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    Luxury Sedans in a Changing Market

    By Philip Ruth

    In the LGBTQ community, we’ve seen great change in last half century. I’m still amazed that marriage equality happened so quickly. Our fight for equal rights continues today.

    The car industry has also seen its share of changes, and the next decade will host some fundamental shifts to our automotive landscape. Long-range, self-driving electric vehicles are just the start of how differently we’ll be relating to our personal cars, if we decide to own one at all.

    These seismic shifts occur alongside smaller movements in the marketplace. One of those has been the decline of the four-door sedan. You’ve probably noticed that most of the recent concept cars have been two-box shapes, like SUVs and crossovers. In these designs, the trunk is axed in favor of a more cavernous living space.

    KIA Cadenza

    This week’s test cars are the sedans to which the generations of yore would aspire. The Kia Cadenza and Lincoln MKZ both appeal to buyers who want something of ample size and appointments. Both succeed at first impressions, where they clearly are more than enough for most buyers.

    The Kia impresses by feeling expansive. The Cadenza’s instrument panel is defined by long horizontal lines stretching between the doors. Seats are broad and wide, and the center armrest is beefy.

    The Lincoln expresses its value-add with a more individualized feel. In the MKZ, the bright-trimmed center stack cuts a visual swath between the driver and front passenger. This mimics the architecture of the MKZ’s Ford Fusion origins, but MKZ puts a fancier spin on it, complete with gear-selector buttons that run down the left side.

    In its marketing, Kia aligns the Cadenza with luxury stalwarts like Lexus. The Cadenza’s high equipment levels aim to quell the qualms you might have about laying down 40 large for a car from an economy brand. Ultimately, the Cadenza’s medium-rich plastics fall somewhere between the supple Lexus ES and its down-market sibling, the Toyota Avalon. Kia did a good job here, but the Cadenza is more comfortable than it is memorable.

    Lincoln MK2

    The MKZ cranks up the style with the Black Label edition, which has its own color themes (yep, one of them is “artisanal”), added standard equipment, and additional services after the sale. Black Label is a nod toward the direction in which upscale cars are defining themselves, where the “member privileges” they provide—such as an extended maintenance plan, your own Black Label Experience Liaison, access to a “curated list” of restaurants, etc.—are becoming as important as their cars.

    Sales figures of these two spell out the sedan’s decline. Kia’s Cadenza moves at a rate of barely five percent of the mid-sized Sorento crossover wagon. The Lincoln MKZ actually sells in comparable numbers to the MKX crossover, but that’s still big news for a carmaker that had previously focused on luxury sedans.

    The flipside is that sedans are typically cheaper than crossovers. Cadenza sales in particular are a relative trickle, so it’s likely that some Kia showrooms are ready to deal.

    Philip Ruth is a Castro-based automotive photojournalist and consultant at www.gaycarguy.com. Check out his automotive staging service at www.carstaging.com