2015 Kia K900 - Driven

Kia and luxury once went together like bleach and ammonia, but as we creep into the 2015 model year, things are starting to change. It started with cars like the Optima and Sorento getting more luxurious digs, then came to a head with the introduction of the Cadenza . And now for 2015, Kia presents its K900, a luxurious sedan that shares a platform with its sister brand’s luxury rig, the Hyundai Equus.

Not only is the K900 the most luxurious car that I have ever seen from Kia, but it is also the most powerful, thanks to is 420-horsepower, Tau V-8 that is borrowed from Hyundai . As of July 2014, this Tau V-8 remains the standard engine in all K900s, but soon the 3.3-liter V-6 found in the Cadenza will make its way into the engine compartment.

In the Cadenza, the 3.3-liter engine produces 293 ponies, but I am willing to bet it will exceed 300 horses by the time it makes its way to the K900. And this tuning is likely why the V-6-powered K900 is not on dealer lots yet — a 293-horsepower V-6 is not suitable for a 4,600-pound lard yacht.

Fortunately, I got my crack at the K900 before the V-6 had a chance to ruin the fun, so I got to enjoy all 420 roaring ponies from this Korean masterpiece. But the real question is, can it actually hang with BMW and Mercedes this early into its life?

Find out the answer and read all about my time with the K900 after the jump.

Video Reviews

Walkaround

Driven

Exterior

Kia K900 - Driven
Kia K900 - Driven
Kia K900 - Driven

Maybe it's not Heidi Klum sexy, but it is definitely girl-next-door sexy.

If I have to pick a "sore spot" on the Kia K900, I would have to say it is the interior. Don’t take that as in I didn’t care for it; I simply didn’t care for its looks as much as I did everything else it offered. Then again, when you’re talking about a 400-plus-horsepower V-8 and a fully loaded cabin, it’s hard for the body to compete.

Despite its relative timidness when compared to the rest of the car, the K900’s body is still pretty sexy. Maybe it’s not Heidi Klum sexy, but it is definitely girl-next-door sexy. It has its flaws, of course, like the front-mounted camera that looks haphazardly slapped in the center of the 3D grille and the Buick-like engine ports on each fender, but it was overall rather pleasant to look at.

Starting up front, the LED headlights with adaptive technology — they turn with the wheels — are super-bright and give you daytime-like visibility at night. The front apron has its own little touch of luxury with LED fog lights, while the 3D chrome grille lets everyone know that a super-luxury Kia Kia has arrived — amid some misguided snickers. The ridges on the K900’s long hood add a slight touch of aggressiveness too.

A word of warning on this feature; do not put anything of value in the trunk and then entertain your toddler by giving him the keyfob.

From the profile view is where the K900 really shows off its luxurious nature. The 19-inch wheels slathered in Y-rated (read: super-expensive) rubber help keep things stuck to the pavement, while the chrome coating gives them the blinginess that all luxo-rigs need. A rising body line that fades as it reaches the rear door adds that looks-fast-just-sitting-there appearance, and the swoopy roofline almost reminds me of the S-Class’ silhouette.

Around back, things tend to calm down a bit, as the only key pieces are the chrome bumper appliqué and the trapezoidal exhaust outlets integrated into the rear apron. A really useful feature that goes unnoticed until you actually need it is the power-open and close trunk lid, which opens via a button on the lid itself or on the key fob. This feature is a little quirky at times and seems to not always function as it’s intended, but it worked well about 99 percent of the time. A word of warning on this feature; do not put anything of value in the trunk and then entertain your toddler by giving him the keyfob. This feature works from far away and you may come back to a trunk that’s been picked clean of all its valuables — fortunately I had nothing of value in the trunk when I learned just how far its range was.

On a whole, there is a lot to like about the K900’s body and only a few little flaws that are expected from a discount luxury car.

Interior

Kia K900 - Driven
Kia K900 - Driven
Kia K900 - Driven

Inside the cabin, Kia did all it could to take the best of BMW and Mercedes and roll it into one, less-expensive package. The cabin is fully coated in fine Nappa cow hide, real wood trim and gloss-black veneer. You will be hard-pressed to find scratchy plastic, but it is there. Fortunately, this craptastic garbage is limited to areas that require its services, including the kick panels, lower door panels and the lower center console. these are all places that your feet touch regularly, and the last thing you want to do is get shoe nastiness all over your expensive leather.

Getting into the driver’s seat is a rewarding experience, thanks to an illuminated K900 on the aluminum door-sill plates, soft-close doors, heated and ventilated seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel with wood trim on the top and the 12.3-inch LCD TFT instrument cluster that has different designs for regular and sport mode. You also get a massive, 9.2-inch navigation display with UVO, a shift-by-wire (read: BMW-like) shifter that takes a little learning to get used to, and a heads-up display that puts all of the important bits of info in front of your eyes.

That sweet, 9.2-inch LCD screen that houses the navi system also plays host to the Surround View Monitor, which uses a series of cameras around the car to show a simulated bird’s-eye view of this large sedan. At first, this system is a little tough to judge, but after a few uses you never want to live without it again. The K900 also gives you the now-typical rearview camera for backing up without running over little Johnny’s bike or the neighbor’s cat.

A Lexicon Logic 7 surround sound audio system fills the cabin with some of the sweetest noise this side of that Tau V-8, thanks to 17 — yes you read that right — speakers. This is far and away the best all-around audio unit I have ever had the privilege of tickling my eardrums. Sure, the Acura RLX’s sound system was pretty kick ass, but this one rivals some of the best in the biz.

Also included is a full-length sunroof that gives the front seats unlimited headroom and the rear passengers a clear view skyward.

They also get a full helping of A/C vents and their own independent climate controls hidden in the center arm rest and trimmed in wood.

The rear seats aren’t void of any premium features either. First of all, the back-seat riders get to enjoy 38.2 inches of legroom, which gives them all the room they need to stretch out. They also get a full helping of A/C vents and their own independent climate controls hidden in the center arm rest and trimmed in wood. These controls are a little finicky, as they seen to also affect the front-seat settings, but I am sure there is a way to disable that — I never had the chance to tear through the manual, so up the armrest went to keep my son from messing with the buttons. By far the coolest features in the rear are the window shades on the front and rear windows, and the reclining rear seats with heat and ventilation.

Behind this cushy rear seat lays a nice-sized trunk that swallows up to 15.9 cubes of luggage, groceries or what have you.

Talk about loaded to the gills; the K900’s cabin is that and then some.

Drivetrain

Kia K900 - Driven

Under the long hood lays the 5.0-liter, Tau V-8. This isn’t your typical economical, four-pot that Kia grew up on. This is a dyed-in-the-wool performer that injects a hefty 420 horsepower and 376 pound-feet of twist into this luxo-barge. This engine emits a nice grumble on startup, and hard acceleration delivers a symphony of V-8 goodness.

This powerful eight-cylinder mates to an eight-speed automatic transmission with shift-by-wire technology. The shifts are smooth and buttery when cruising in normal mode and crisp when in Sport mode. Sure Sport mode could be a little more aggressive, but this is a novelty for Kia that it will develop over time.

Gas mileage isn’t overly terrible at 18 mpg city, 27 mpg highway and 21 mpg combined.

While the drivetrain is awesome, it is not flawless. From a rolling start, the transmission is slow to engage on full-throttle downshifts. The engine almost winds out before the transmission engages, leading to a pretty abrupt launch. It’s a minor flaw, but a flaw nonetheless.

Driving Impressions

Kia K900 - Driven

The seats supported my body perfectly, and the 1,000-way power seats made finding the perfect driving position very simple.

Getting behind the wheel of the K900 is an otherworldly experience, especially for those of who experienced Hyundai Hyundai and Kia cars in the early years. I have loads of experience with the sister brands, so I was almost like a proud father saying "look at my boy, all grown up and playing with the big dogs!"

The seats supported my body perfectly, and the 1,000-way power seats made finding the perfect driving position very simple. With the mirrors, seats and tilt/telescoping wheel all in their ideal positions, I simply hit the "Set" and "1" buttons on the Mercedes-inspired, door panel-mounted seat controls and the car always returned all the settings back to my preferences when I sat in the driver’s seat.

Speaking of the seats, the Nappa cow hide was soft and supple, and the ventilation worked wonders at keeping my back nice and cool.

Fire up that GDI V-8 engine and I was quickly reminded that this is more than just a luxury car; it is a performance-oriented luxury car. All 420 ponies and 376 pound-feet got the 4,643-pound sedan to 60 mph in just about 5.5 seconds, making it 0.6 seconds slower than the Mercedes S550 and 0.1 seconds faster than the $74k BMW 740i.

Cabin noise included the sound of our breath and faint, almost inaudible wind noise when the 17-speaker audio system wasn't on full blast.

Now, it may run in a straight line with the German land barges, but the K900 falls flat in the corners. The Y-rated rubber is plenty sticky, but the comfy suspension allows too much body lean when changing direction quickly. BMW BMW and Mercedes have mastered the craft of combining agility and comfort, but Kia is still a few steps behind the Germans.

But who the hell buys a massive luxury sedan to tackle twisty mountain roads? Most people buy them for effortless and peaceful highway driving and the K900 delivers that perfectly. Craters in the Florida interstate system were reduced to light, motionless thumps by the 19-inch rollers and soft dampers. Cabin noise included the sound of our breath and faint, almost inaudible wind noise when the 17-speaker audio system wasn’t on full blast. On top of all of this comfort, the K900 also built speed effortlessly and because of its soft ride, 80 mph felt more like 40 mph, so I had to keep a keen eye on that heads-up display.

To sum it all up, driving the K900 is something that every Kia/Hyundai critic need to do at least once. You will likely change your opinion in just a few miles.

Pricing

Kia K900 - Driven

The pricing of the K900 quickly lets you know that this isn’t your run-of-the-mill Korean machine. This is a luxurious rig that the automaker designed to undercut BMW, Audi and Mercedes Mercedes by a long shot. The 2015 K900’s MSRP comes in at just $59,500, which may sound insane at first, but add up all the features and compare it to the same features on the BMW 750i. I came up with a grand total of just a tick under $110,0000 for the Bimmer. Am I saying that Kia’s $60k features are as good as BMW’s $110k features? No, but it is an alternative for feature-loving buyers on a tighter budget.

To be fair, my tester came fully loaded with the VIP Package, which added Advanced Smart Cruise Control, Advanced Vehicle Safety Management, power door latches, 12.3-inch full LCD TFT instruments, heads-up display, Surround View Monitor, driver’s side seat-cushion extender, power front headrests, power reclining rear seats, ventilated outer rear seats, lateral adjusting headrests and rear seat lumbar support, for an extra $6,000.

Competitions

2013 BMW 7 Series

BMW 7-Series

Before everyone starts bashing me about comparing the K900 to a BMW, allow me to let you know that I am simply drawing feature-based comparisons. I am not taking into the equation build quality and other variables.

The 7 Series kicks off at around $74k for the base 740i and as shown above, it’s price leaps to around $110k for a 750i with apples-to-apples features with the K900. The 750i easily trumps the K900 in every mechanical aspect, thanks to its 4.4-liter, twin-turbo V-8 that cranks out 445 horses and 480 pound-feet of torque. The V-8 mates to an eight-speed transmission that delivers power to either the rear wheels or all four wheels.

In its RWD setup, the 750i hits 60 mph in 4.7 seconds — 0.8 seconds faster than the K900 — and it is hands-down the better handler of the two.

2015 Audi A8

Audi A8

The Audi A8 is another German in the K900’s wheelhouse, but only in its 4.0 TFSI garb. Like the 750i, the A8’s 4.0-liter V-8 easily handles the K900 with 435 horsepower and 444 pound-feet of torque. Where the A8 really differentiates itself mechanically is that it comes standard with quattro AWD. The AWD system combined with an eight-speed Tiptronic transmission leads to a 4.3-second 0-to-60-mph time — 1.2 seconds faster than the K900 — and a 155-mph top speed.

The A8 starts from $77k, but the A8 4.0 TFSI comes in at $86,400, but you need to take it up to just under $100k to get to the same level of features the Kia offers.

Again, I am just going apples-to-apples here, and I am not taking into consideration quality.

2013 Hyundai Equus

Hyundai Equus

Finally, a car that no one will gripe at me for comparing to the K900. While many may think that these more wallet-friendly luxo-barges are mechanically identical because they are from sister brands, you would be mistaken. Both cars come with a the Tau V-8; both are super luxurious; and both give cheap CEOs the look of a BMW without the price associated with it. However, the Equus Equus has 429 horsepower and 376 pound-feet of torque. The Equus also features an air-controlled suspension and continuous damping control that helps overcome the piggish qualities the K900 suffers from in the corners.

The Equus also has a slightly higher price of $61,250 for the base model and $68,500 for the Equus Ultimate.

Conclusion

Kia K900 - Driven

Is the K900 the most awesome thing to roll from Kia’s factory? The answer is a resounding "yes!" But is it a true contender to BMW, Mercedes and Audi? No way. Kia is still trying to build a more premium image and separate itself from its cheap-ass rag-o-muffins it built in the 1990s, and the K900 and Cadenza are the two cars leading this charge. In due time, the K900 will be a legit contender, but for now it remains an alternative for those who want a 7 Series, S-Class or A8, but can’t afford it and do not want to downgrade to a 5 Series, E-Class or an A6.

But either way you slice it, the K900 is an awesome stretch for Kia and shows that the automaker knows what people want and can give it to them cheaper than the Germans can.

LOVE IT
  • Luxurious features all over the place
  • 420 horsepower is more than enough
  • Super quiet and great ride
  • Cheap when you consider what is comes with
  • Sport mode helps bring the transmission to life
LEAVE IT
  • Not quite the handler of its German rivals
  • A good second slower to 60 mph than its competition
  • $60k for a Kia may shock some buyers

What is your take?

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