2015 Kia K900: luxury, value and car of the year?

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The 2015 Kia K900 is the first rear-wheel drive, five-passenger sedan — and most expensive car — ever offered by the South Korean manufacturer.

It debuted in 2012 in South Korea and just about everywhere else in June 2013 as the K9 and Opirus. But about 1 1/2 years into its tenure it’s just beginning to attract attention as the K900 in the U.S. market outside of auto shows and expensive television commercials.

The Weekly Driver’s Test Drive

With its addition of the oddly named K900, Kia is attempting to infiltrate the tough, luxury sedan market chocker-block full well-heeled machines: the BMW 7 Series, Mercedes-Benz S-Class, Lexus LS, Audi A8, Cadillac XTS and the Kia’s corporate sibling, the Hyundai Equus.

While brand recognition may be lacking, Kia has done well to compete against the luxury monoliths, some of which are $20,000 more expensive. Only two competitors, the Acura RLX and the Cadillac XTS, cost substantial less and are front-wheel drive.

As the latest top-line Kia launch following the lackluster success of the Cadenza and the long ago defunct Amanti, the Kia K900 is available with a V6 or V8 engine.

2015 Kia K900: luxury, value and car of the year?  1

Each is connected to an eight-speed automatic transmission. The fuel-injected 5.0-liter option, powered by 420 horsepower, was my weekly test driver for an estimated 800-mile round trip with a colleague from Sacramento to the recent Los Angeles Auto Show.

The largely high-speed trek took us along Interstate 5 in a steady traffic flow that often exceeded the posted 70 mph speed limit. Once in the Los Angeles basin, there were several tight commuter-jammed freeways to negotiate and we also drove limited miles on city streets in downtown Los Angeles.

The Kia K900 is more than 200 inches long and the V8 has 19-inch wheel and banks of LED lights. As a comfortable, powerful cruiser, the K900 powered down Interstate 5 with confidence — like its belongs in the luxury sedan club — regardless of its name. Even negotiating the notorious Grapevine ascents and descents were of little consequence. As a result, the nearly seven-hour trek each way seemed far shorter.

The K900’s interior is spacious and quiet. Front and rear seats are made with high-end leather, and they’re adjustable on side door panels with accompanying levers shaped like the seats. The cabin is well equipped, including some top-notch features, a Lexicon audio system, a 9.2-inch command screen, heated/ventilated front seats, heated rear seats and a power-operated trunk.

The standard navigation/infotainment system is complex and wasn’t always intuitive during our trip. There are a lot of other nifty features, particularly in the V8: blind-spot monitoring, front and rear cameras, rear cross-traffic alert and lane-departure warning.

The VIP package is pricey ($6,000), but it includes about a dozen items: radar-based cruise control, a 12.3-inch LCD instrument cluster, a head-up display, power reclining rear seats, power-assisted door closing, and surround-view camera system. Other extras include ventilated rear seats and a heated steering wheel (It’s standard on the V8 model, optional on the V6 trim).

The head-up display not only features a mph readout, but the navigation instructions are also projected onto the windshield. It was particularly useful driving in the Southern California freeway maze — and it added one more impressive credit to the upstart Kia K900’s pedigree.

Likes:

Superior comfort and ride quality.

Strong navigation system functions, although there’s a steep learning curve.

Front and rear camera display with crisp viewing.

Interior spaciousness.

Automatic inward-folding side mirrors.

Sculpted exterior design.

Dislikes:

Low city gas mileage average.

Side portholes oddly shaped.

Facts & Figures: 2015 Kia K900

Acceleration: 0-60 mph, 5.7 seconds
Airbags: (8)
Fuel economy: 15 mpg (city), 23 mpg (highway), 18 mpg (combined).
Horsepower: 420.
Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price: $59,500.00
Manufacturer’s Web site: www.kia.com.
Price As Tested: $66,400.00
Warranty: Bumper to bumper, 5 years/60,000 miles; Powertrain, 10 years/100,000 miles; Corrosion, 5 years/100,000 miles; Free Schedule Maintenance 3 years/37,500 miles; Roadside Assistance, 5 years/60,000 miles.

What Others Say:

“The questions about the Kia K900’s potential success have more to do with brand perception than they do with the car’s actual merits. Sure, the K900 has a couple chinks in its armor — namely, its less-than-nimble handling and the fact that some of its controls and switchgear can’t compete with its high-dollar competitors. But the K900’s $60,400 starting point makes it considerably more affordable than some of its foes while delivering a surprisingly quick, comfortable and smooth drive.” — AutoTrader.

“The 2015 Kia K900 represents a premium luxury sedan experience that won’t break the bank. It lacks some refinement in the details, but is still worth considering based on its long list of features and comfortable cabin.” — Edmunds.

“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.” — Autoblog.

The Weekly Driver’s Final Words:

“With the introduction of the impressive K900, Kia should consider offering other luxury scale vehicles so it could join the manufacturers that have unique brand names for their high end lineups. That way, maybe the last remaining skeptics would finely accept the Kia K900 is a real deal luxury car.”

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