2015 Kia K900Posted on February 18th, 2014
Full-sized high luxury sedan
By Nina Russin
Kia’s success story has been built on big risks. The brand that came to the US twenty years ago with two niche vehicles and a loss leader pricing strategy has evolved into one of the fastest growing OEMs in North America.
The Cadenza sedan that rolled out last spring moved Kia into the premium segment. The all-new K900 takes the upwardly mobile product strategy a step further, competing head to head with the BMW 7-Series, Audi A8 and Mercedes-Benz S Class.
While naysayers might question the automaker’s wisdom introducing a $60,000 sedan in what remains a shaky economy, one needs to look at the global picture. The K900 is also sold in Korea as the K9 as well as China, where the demand for luxury goods continues to grow at a healthy rate.
From a marketing standpoint, the K900 builds on the image makeover that began with the current Optima. Kia is no longer a value brand, although its products continue to offer buyers more content than most of their competitors.
With the addition of its new Orange County, California design studio, Kia has emerged as a leader in the area of automotive styling. Continued collaboration with Microsoft has made the brand’s UVO infotainment system one of the best connectivity technologies in the industry.
Power for the open road
Kia is rolling out the K900 with its Tau five-liter aluminum V-8 engine rated at 420 horsepower, mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. A V-6 model follows later.
If this combination sounds familiar, it’s because the K900 shares chassis components with the Hyundai Equus. The high compression engine will run on regular fuel, although the OEM’s horsepower and torque specifications are based on tests with 91-octane premium.
A five link front and rear independent suspension gives the K900 a supple ride. The K900 rides on 19-inch wheels, with four-wheel disc brakes and four-piston calipers up front.
Engineers focused on NVH, adding noise-reducing materials in the sedan’s floor, sides and headliner. There are over 200 covered and coated points throughout the vehicle to ensure a quiet cabin. Underbody airflow management reduces low grade rumbling noise at higher speeds. A laminated windshield and side windows minimize wind noise.
Test drive in Southern California
I had the opportunity to drive the K900 at a media event in Southern California last week. Our driving route included sections of highway as well as two-lane roads through the canyons, leading out to a turn-around in the desert town of Temecula.
At the end of the day, it’s really hard to argue with solid engineering. The K900 does everything product spokespersons say it will. The rear-wheel drive platform has a close-to-perfect 52/48 front-to-rear weight balance, making it a delight on twisting canyon roads.
The test car is the VIP model, the more upscale of two available grades. Base price is $65,500, excluding the $900 destination charge. The VIP package adds reclining rear seats with lumbar control, a thin film transistor display in the gauge cluster and adaptive cruise control to the base model.
The K900 is a heavy car. Some of its 4500-pound curb weight comes from the sedan’s panoramic sunroof that brings ambient light into both rows of seating. But the engine has plenty of power to handle the mass, with 376 foot-pounds of peak torque available at 5,000 rpm.
Acceleration is solid and linear throughout the power band. Wide-open throttle adds a pleasantly throaty exhaust note that will appeal to driving enthusiasts.
The eight-speed automatic transmission is a sweet piece of work, progressing seamlessly through the gears under normal driving conditions. An optional sport mode enables the driver to select gears manually for more aggressive performance. The sport also modifies shift points so the transmission holds onto the gears longer.
With a 119-inch wheelbase, the sedan is fairly long. Kia’s specifications don’t include a turning circle, but I would guess that it is close to the 39.6-foot dimension for the Hyundai Equus.
Steering feel is pleasantly heavy on the highway, although on-center response is not particularly crisp. According to product planners, the soft tuning is intentional, since the sedan will be used as a personal limousine by some of its buyers.
Visibility around the perimeter is good, Engineers have made a full complement of passive safety features available, including a rearview camera with a surround-view monitor that operates up to two miles-per-hour, blind spot monitoring, cross traffic alert and adaptive headlamps that swivel according to steering inputs.
The brakes stop the K900 is firm, linear fashion without being dicey.
The K900 is the vision of Kia Design Chief, Peter Schreyer. Schreyer is without a doubt one of the best designers in the auto industry today. His influence is evident in the carefully massaged surfaces that distinguish the sedan’s exterior from some less evolved competitors.
The look of the car is more conservative than the Optima: the midsized sedan that established Kia as a player in the world of contemporary automotive design. I suppose the cautious approach to the K900 is a way of testing the waters, since Kia is new to the high luxury segment.
But styling is by no means boring. The sedan’s coupe-like profile features short front and rear overhangs, with an elongated hood and snub decklid. A hockey stick runs down the length of the sedan, ending at the rear pillar. LED headlamps and tail lamps wrap around the car’s four corners.
Large dual exhausts are integrated into the lower rear fascia, where they are secured against road damage.
The interior design is once again conservative, giving buyers the combination of Nappa leather and wood veneer one would expect in a high luxury sedan. The center console houses a 9.2-inch multimedia display that the driver controls using a mouse-type device. The display shows the rearview camera image, navigation maps and UVO e services.
The TFT display in the gauge cluster adds odometer and trip meter data, ambient temperature and fuel economy. I found both the gauge cluster and center stack screen easy to read in the harsh desert sunlight.
A programmable heads-up display reducing driver distraction by projecting data such as vehicle speed and audio programming in the lower left corner of the windshield.
Both front and rear seats are extremely comfortable, with ample lower lumbar support. The reclining rear seats on the test car make second-row passengers more comfortable on extended road trips. A control panel in the second-row armrest enables rear passengers to control temperature, audio settings and seat heaters.
The sedan’s long wheelbase ensures that both rows of passengers have plenty of legroom.
The trunk is large enough to hold luggage, multiple golf bags and groceries. There is no spare tire, but there is an inflator kit.
The Kia K900 comes with front, side and side curtain airbags, traction control, stability control, antilock brakes and tire pressure monitoring.
The Kia K900 is currently rolling into dealerships, beginning with the Southern California region.
Like: A stylish high luxury sedan with excellent performance and appealing styling.
Dislike: A spare tire is not standard equipment.
Model: K900 VIP
Base price: $65,500
As tested: N/A
Horsepower: 420 Hp @ 6400 rpm
Torque: 376 lbs.-ft. @ 5000 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: No
Fuel economy: 15/23 mpg city/highway
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