The luxury sedan market has become more crowded with the addition of the 2015 Kia K900. The new K900 is Kia’s first V-8 sedan and first rear-wheel-drive luxury car. It’s for those who want to save approximately $20,000 or so if they don’t mind not getting an upper-line German or Japanese rear-drive V-8 luxury auto.
Kia didn’t dare make a mistake with its flagship K900 because the car, as the automaker says, is intended to “redefine consumer perception and expectations of the Kia brand.” Snobby neighbors may scoff at the Kia nameplate, but they can’t honestly scoff at the car.
Kia, which is closely affiliated with South Korea’s Hyundai, has been selling cars in the United States for about 20 years. It began with lower-line models, but has come up a lot in the world, with models ranging from economy cars to the near-luxury Cadenza—now its former flagship.
The new K900 V8 (no hyphen) lists at $59,500 with a muscular, sophisticated 5-liter, 376 horsepower V8. Coming later this year will be a lower-cost (no price released yet) 3.8-liter K900 with less equipment and a 311 horsepower V-6, which will make it the most powerful V-6 in the Kia lineup.
The K900 V8 has sleek lines, although the Buick-style front fender portholes look rather odd. It has a long 119.9-inch wheelbase and is 200.6 inches long overall. No wonder the trunk is huge and the rear-seat area is impressively spacious.
Wide front and rear tracks help give the K900 good road presence. The V8 model has standard 19-inch multi-spoke chrome wheels with 45-series tires in the front and 40-series tires in the rear. Nifty touches include a rear bumper accented with fully integrated dual chrome-tipped exhaust ports that mimic the shape of the taillights.
Handling is not in the hard-edged GT class, but is quite satisfactory. Occupants are comforted by a supple all-independent suspension that gives a smooth ride, although it occasionally becomes overly soft. Helping keep the car on roads are traction control, electronic stability control and vehicle stability management systems.
The steering is a little light and could use more road feel, but the brake pedal has a progressive action and controls an efficient anti-lock braking system.
While sleek, with an aggressive looking front end, the body’s beltline (where body sides meet the lower part of the side windows) is high. This can cause even tall backseat occupants to feel a bit enclosed. A large windshield gives front occupants a more “open” feeling. Then there’s the large, standard panoramic sunroof with a power retractable sunshade. All door openings are wide.
The K900 V8 shoots power through an exceptionally smooth 8-speed automatic transmission with an easily worked manual-shift feature—a transmission that also will be in the upcoming V-6 model.
The docile, quiet V-8 has fully 396 pound/feet of torque and provides oh-my-gosh acceleration if you step on it. The all-aluminum, dual-overhead-camshaft, 32-valve V-8 has direct fuel injection and dual CVT variable valve timing on both the intake and exhaust.
However, the V-8‘s estimated fuel economy is only a modest 16 miles per gallon in the city, although the estimated highway number is 23 and the fuel tank holds nearly 20 gallons. Kia says the V-6 will provide an estimated 18 miles per gallon in the city and 27 on highways.
The K900 weighs 4,277 pounds with the V-6 and 4,555 pounds with the V-8, so the V-6 version should have good acceleration—although the V-8 provides performance so seductive that it would be hard to pass up.
Never mind high gasoline prices—most people who buy powerful upscale luxury cars don’t fret all that much about gas bills. Besides, Kia knows that if you’re going to compete with the big luxury guns from Europe and Japan, it’s necessary to have lots of go-power under the hood.
It’s also necessary to provide your luxury model with a variety of standard comfort, convenience and safety equipment—and alluring options.
The K900 V8’s church-quiet, luxuriously appointed cabin has easily read, upscale-looking gauges, push-button start and a power leather-wrapped tilt/telescopic steering wheel with controls for audio, cruise control, entertainment and vehicle information. Dashboard audio controls, though, should be a little easier to use.
The automatic-climate-controlled interior is loaded with uptown features, including Nappa leather on supportive seats and a navigation system. A 900-watt Lexicon high-fidelity audio system features a trunk-mounted 12-channel digital amplifier, 17 speakers and so on.
And let’s not forget the standard power opening/closing trunk lid, which is worth its weight in gold if your arms are filled with groceries.
Interior materials are top-notch, and genuine walnut wood trim sweeps across the dashboard and door panels. The driver’s heated and ventilated power seat has a power lumbar support and power headrests. In fact, all outboard seats have multi-stage heating, and rear passengers can control the ventilation system and also the audio system and heated seats via a fold-down center armrest containing controls.
Advanced standard safety features include blind-spot detection, rear cross-traffic alert and a lane-departure warning system. There also are front/rear parking sensors with a park-guide system, Those living in a congested area will soon appreciate all this stuff. The K900 V8’ s adaptive LED headlight beams adjust to follow bends in the road and shimmer beneath crystal clear lenses.
My test car had the optional $6,000 VIP package, which contains advanced smart cruise control, head-up windshield display for auxiliary speedometer readings and such, surround-view monitor, driver’s seat cushion extension, power reclining rear seats and ventilated rear outboard seats.
In all, the K900 V8 really shines as a great cruiser, well suited to American driving conditions. Owners should never have the feeling that they overpaid for the car.
Pros: Sleek. Powerful. Roomy. Luxurious. Nice ride. Good roadability. Affordable for its class. Well-equipped.
Cons: High body side. Marginal city fuel economy. High trunk opening.
Bottom Line: Save thousands if you don’t mind a less prestigious nameplate.
Dan Jedlicka has been an automotive journalist for more than 40 years. To read his new and vintage car reviews, visit: www.danjedlicka.com.