Originally published on AutoNationDrive.com by Chris Chin, reedited for updates for 2015 republishing on egmCarTech.
Let’s say you’re in the market for a full-size luxury sedan. Immediately without giving it an extra thought, some automakers should come instinctively to mind. BMW, Mercedes, Lexus, Jaguar, and even Maserati. These are all brands that are as normal to the realm of the executive sedan as Rolex and Breitling are to luxury timepieces. And nobody can deny that in this well-established sea of full-size luxury land yachts, new comers don’t exactly have it easy as the preexisting champions are barely impenetrable.
But recently, there surprisingly have been an addition or two, one of which was the recent Hyundai Equus (click here for AutoNation’s review of the 2014 Equus). The Equus initially started life as a project with Mitsubishi for Japanese-domestic and Korean-domestic markets only. It later began selling outside its domestic markets in 2009 for its second generation, inaugurating Hyundai’s first brand-new luxury sedan to enter the worldly segment of mass global opulence since Lexus’ renowned LS in 1989. It was also Korea’s first full-size executive sedan to be sold internationally. And as such, I absolutely adore it. But if you thought Korea’s first move in the big luxury sedan playing field was a one-time occurrence, you’d be wrong, because there’s a new guy in town.
Welcome to the all-new Kia K900. Like the aforementioned Equus on which the K900 is based on, the K900 is the world’s most extravagant, most lavishly equipped, and most expensive car ever built in Kia’s portfolio and is their first attempt at a bona fide full-size luxury sedan. Now, I bet there are a good amount of you sitting in front of your computer screens, throwing a fit and thinking, there’s absolutely no way in hell that Kia is capable of producing an honest full-size luxury saloon. Because let’s face it, the descriptors, expensive, lavish, and Kia are as likely to be found in the same sentence as Zegna, Burberry, and Wal-Mart. But I wouldn’t go too far with that assessment…
Given Kia’s history of selling reengineered Fords and Mazdas when they first began, they were always known to be a bit plebian. It wasn’t until Kia was acquired by Hyundai Motor Company in 1998, who saved Korea’s oldest automaker from bankruptcy. Hyundai not only saved Kia, they instituted a much needed turnaround, leaving Kia’s anemic history of making forgivable white goods that were as memorable as your last visit to the local fast food joint, very much in the past. So, does the K900 stack up to these expectations?
2015 Kia K900 Specifications
|Body Style:||Full-Size Luxury Sedan|
|Seating Capacity:||Five Passengers|
|Price As Tested:||$66,400|
|Engine:||5.0L Tau GDI (Gasoline Direct Injection) V8 with 420hp and 376 lb-ft of torque|
|Top Speed:||149 mph (electronically limited)|
|Fuel Economy (City/Highway/Combined):||15 / 23 / 18 mpg w/ 19.8 gal. tank|
Kia’s ultimate luxury statement
For starters, just look at it. By sheer size, the K900’s proportions give off the sense that Kia is no stranger to this niche of the automotive world. It’s as long as a Lexus LS, tracks wider than a BMW 7-Series, and is just about as tall as an S-Class Mercedes. The best part about K900 is that it barely resembles any of them, bringing a unique presence and style to a table otherwise saturated with overwrought conservatism. Driving around town and the K900 manages to gather looks from bystanders and fellow motorists—all of whom are utterly bewildered at what just drove past them. It is a very eye-catching automobile, but it accomplishes these looks with unfamiliarity and mystery rather than extravagance and flamboyance.
It gets even better when you hop on inside. You’re instantly surrounded by enough rich white Nappa leather to make Louis Vuitton jealous and it’s lined with elegant contrast stitching. The headliner is covered in plush Alcantara. And the seats at all four corners, are powered, heated and air-conditioned. There’s sat-nav with a BMW iDrive-like dial and control for the screen, some buttons on the dash, and plenty more on the wheel. Similarly to many of the other players in this field, there’s a high-definition TFT screen in place of traditional dials for the gauges.
Simply put, it’s a very very nice place to be, no matter where you are in the K900. Those who are exiled to the back seats have it even better as the K900 comes with the exact amenities you’d want if you were to be chauffeured everywhere you went. With your own set of buttons to play with, not only could you adjust the rear-seating climate control at your own will, you could also control the radio, should you be disappointed in your front passenger’s selections of tunes, or if you want to drive them nuts.
Though while it may have all the luxury appointments you’d expect to find in a full-size executive saloon—as they call it across the pond—the more pressing question remains: does it feel like a luxury car?
To drive or to be driven, that is the K900 question
And the answer is yes, it really really does. Keeping up with traffic on the interstate in the K900 gives a new meaning to solitary confinement. In fact, Kia says that the new K900 is only 2% less quieter than a Rolls-Royce Ghost…and that’s a pretty high standard. The whole car in fact, completely nullifies the typical “tin-can” feel usually associated with the South Koreans and the K900 is as refined as a fine bottle of aged soju.
The ride is as supple and fluffy as a Korean rice cake. The whole car just absorbs bumps and imperfections like big land yacht should. But the interesting part is that unlike the aforementioned Hyundai Equus on which the K900 is based on, the Kia doesn’t come with air suspension, which makes the K900 even more impressive.
Like the Equus, the K900 comes with the same 5.0L Tau V8 mated along with the same, very seamless, eight-speed automatic. That said, the K900 sports 420 luscious horses, which are assisted by 376 torques…and it’s all sent to the proper wheels at the back. Yup, you heard correctly. This is a rear-wheel drive, 420 horsepower Kia.
That’s like saying Kim Jong Un is the world’s most feared dictator…and he’s probably going to issue a death warrant for me in Pyongyang for mocking him.
However, there are a few drawbacks. For us performance enthusiasts out there, don’t for one minute think this is a driver’s car…because it isn’t. Since the K900 doesn’t come with the Equus’ adaptive air suspension, things tend to get a little roly poly when you decide to show the K900 some curves, despite the existence of a few driver modes you can choose from…Eco, Normal, Sport, and Snow.
Whereas sport actually firms up the suspension in the Equus, increases throttle sensitivity, and adds weight to the steering, the K900s suspension remains rather static. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that the K900 is a little bit of a wooly handler. But much like the Equus, the steering and throttle sensitivity are equally as affected by the change in modes. Surprisingly however, the steering remains to be accurate and light as found in other luxury cars. There just really isn’t much in the way of feel for the whole car it is very piggish.
It’s not entirely discombobulated either and makes up for the lack of handling with an excellent ride. This is supposed to be a luxury car, remember?
A thoroughbred executive sedan
So, what does all of this cost? For starters, the K900 begins at $54,900, not including your typical destination charge and of course, taxes. As loaded, with the VIP package, this particular example rings in at $66,700 when it reaches the dealer lot.
Now that might seem like an extremely exorbitant amount for a car that comes a from a brand, normally associated with economy cars. But that’s rapidly changing as Kia is working extra hard to rework their entire brand perception.
Don’t forget also, that the K900 is almost a whopping 11 grand cheaper than the base Lexus LS—the other luxury saloon otherwise holding the candle as the cheaper alternative to the Teutonic Germans. And I don’t even mention their starting prices because they’re nowhere near the K900’s. Even fully loaded, that’s still cheaper than the Lexus. So the K900 presents some really intense value.
Kia themselves don’t expect to sell many—no more than roughly 5,000 units per year, so they know the K900 might be a tough sell. They don’t exactly have the brand pedigree of the seasoned competitors. Not to mention, there are a bunch of you out there who are thinking: who in their right mind would buy a near-$70,000 Kia?! For that kind of money, you might not exactly get what the other staples in this segment offer, which are bragging rights. Instead, you get a luxury car that drives and feels like it is priced.
But for those of you who remember, naysayers were saying the same thing about the Lexus LS in 1989, which was nothing more, and pretty much still is, than a super-tarted up rear-wheel drive Toyota. And look at where they are now.
– By: Chris Chin
All Photos Copyright © C Squared Photography for AutoNation and egmCarTech.