Kia K900 — Luxury at a bargain price

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

While we found our test car, the all-new full-sized rear-driven Kia K900 luxury sedan certainly worth its $66,000 price — in fact, a true bargain — the question that kept popping up as we floated down the road, who is going to buy this vehicle?

Perhaps Kia has answered the question that nobody has asked except for the media.

Michael Sprague, executive vice president of sales and marketing for Kia Motors America says, “This year marks Kia Motors’ 20th anniversary in the U.S. market, and the all-new K900 is a symbol of how far the brand has come…”  Sprague notes that "Kia’s rise over the last five years has been fueled by a willingness to challenge the status quo with vehicles such as the Optima, Sorento and Cadenza, which have brought new and more affluent customers to our showrooms and dramatically raised the profile of the brand while maintaining our value proposition. The K900 is the next logical progression for Kia. It demonstrates what Kia is capable of and will help redefine what the Kia brand stands for.” Maybe!

Potential marketing problems aside, the K900 is one heck of a good car, designed and loaded with luxury that is attractive, useful and filled with worthwhile performance that you can enjoy at a value laden price. And while BMW 7 Series and Mercedes-Benz S-Class buyers may never find their way into a Kia showroom the K900 is a luxury car easily comparable to a number of German and Japanese luxo-sedans.

The K900’s may not have the panache but they’ve got the goods; and the K900 now serves as Kia’s flagship car.

The V8-powered sedan (a 3.8-liter V6 version is coming later in the year.) rides on a 119.9-inch wheelbase and compares favorably with those big Benzes and Bimmers. Oh, and it retails for $60,400 including destination charge, about $20,000 less than the competitors. On the inside, the VIP trim adds $6,000 to the bottom line, but is chock full of high-tech and upscale amenities: Nappa leather, heated steering wheel, a 12-way power driver's seat, a 17-speaker, 900-watt Lexicon surround-sound audio system, a 9.2-inch color touchscreen and Kia's UVO telematics system. And that's just the tip of the features iceberg.

Among the other available upgrades is the rear-seat with abundant stretch-out room and dual-zone power reclining, heated/cooled seat with lumbar support. Wood trim is either walnut or poplar. It’s wonderfully quiet too.

The K900 sports Kia’s signature grille, a sweeping greenhouse, understated cut lines along the doors, and a high rear deck. The car has the same hereditary silhouette that adorns the Kia Optima and the recently introduced Kia Cadenza.

And in Kia’s tradition of offering more for less, the K900 has LED adaptive headlights as well as LED taillights. The only normal illuminative bulbs are the backup lights. The near 16 cubic foot power trunk is standard, as are the heated, automatic dimming sideview mirrors.  The power rear sunshade and the manual rear-window shades are available.

Kia designers also sweated the small stuff like the chrome tipped dual exhaust mimicking the shape of the taillights and the car’s adaptive cruise control can bring it to halt and the four-caliper brakes could and did stop the car quickly.

We found the big V-8 mated to an 8-speed automatic up to the task of moving the two-ton sedan in appropriate luxury fashion — translation, 0-to-60 in about 5.5 seconds — but there seemed to be a lack of urgency in the K900. There was never a rush of power as you might expect from 420 horses, but more a quiet gathering of effortless speed. If you must compartmentalize, the K900 is a luxury sedan more in the mold of the Lexus LS 460, definitely not in the sports sedan persona of a BMW 7-Series.

Same thing in the handling department where the K900 proved to be more relaxed — although composed — on the twists and turns of our favorite winding blacktop. Kia could stand to tweak the K900 suspension. Although the 19-inch wheels helped, the suspension should be just a tad stiffer in the sense of spring and/or shock compression to give the car a more substantive feel. Basically, sedans in this class have a more solid ride not because they weigh more than the K900’s 4,555 pounds, but because the suspension gives them an air of solidity.

The 2015 Kia K900 is a sound luxury sedan, it checks all the boxes and it's even more engaging than some of its competitors. But the question remains, can the Korean automaker get wealthy consumers to consider this car?

Base price: $60,400; as driven, $66,400
Engine: 5.0-liter V-8
Horsepower: 420 @ 6,400 rpm
Torque: 376 foot-pounds @ 5,000 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Drive: rear wheel
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 119.9 inches
Length: 200.6 inches
Curb weight: 4,555 pounds
Turning circle: 39.6 feet
Luggage capacity: 15.9 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 19.8 gallons
EPA rating: 23 highway, 15 city (premium recommended)
0-60: 5.5 seconds (Motor Trend)
Also consider: Hyundai Equus, BMW 7-Series, Lexus LS 460

The Good
• Excellent price
• Long list of standard features
• Library-quiet interior
• Generous warranty coverage

The Bad
• Driving dynamics fall short of premium class

The Ugly
• No all-wheel drive option