling. Yeah, it's a little weird-looking. Some Bentley-esque touches here; some Town Car/Benz DNA there. It's not ugly, though. Just different - in an AMC Matador kind of way. (And the Matador was a nice big road machine, too, incidentally.) It's not as sleek as an E350 or CTS. But it's up to you (again) how much looks are worth.

The inside, on the other hand, is extremely nice. Those huge, extra-plus seats you literally sink into are fantastico after a brutal day in the cubicle. Attractive, modern dash layout; nothing cutting edge, it's true - but nothing that's bizarre or hard to understand at a glance, either. And that is a big plus these days. If you order the optional Premium package you get handsome black leather for the seats, along with aluminum trim pieces inside and 17-inch chrome alloy wheels outside.

Luxurious? Absolutely.

Probably the single biggest weakness is the absence of available cutting edge telematics such as a GPS system, factory satellite radio (Kia and its parent company, Hyundai, are "late adopters" when it comes to Sirius and XM) a rear-seat DVD/entertainment system and maybe remote start/Bluetooth wireless. Electronic equipment like this is now available on many bargain-priced, entry-level compacts - including the Scion xD, Honda Fit and Civic, Mazda3 and so on. It absolutely ought to at least be on the options list for a car that can push into the $30k range - and which is otherwise trying to compete with entry-luxury sedans.

But if you can live without that stuff - but can't live without a genuinely retro-soft ride and seats that will transport you to the Land of Nod - then you'll really like the Amanti.

Give it a whirl.

It's just like an old deVille or '84 Olds 98 - only with a much better warranty!


10-26-2007, 01:59 AM
It's monstrously ugly. I wouldn't be seen in one.

10-26-2007, 06:47 AM
It's monstrously ugly. I wouldn't be seen in one.

I hear that a lot; and it's a valid point... but to me, few of the new high-end luxury cars are especially handsome. And the Kia's got a very nice, comfortable interior - and it's a fraction of the price ...