We often equate luxury with a name.
It is in the clothes we wear, the furniture we buy, the electronics we own…even the realtor with whom we sell or buy our homes. Names often evoke certain images, especially when it comes to luxury goods.
In the automotive world, this is even more pronounced. When you say “Bentley” or “Rolls-Royce,” those names speak to the epitome of luxury automobiles. You also expect a certain level of luxury when the words “Mercedes-Benz,” “Lexus,” and “Cadillac” are mentioned. These names fuel the want of the finer things in life. They speak truth to image.
What if I told you about a luxury car from Kia? At first, you may wince at the idea of such a luxury car from a brand synonymous with vehicles such as the Soul, the Sorento, and the Optima. We are not just talking about any premium vehicle. The car in question is aimed at the big players in the luxury car field.
The 2015 Kia K900 is a rear-wheel drive large sedan that wants to be considered alongside the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, Lexus LS, BMW 7-Series, Audi A8…and so on. In other words, it wants to be the flagship sedan of choice among the well-heeled crowd.
Really, what’s in a name?
It starts with the look. The K900’s design begins with a blunt front end shape. The “Tiger” grille is enlarged to induce an air of elegance that gives flagships their personality. The front wheels are pushed to the edge of the car, while elongating the hood to add to its presence. “Portholes” grace the front fenders and are another clue to its upward mobility. The roofline is long, giving more access to the rear cabin through its wide limousine-like doors. The overall look is made even more luxurious with a set of chrome multi-spoke 19-inch alloy wheels shod with Hankook tires.
The rear end provides another debate. While we see Kia’s signature nose, we wonder where the rear end came from. One might think it could be influenced by one of its rivals: the Lexus LS. Maybe. There is enough Kia badging to distract the rear lamps and its LED lighting.
Perhaps the best part of the K900 is back up front. The headlamp setup is a showcase of LED technology. Each of the four “lights” includes four smaller LED lamps inside each pod. Not only do they look distinctive; they emit great illumination outward for better night vision. In other words, these lights work extremely well.
Stepping inside is an invitation to luxury and sophistication. The wide instrument panel is swathed with soft leather touches, piano black finishes, and plenty of switches and technology at your fingertips. The 12.3-inch TFT screen for the instrumentation changes depending on which Drive Mode you are in. In both Normal and Eco, your gauges are in analog. Switch to Sport, and they become digital. It is not a contrived digital readout, but one that helps race your heart a bit faster — and that is a good thing. Kia also gives the K900 a distinctive steering wheel. It is a huge three-spoke wheel that accentuates the flagship feel of the car. Switches around the car are good to the touch and very intuitive. The toggles on the steering wheel might be a bit tricky, however. They are also intuitive, once you master them.
The 9.2-inch center screen for Kia’s Microsoft-powered UVO infotainment system is large; however, it is not touch-sensitive. Controlling these functions is done through a knob on the center console, along with quick buttons to the most common screens. Lexicon provides 17 speakers of surround sound from the infotainment screen up front and the controls in the rear center armrest. It emits a wonderful sound for everyone to enjoy.
Front seats are huge and comfortable. While a lot of flagships want you to get comfortable, the K900 means it. There is a good balance between support and cushion with multiple adjustments from the door panel, not unlike most of its rivals. Expect power lumbar and seat cushion length in the VIP model to ensure that everyone can feel comfortable piloting the K900.
Settle into the back seat and you might as well be in a limousine. Consider that its cousin, the Hyundai Equus, covers that part for the Hyundai and Kia conglomerate with its 38.8-inch rear leg room measurement. The K900’s rear leg room measures out at 38.2 inches. Owners of the VIP model can enjoy reclining rear seats powered by switches from the door panel and a center armrest that will control the climate, the rear power shade, the infotainment, and the seat temperature for those who rather live in the back than drive themselves. The rear door comes with manual shades for further protection from the sun and onlookers.
Under the hood of the K900 is a 5.0-liter V8. This is not just any V8 — it is the first appearance of Hyundai’s Tau motor in a Kia. You have 420 horsepower and 376 pound-feet of torque on tap. Press the throttle and all of that power comes alive, providing effortless thrust that is quick off the mark. It also cruises at highway speeds very easily.
Power is channeled through a new eight-speed automatic that is smooth, quiet, and quick. You cannot feel the shifts, but you can see them take place on the tachometer. If you want even quicker shifts, switch the Drive Mode to Sport. There will be nominal differences between the shifts in either Normal and Sport mode. In Eco, shifts are a bit slower, but with no real difference than in Normal. Only the rear wheels drive the K900. It is a good driveline that provides absolute pleasure for leisure and enthusiastic drivers alike.
When driving the K900, you will find it smooth, comfortable, luxurious…all of the words that describe a flagship. You do not feel the cracks and expansion gaps in a K900 due to soft and compliant dampers in the suspension system. Handling is on the soft side through the curves; however, the K900 feels poised to handle winding country roads or tight switchbacks without complaint.
Steering the K900 takes managing a rather large wheel with a quick reaction. Though it feels somewhat disconnected, the steering system does allow the front wheels to do tight maneuvers despite being such a large car. Braking is smooth and sure, helped by huge rotors and a strong caliper system. Normal stops were short, while panic stops responded excellently.
The K900 offers all of the active safety features you expect in a flagship. These standard features include blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning, rear cross-traffic alert, parking sensors, and an Advanced Smart Cruise Control. Making things easier is a heads-up display, also a part of the VIP package. This is where you get all of the active safety warnings right on your windshield in a logical setup. Instead of looking at the mirrors for blind spot warnings they show up on the heads-up display.
While the K900 advertises that it will get 18MPG on average with the big V8, we got better than that. The fuel consumption average under our care came to 18.7MPG with a high of 25.5MPG on the highway.
If there is one concern above all on the K900, it is the price. The main feedback from people who have seen the K900 has been a tough swallow for the sticker price of the car — one with a Kia badge. It just seems that there is still a shock over Kia’s decision to sell its flagship sedan in this market. The facts are simple: The K900 Luxury model starts at $59,900. This VIP tester is stickered at $66,400.
It would be easy to dismiss the name; however, Kia has made a very good luxury car in the K900. For all the right seasons, this Kia touched all of the requirements for a luxury flagship: interior space, trunk space, power, technology, active safety features, and amenities.
There is one thing that the K900 has above all. It is that intangible quality that gives it a special feeling expected from a car of its stature. It is about sliding behind the wheel in a comfortable chair about to pilot a powerful V8 across the miles. It is having someone climb in the back seat to find a very comfortable place to relax in, including setting the climate control for their own comfort.
Again, it is that name and that badge that seems to stop people from embracing this superb automobile. Perhaps it is time to embrace the car for its merits and simply enjoy what it offers you. That is how special the Kia K900 is — name or no name.