Over 14 installments, we’ve finally reached the conclusion of our coverage of Kia’s midsize and large sedans. The Korean manufacturer’s original offerings were borrowed from other companies, most often Mazda. It’s been a long journey, but we finish our tale today with a promising-looking front-drive sedan that’s off-limits to North America. You might never have heard of it.
Last time in our Kia large car saga, we learned much about the second-generation K9. Kia’s large, rear-drive luxury sedan wore K900 badging most places (including North America) but was also called Quoris on occasion. After a first generation that failed to capture the interest of global consumers, Kia went bigger and better for its second attempt.
The larger, more luxurious, and more refined K900 debuted in 2018 for the 2019 model year. It was as good a car as Kia could offer, a statement that was printed with an asterisk: From inception, any Kia flagship had to be lesser than its Genesis (nee Hyundai) sibling. Not as large, not as luxurious, not as showy, not as expensive, and without a long-wheelbase limousine. Let’s find out how it fared.
Rare Rides Icons has been embroiled in the Stutz story since February of this year. Through six months and 20 total installments, we’ve covered the entirety of the Stutz brand’s evolution. Stutz started with a win at the inaugural Indianapolis 500 and eventually morphed into a manufacturer of high-powered luxury cars. After the emphasis turned to safety and away from racing, Stutz lost its footing quickly and went extinct.
Decades later it was resurrected by a wealthy man with a background in banking. In 1970 the new Stutz Motor Car Company capitalized on a wave of gauche neoclassical styling that the well-heeled of Hollywood and the Middle East so lovingly embraced. From there the Stutz lineup grew larger, more ostentatious, and more ridiculous. For a time the company sold its wares almost exclusively to foreign regimes, the exported vehicles long lost to time.
We finish the series with the largest and most exclusive Stutz ever built. Massive in length, it was much larger than the Duplex, IV-Porte, Victoria, and indeed the Diplomatica. We close out the Stutz chapter of our lives with Royale and a very interesting recent announcement.
In our last installment of Kia’s large sedan history, we took a look at the second generation Cadenza. With its second salvo at the likes of the Toyota Avalon and the Buick Lacrosse, Kia planned to capture the near-luxury sedan customer who cared about value. Unfortunately, the Cadenza didn’t excel at anything in particular, and failed to stand out against more established competition.
A similar story played out a few years before when Kia introduced the first full-size rear-drive luxury car it ever designed in-house. Called the K9 (Quoris or K900 elsewhere), the large sedan shared a platform with the new rear-drive Hyundai Equus. Both sedans were the flagship offerings at their respective brands.
The Equus was flashy and almost American-inspired, while the K9 was conservative and understated. But it turned out a large and anonymous looking luxury car was not to the taste of most customers. Even in its home market, buyers vastly preferred the Equus and its large winged hood ornament. What was Kia to do?
Today we find ourselves in the 19th chapter of Stutz historical coverage. In the early Eighties Stutz (somewhat) successfully branched out from its Blackhawk-only product line, and made the Bearcat targa, the Bearcat II convertible, some SUVs for dictatorial armament and parade usage, as well as sedans and limousines.
We’re in the latter group of automobiles at the moment. So far we’ve covered the one-off Duplex that found no customers, and its successor the IV-Porte that did. After the IV-Porte came the Victoria, which added 10 additional inches to IV-Porte’s base, the B-body Bonneville. Victoria survived the Bonneville’s full-size demise in 1981 and moved its basis to the similar Oldsmobile 88 in 1982. Around that time Stutz added an even more exclusive, larger, and more garish sedan to the lineup. Let’s talk about Diplomatica.
Kia’s second attempt at a K7 (Cadenza in North America) arrived at a time when the company fully embraced a styling language of its own. More upscale and nicer to look at than the derivative generation of 2010 to 2016, the new Cadenza debuted in all global markets for 2017. Kia was hopeful the second Cadenza would sell better than the first one, particularly in North America. Any predictions on how that went?
Today’s Rare Ride is brought to you by a Tweet that featured today’s subject and was the exact moment your author became aware of its existence. Released in the Nineties prior to the American retro styling craze, the Classic was a limited edition sedan sold only to Japanese customers. Curious yet?
We return to our historical Stutz coverage once more today and continue reveling in the four-door sides the neoclassical entity offered alongside the Blackhawk, its sole entree. In our past two installments, we covered the first two sedans offered by Stutz, the Duplex and the IV-Porte.
While the Duplex was a one-off and based on either a Cadillac Fleetwood or a Pontiac Grand Prix (it’s unclear), the IV-Porte traced its lineage very clearly to the B-body Pontiac Bonneville. Offered from 1979 to 1981, the IV-Porte found around 50 customers for its GM-adjacent and gold-plated styling. At the time of the Bonneville’s demise, Stutz was happy with the decent sales clip of the IV-Porte and was not about to go without a sedan offering. Enter Victoria.
Ford conducted a lot of marketing research for its Edsel brand and was assured by many well-educated MBA types that its new lineup would be hugely successful. The research scientists said the unique styling and features Edsel offered would appeal to a broad cross-section of the American populace. After a television musical debut in the fall of 1957, Edsels were shipped to dealers where they remained under wraps until it was time for the ‘58 model year.
Crazy styling aside, Edsel’s arrival caused some immediate brand confusion in relation to Mercury, and in more limited circumstances, Ford. Much of said confusion occurred in the company’s debut year when Edsel spread the “lots of new models” sauce a little too thin. We start at the brand’s second most basic offering: Pacer.
As we return to the history of Kia’s large sedans, we find ourselves in the midst of the 2010s. When the full-size and rear-drive K900 was introduced for the 2015 model year, Kia’s front-drive comfort option, the K7 (Cadenza to you), was in the midst of its first generation. A replacement for the unloved and ugly Opirus (Amanti to North Americans), the K7 ushered in sophisticated but bland Euro-centric styling from Peter Schreyer upon its launch in 2010.
Cadenza didn’t make its way to the North American market until 2014, and debuted with slightly sharper styling and a nicer interior via a mid-cycle refresh. Kia took its time in bringing the Cadenza to the North American market, as they wanted to be sure they got it just right.
In the end, the first Cadenza fell between the soft rock of the Lexus ES and the hard place of the Nissan Maxima. Additionally, it lacked the prestige to compete with other large front-drive upmarket offerings of the time. The new cadenza lasted only three model years in North America, as Kia was ready for an all-new generation K7/Cadenza in 2017.
Ford successfully orchestrated a splashy live television musical debut for its new brand Edsel in the fall of 1957. The program was a culmination of a multi-year project to establish a new division of Ford that would compete more directly with the likes of Oldsmobile, Buick, and DeSoto. Edsels promised to be notably different from the Mercury with which it shared most everything except styling.
Edsel was to be much more value-conscious than the new-for-’58 unibody Lincolns, which sought to move the brand upmarket after the almost instantaneous discontinuation of the Continental Division. After Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby ushered in the Edsel name it was time to show off the all-new models in showrooms, and introduce a supposedly excited American consumer to the lineup.
Edsel received an honorary mention a couple of weeks ago, in our current Rare Rides Icons series on the Lincoln Mark cars. Then it was mentioned again the other day in Abandoned History’s coverage of the Cruise-O-Matic transmissions. It’s a sign. We need to talk about Edsel.
I’ve been living in Colorado for 12 years now, and I’ve found that the junkyards here have plenty of both the rust-free Japanese cars you’d find in California yards and the late-model Detroit machinery of the Midwest yards (the liquor stores here also stock the watery yellow beers of both the Pacific Northwest and the Upper Midwest, great news if you’re throwing a Denver party that requires both Rainier and Hamm’s). The one thing that really sets Colorado car graveyards apart from those elsewhere (besides all the Scouts and edge-case 4WD cars) is the huge numbers of pre-1960 American vehicles that end up in the U-Wrench-It-type yards here. Here’s the latest, a 1949 Plymouth Special Deluxe sedan in a big self-service yard between Denver and Cheyenne.
As a fan of the midsize luxury sedan class, it’s sad to see how many manufacturers have given up on the segment. The German trio still has their stalwarts, but Japan gave up in 2020 (RIP Lexus GS), the only American still in the ring is the Cadillac CT5, and its outlier status is accompanied by newcomer Genesis with the G80.
It’s a dying class, which is why your author was especially pleased to spend the Memorial Day weekend with a longstanding headliner of the German luxury sedan genre: A 2021 BMW 5-Series.
When The General began building the AE82 Toyota Corolla (actually based on the JDM Sprinter version) at the NUMMI plant in California, that car got Chevrolet Nova badges. When Toyota debuted the E90 Corolla platform in 1987, it made sense for the NUMMI-ized version of the new E90 Sprinter to join the Suzukis and Isuzus of the new Geo brand. That car was the Geo Prizm, and I’ve found one of the super-rare factory-hot-rod GSi Prizms in a Denver-area self-service yard.