2012 Kia K9 - front three-quarter view, silver

We so wanted to lead this post with a Jim Belushi joke. Alas, the Kia press release announcing the launch of its rear-drive flagship in Korea today specifically clarifies that the K9 will be renamed for other markets.

While Kia says the large sedan rides on "its own platform," we know enough about the auto industry to posit that much of that platform is shared with the underpinnings of corporate cousin Hyundai's Genesis Sedan and Equus. Like the Hyundai pair, Kia is clearly hoping the not-called-K9-here will help the brand move upmarket, positioning the car as a premium product designed, in the words of Kia's head of design Peter Schreyer, "to compete head-to-head with the European luxury brands."

The Kia sedan will split the difference between the Genesis and the Equus, matching the 120-inch wheelbase of the latter, but with an overall length of 200 inches that's three inches shorter than Equus and almost four inches longer than the Genesis. The Kia sedan will have the same 0.27 coefficient of drag as both the Hyundai models.

Kia says its luxury sedan will be powered by two distinct versions of the corporate 3.8-liter Lambda V6, one making 286 horsepower and the direct-injection version rated at 329. The more powerful engine is said to be "joining the global engine line-up next year," which we'd expect would coincide with the flagship sedan's U.S. launch. Both engines will be mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. Kia says the car will be available with a number of safety features including a lane-departure warning system and blind sport detection. A reclining rear seat with leg rest will also be available, just like in the Equus.

Today's announcement raises an interesting possibility. While we wouldn't expect Kia to send its flagship stateside with the less-powerful V6 – indeed, a V8 engine option is surely bound to accompany an official statement of the car's U.S. sales plan – doing so would certainly allow Kia to bring the car to market at a more attractive entry-level price. Kia has a scant resume when it comes launching anything other than budget models here in the U.S., and the brand certainly has considerable work to do if it aims to catch up to Hyundai in pricier segments.

It will certainly be interesting to see where Kia tries to position its unnamed sedan – and whether its (*ahem*) dogged pursuit of the luxury dollar will succeed. Scroll down to read the full press release and check out our gallery of K9 images.
Related Gallery2012 Kia K9
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Kia launches elegant and luxurious all-new flagship sedan
- Elegant simplicity and balanced proportions create a premium feeling
- First modern rear-wheel drive Kia has V6 power plus 8-speed transmission
- Introduces a host of advanced features and technologies new to Kia
- Striking sedan on sale in Korea from today with export sales later in 2012


(SEOUL) May 2, 2012 – Kia's all-new luxury flagship sedan goes on sale in Korea today (Wednesday), powering the brand into an entirely new segment of the global automotive market.

The striking new rear-wheel drive sedan will be launched in a number of key overseas markets starting in the fourth quarter of 2012. The new flagship tops Kia's global model range and is a true landmark vehicle for the company. Kia's first modern rear-wheel drive vehicle using its own platform combines stylish design with luxurious comfort, engaging driving dynamics and advanced high-tech features.

Known as the "K9" in Korea, the new flagship sedan will have a different name in overseas markets – to be revealed closer to its on sale date.

"K9 is our first rear-wheel drive large sedan for more than a decade and sets new standards for advanced design, new technologies and driving performance, representing the 'best of the best' of Kia," comments Soon-Nam Lee, Kia's Director of Overseas Marketing Group.

"Demonstrating once again our brand's power to surprise, K9 will entice an entirely new customer group of progressive, forward-looking consumers to Kia for the first time," adds Lee.

Designing for a rear-wheel drive platform has provided Kia with an opportunity for proportions that define luxury.

As a large rear-wheel drive vehicle, K9 boasts a long wheelbase which gives a generous first impression. As the engine sits further back, the A-pillar is also pushed back to create a longer hood and an impressive short front overhang. Consequently, the distance between the center of the wheel and the A-pillar, the so called "prestige distance," is increased.

Thanks to the long prestige distance and high shoulder line, the glass house sits far back and the sheet metal-to-glass ratio is significantly increased. The pushed-back position and the small size of the glass house give occupants a feeling of privacy and dignity, while the nice distinctive window graphics accentuated by a chrome inlay give the car a premium feel.

"K9 is all about elegant simplicity, balanced proportions and simple surfaces," says Kia's Chief Design Officer, Peter Schreyer. "The class-leading long wheelbase, the prestige distance, large wheels, sharply upright short overhangs and a long sweeping shoulder line all work together in a harmony to give K9 a sporty, athletic proportion and a confident stance quintessential to a premium large rear-wheel drive vehicle."

"While embodying a new generation of Kia design, K9 is a clear signal of our intention and determination to compete head-to-head with the European luxury brands. And for Kia, our customers, and for me – this car is like a dream come true," concludes Schreyer.

With a 5,090 mm overall length and 3,045 mm wheelbase, K9 offers generous front and rear occupant space. Overall width and height are 1,900 mm and 1,490 mm, respectively, which creates a spacious cabin environment, while efficient aerodynamics and close attention to exterior detailing result in a highly competitive Cd of 0.27.

V6 power and eight-speed transmission

Initially, K9 will be available in overseas markets powered by an upgraded 290 ps Lambda V6 3.8-liter MPI engine, with a 334 ps 3.8 GDI engine joining the global engine line-up next year.

For fitment to K9, Kia's engineers boosted the Lambda V6's power output, raised its efficiency and enhanced its refinement – making it well-suited to power the new flagship model. The normally aspirated twin DOHC 3.8-liter engines are equipped with dual continuously variable valve timing (CVVT) and a variable intake system (VIS).

Every K9 comes with Kia's all-new eight-speed automatic transmission. The wide spread of gear ratios guarantees brisk acceleration and high-speed refinement, while shift-by-wire (SBW) technology with a joystick control delivers fast, smooth gear changes.

Rear-wheel drive characteristics

"With K9 we have achieved a near-perfect front/rear weight distribution, which has created a strong foundation for excellent balance and steering response, and a sophisticated blend of ride and handling qualities," comments Chang-Ky Kang, Senior Vice President of Namyang R&D Chassis Technology Center.

Together with the ultra-stiff bodyshell made with 74.3 percent high-strength steel, K9's electronically controlled air suspension with five-link front and rear suspension geometry has given the new flagship first-class ride and handling characteristics.

Four driving modes (Eco, Normal, Sport and Snow) enable the driver to choose a preferred set-up of suspension, steering, engine and transmission ideal for various road conditions or driving styles.

"K9's excellent balance delivers a host of driver benefits – improved traction, greater road holding, enhanced braking stability, and enhanced turn-in. Adopting rear-wheel drive also enabled us to create a purity of steering response and feel," concludes Kang.

Advanced new features

When it goes on sale in overseas markets, K9 will premiere a range of advanced luxury features and technologies that are second to none. Depending on model, available active safety features will include fully adaptive all-LED headlamps, Lane Departure Warning System (LDWS), radar-based Blind-Spot Detection (BSD) and an Around-View Monitor (AVM) with four cameras.

Premium comfort features include a 12.3-inch full size Thin Film Transistor (TFT) LCD cluster, a HUD (head-up display), twin 9.2-inch monitors to entertain rear seat occupants and a remarkable 17-channel, 17-speaker Lexicon (by Harman) sound system and Smart Cruise Control (SCC) which adjusts the vehicle's speed to maintain the distance from the vehicle ahead.

A special "VIP" option will offer twin heated and ventilated rear seats with a reclining backrest, sliding cushion and lower leg support for the "nearside" seat, together with a front passenger seat that slides forwards when unoccupied.