Vital Stats

Engine:
5.0L V8
Power:
420 HP / 376 LB-FT
Transmission:
8-Speed Auto
0-60 Time:
5.5 Seconds (est.)
Drivetrain:
Rear-Wheel Drive
Curb Weight:
4,555 LBS
Seating:
2+3
Cargo:
15.9 CU-FT
MPG:
15 City / 23 HWY
Base Price:
$59,500
Let's be honest, Rich America. When you drive your fullsize luxury sedans, you don't clock any laps of the Nürburgring. You don't view your car as an alternative to air travel, ready to wheel between countries at triple-digit Autobahn speeds. Heck, you don't even take the long way home. Instead, you commute in fender-to-fender gridlock looking to be assuaged by sybaritic luxuries, your ride serving as a four-wheeled extension of your living room. Yet when it comes time to vote with your pocketbooks, you overwhelmingly skew toward European driving values – German ones, more specifically. You favor the firm rides, firmer seats and quick steering of cars like the BMW 7 Series and Audi A8. What gives? That's what Kia is clandestinely asking with its new 2015 K900.

According to Kia PR director Scott McKee, this 200.6-inch bruiser of a sedan is all about "at-ease luxury." That's a notion that was once very much synonymous with American automakers' approach to big high-end sedans – effortless comfort above all other considerations. Sprawling room in every direction. Fine materials no matter where the hand falls. The automobile as an isolative cocoon. Once upon a time, Cadillac and Lincoln owned the Comfort First game, but these days, there's almost nobody playing – the Lexus LS and Hyundai Equus are the only cars in this end of the market, everyone else is busy aping German values.

Kia planners could claim that the K900 has been intentionally targeted at a different sort of customer – and indeed, during the press conference ahead of our first drive in Santa Barbara, there was some discussion of "a different kind of luxury" and seeking "confident individualist" buyers. But the truth is, the Korean premium car shoppers that this car was primarily designed for crave exactly the sort of plush luxury experience the K900 dispenses. In other words, Kia is hoping that there are a few thousand like-minded Americans willing to overlook the badge on its nose and give this car a chance.
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No other base models are anywhere near as well equipped as the K900.

And give it a chance they should. The K900 has a lot to offer, and it does so at a steep discount to its ostensible rivals. To wit, V8 models start at $60,400 delivered. Our all-boxes-checked K900 V8 tester with optional VIP package rang up at $66,400 with freight. That's a lot of money, but it's positively skinflint by European luxury car standards. A Mercedes-Benz S-Class starts at $93,825, a BMW 7 Series warms up at $74,925, a Jaguar XJ commands $74,200. Heck, even the Lexus LS 460 starts at $73,050, and none of these base models are anywhere near as well equipped as the K900.

But starting by comparing MSRPs is a rational exercise in what is, at its heart, an irrational end of the market. Better to start with what attracts one's interest in the first place – looks. Aesthetically, the K900 checks a lot of boxes, with an imposing stance and a piercing stare thanks to its standard LED active headlamps. Even Kia's signature 'tabbed' grille looks good in this scale. But the details are less convincing, namely a couple of superfluous nods to traditional American luxury touchstones – a pair of unnecessary faux fender vents and mandatory chrome on its 19-inch alloys. Thanks to its slabbish sides and high beltline, the K900 sits somewhat heavily upon those wheels, too. Overall, though, it exhibits a far more modern shape than the baroquely styled Hyundai Equus, a car with which this Kia shares a number of unseen parts. In fact, the K900 appears sufficiently luxurious that we were interrupted on a couple of occasions during our photography session by passersby who wanted to know what it was, including one admirer in a new 5 Series.

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Topping the list are the K900's rear-seat accommodations.

One trait that luxury customers like regardless of their driving style is an abundance of power underfoot, and the K900 delivers thanks to its direct-injected 5.0-liter V8's 420 horsepower and 376-pound-feet of torque. That power is routed exclusively to the rear wheels via a silky-smooth version of ZF's ubiquitous eight-speed automatic transmission ­– no all-wheel drive system is offered. We've had previous exposure to this Tau V8 in the Equus, and it's a pleasingly well-behaved, burr-free device from idle to redline. In K900 guise, it's been tuned more for the effortless accumulation of speed than it has been for a particularly charismatic soundtrack, but that suits the relaxed character of the car just fine.

What also suits the relaxed character of this car is its cabin. An expansive dashboard with head-up display and what appears to be several cows' worth of hides covering the seats, instrument panel and trim initially greet the driver. In the case of our V8 tester, the leather is of a higher-grade Nappa variety, and even darker-toned cabins are bathed in light thanks to the standard panoramic moonroof. It all feels appropriately posh, from the large 12.3-inch TFT display masquerading as a configurable gauge cluster to a by-wire gear selector whose operation will feel familiar to anyone who has driven a modern BMW. Topping the list are the K900's rear-seat accommodations, which on our VIP-spec car included individual AC zones as well as heated, cooled and power-articulated reclining seats. Even the doors close with a thoughtful power-assisted soft action. Plutocratic extras like a rear-seat refrigerator, fold-down wooden tray tables and rear-seat entertainment screens are all conspicuously unavailable, however.

2015 Kia K900 V8

We wish Kia had retained the touchscreen functionality available in lesser models not fitted with a multi-controller.

Yet even without such high-grade options-list tinsel, there are a couple of small but notable missteps that betray the idea of total luxury. Mainly, it's the absence of a heady aroma of leather inside as well as the distractingly cheap-feeling all-in-one infotainment controller mounted just south of the gear selector. In a car of this ambition, a major touchpoint like the latter must operate with well-oiled precision and feel substantial to the touch – this one doesn't. At least the plastic knob is otherwise intuitive in operation, affording easy access to the 9.2-inch center display screen's navigation, audio, climate control, Surround View Monitor cameras and related functions. We've lauded Kia's navigation systems and UVO e-services before and our impression is still favorable here, but we do wish Kia had retained the touchscreen functionality available in lesser models not fitted with the multi-controller.

On the move, the K900 calms its occupants with the Tau's steady hand of power and a supremely hushed comportment that smothers road imperfections and wind and road noise with equal faculty. Its stiff chassis, copious amounts of sound deadening and laminated glass all conspire to blot out what's happening below the tires and ahead of the windshield like few other luxury sedans at any price. It's a serene experience unencumbered by occasional stiff-legged moments that can mar cars like the BMW 7 Series and its run-flat tires, yet its front and rear multi-link suspension isn't so spongy that undulating and gently winding roads will cause occupants to unexpectedly revisit their ceviche.

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That's not to say that the K900 is particularly athletic – compared to the Germans and the English, it doesn't have a sporting bone in its steel-chassis'd, 4,555-pound body. Oh, Kia engineers have paid the whole 'sport' thing a bit of lip service – prod the "Drive Mode" button below the electronic parking brake a few times to get past Eco mode and into Sport, and the K900 will respond with modestly more aggressive shift mapping and a bit more effort from its electro-hydraulic steering rack, but it's not a convincing transformation.

The K900 comes across as an excellent road trip car.

In the latter mode, the gauge cluster also changes its appearance, losing its analog speedometer in favor of a mph speed readout. That's fine, but the traditionally needled round tachometer has also been inexplicably replaced by a numerical rev counter that reads in 10-rpm increments. Do you really need to know that the engine is humming at precisely 4,670 rpm? With so many numbers to cycle through, the RPM telltale is constantly changing, and it's too busy to be useful when driving hard. It's a novel bit of graphics work, but it's also a step backwards in terms of utility. And as there are no paddle shifters available, if you want to work the gearbox yourself, you'll have to take your hand off the wheel and use the manual gate on the console shifter.

We dutifully pushed the K900 on winding roads for brief stretches over a couple days' driving, but each time, we quickly dialed things back before the Hankook Optimo all-season rubber protested too much. It was simply easier and more pleasant to revert to the golf-shirt-and-khakis driving style this car favors. That might sound like a slam, but it's not meant to be – unruffled travel in the lap of luxury is its own reward, and the K900 comes across as an excellent road trip car.

2015 Kia K900 V8

Regardless of how it all shakes out, Kia is smart enough not to bet the franchise on the K900 – officials won't talk firm sales targets, but it's clear the company only expects to move perhaps three to five-thousand units a year. That's a reasonable goal, especially when the entry-level 3.5-liter V6 model comes on line shortly after the V8 goes on sale. MSRP for the latter hasn't been announced, but it's likely to be around $50,000. For those keeping track, that's the price of an options-free 528i – and remember, base BMWs are hopelessly threadbare in terms of standard equipment, a cold reality compounded by their shockingly expensive options lists.

It's aimed squarely at would-be Lexus buyers and those customers who might otherwise be shopping a rung or two down the lux ladder.

Our Southern California saunter confirmed our initial suspicions about this Kia: on the spec sheet, the K900 may stack up competitively against the legions of S-Class and 7 Series models of this world, but we don't really see it as a threat to Europe's luxury hegemony. Instead, it's aimed squarely at would-be Lexus buyers and those customers who might otherwise be shopping a rung or two down the lux ladder. There's nothing wrong with that approach at all, but with a little more attention and money lavished on the cabin, the K900 could, in fact, be a better all-around luxury car for the way Rich America actually drives, full stop. Of course, that still doesn't mean Kia would sell 'em in big numbers; minivans may provide better real-world transportation than crossovers for most families, but that doesn't mean their sales will ever reflect it. Consumers just aren't that analytical and pragmatic, especially in this end of the market.

On some level, the K900 is nothing less than Kia attempting to climb Olympus at the tender age of 20. The Korean automaker is but two decades removed from shipping us its first boatload of frankly lousy Sephia econoboxes, and it's taking on the European and Japanese luxury gods with a sedan that's decidedly different in character from what sells here these days. It's a move likely to be seen as both brave and hubris-filled, but it would be a serious mistake to dismiss the K900 (and its Equus relative) as some sort of off-brand dog and pony show. If you're not a badge snob and can see embracing the "at-ease" lifestyle, the K900 proves there's real substance, value and luxury available at the unlikeliest of showrooms.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 198 Comments
      Cory Williams
      • 10 Months Ago
      That's a Kia? Of course I'm only kidding, but I can't help remember the found decade of 1990's Kia. If I where in the market for a large luxury salon, I would not be ashamed to cross shop this car with other established luxury marks, that is one very elegant well equipped car they engineered.
      Avinash Machado
      • 10 Months Ago
      People laughed at the original Lexus L400 in 1989 too.
        Max Bullo
        • 10 Months Ago
        @Avinash Machado
        And the LS400 was considered the best possible car of the world at that time. You can imagine about this Kia wich is not even among the first 100.
        FIDTRO
        • 10 Months Ago
        @Avinash Machado
        True, but Lexus was a newly introduced premium brand, so them offering a luxury vehicle is more reputable than Hyundai/Kia offering a luxury car through their mainstream brand. Plus, Lexus had Toyota quality to back it up. Hyundai/Kia will always have that stigma of making cheap, unreliable, inferior cars. Badge that reputation onto a new luxury car, and people will laugh for a very long time.
          Lachmund
          • 10 Months Ago
          @FIDTRO
          stupid people will, yeah. there is nothing wrong with reliability these days with these brands.
      Bruce Lee
      • 2 Months Ago

      This is not going to sell because people dropping $70,000 on a car are dropping a good amount for the badge and also the service at the dealership.  A KIA dealership is not going to compare well with Audi/BMW/Mercedes let alone Lexus.

      Ultraworld
      • 1 Month Ago

      $66k for a Kia? Not a chance here. $70k gets you a loaded Caddy CTS. You don't need to pay $150k for a big Merc to get luxury.

      FIDTRO
      • 10 Months Ago
      All this car says is "I wanted a 7-Series but I couldn't afford it so I settled and just bought this." It looks too much like a 7-Series knockoff to be taken seriously. It even looks a little too cartoonish. And $66k for a Kia? LOL
      Lachmund
      • 10 Months Ago
      Best looking asian car in this segment. By a mile
      Car Guy
      • 10 Months Ago
      Despite what the Kia marketing people might be dreaming about, anybody with the means to get a 7 Series, XJ, S Class, or A8 is NOT going to cross shop this. At that price point you are buying a name as much as anything else. The Kia is not a bad car but they need to stop pretending. The Cadenza at $40k is their high water mark and can go after the Buick LaCrosse or Toyota Avalon crowd. A $60k+ Kia will be a flop.
        Matt
        • 10 Months Ago
        @Car Guy
        Don't underestimate the "Inconspicuous Consumption" set. People that are wealthy and want to enjoy the comforts that wealth provides, but don't want to advertise their wealth. Drive around the $1million home neighborhoods in the DC area, and you will see all the BMWs/Mercs/Audis. These people are climbing the economic ladder, and they want the world to know. Then drive around the $10million+ home neighborhoods; you see Accords and Camrys. These people know they made it, but they don't necessarily want you to know it.
          The Wasp
          • 10 Months Ago
          @Matt
          Exactly. People comfortable with their current position are more likely to get something enjoyable instead of something someone else told them would be enjoyable.
        turkeythundergod
        • 10 Months Ago
        @Car Guy
        That\'s what they said about Lexus and Audi too. You forget that you don\'t get to be wealthy by making poor economic decisions. That said, I think this car is going to mainly be stealing sales from Caddy\'s pathetic XTS, and Acura\'s irrelevant RLX. You\'ll likely see some people step up from Buicks and Lincolns and other Caddys that are smaller in size, as well as people who will buy it over the midsize Germans due to space per dollar. A base 5 series owner is a very different person from a 7 series owner. It\'s a sad day when Kia has a RWD flagship luxury car and GM and Lincoln don\'t.
          Scooter
          • 10 Months Ago
          @turkeythundergod
          That's not exactly true. People get rich for many reasons. Many rich people are awful with money. Many poor people are extremely responsible with money. What you drive is your personal choice. I know wealthy people with overpriced cars, and some with rust buckets. I know poor people with new BMW's and others with rust buckets. Cars are an extremely poor measure of somebodies money sense or financial situation. You have no idea what people are doing to get those cars or how they got them in the first place.
        Dean Hammond
        • 10 Months Ago
        @Car Guy
        its all about status ( snobbery? ) and street cred, and foe whatever reason ( earnt over decades? ) the Germans have it, hell even Lexus seems to have fallen the wayside
      S40Powered
      • 10 Months Ago
      This isn't luxury. This is a rip of BMW and I have no respect for that. Laughable.
      hayato
      • 10 Months Ago
      Goofy fakey vent, Check! Leather, tech goodies. gimmicky technology bits. Check! Chrome rims and accents. Check! Trendy LEDs. Check! Looks like every luxury car combined. Check! Big power. Check! Big price tag, but not too high... Check! Oh wait... Its a KIA.
      Max Bullo
      • 10 Months Ago
      Dude...this thing is ugly. And the rear end belong to the BEAUTIFUL Lexus LS! But you will not be surprised considered the fact that koreans loves Toyota/Lexus design...they're stealing toyota/lexus style since over 20 yrs (or maybe more). Shame on you kia.
        Lachmund
        • 10 Months Ago
        @Max Bullo
        Lexus wishes their cars would look like this.
        Marvin McConoughey
        • 10 Months Ago
        @Max Bullo
        The Kia K900looks fresh, modern, and attractive to me, but buyers will ultimately decide. I like the Lexus LS and attempted to buy one, only to find the price wit accessories quickly escalating to the $120,000 range. I suspect that the Kia parent Hyundai company could surpass the LS at the same price point.
      Jesus!
      • 10 Months Ago
      Call me when Kia can actually come up with their own designs. I saw this at the auto show, and while the interior looked nice had seemed to have quality materials, it screams Chrysler Sebring/200 rip off. The front says Fusion and the back an old tired Lexus. What was really pathetic was the chrome wheels with ghetto silver painter center caps. Are you serious? Make them chrome too!
      MPLS612
      • 10 Months Ago
      I could never spend this money ever on a KIA. Ever!
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