Kia and luxury don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand. That’s a big problem when you’re trying to launch a $60,000 flagship sedan after only 20 years in the US market. Kia’s goal is to be viewed as a luxury brand by 2017. That push up-market began last year with the launch of the Cadenza. For 2015, Kia took a full-size stab at the full-size market by introduced the all-new K900. Can the K900 deliver on its goal to compete with the flagship stalwarts? We can find out. Will Kia be accepted into the echelon of luxury automakers? That decision rests with the minds, and wallets, of the consumer.
We drove the Cadenza last year and we came away thoroughly impressed. It was well-mannered and very well equipped. From a driver’s standpoint, the Cadenza is certainly focused on comfort and not dynamics. But that’s ok. It’s self-proclaimed competitors, the Lexus ES and Mercedes E-Class, walk a similar path. But in a flagship, a V6-powered FWD platform just won’t do. The K900 is built on a RWD platform and launches with a 5.0L V8 underhood. A V6 will become available later. Where did Kia get the bones for this new platform? Look no further than Kia’s distant partner, Hyundai. We drove the Equus, a RWD V8 flagship in its own right, earlier this year. While there’s no visible family resemblance, a few minutes behind the wheel of the K900 are very reminiscent of life in the Equus.
Kia did things right with this car. They’ve designed an entirely new body. The K900 shares the corporate face with the Cadenza, and more than a passing resemblance in profile. All of the K900’s lighting is thoroughly-modern LED. To us, the 19″ chrome wheels look a little dated. Out back, the K900 doesn’t share the Cadenza’s unique taillights, opting for a more generic old-Lexus LS theme. Inside, though, is where the K900 shines. Gone is the cliche of Kia being an economy car. Our tester came equipped with the VIP Package. If it could be powered, heated, or cooled, it has been. That includes all four seats and the soft close doors. The seats are comfortable and extremely supportive. The VIP Package also includes all of the luxury technology and amenities that a proper flagship should. The ivory white interior, two-tone black and white dashboard with aluminum and wood accents offer a high level of sophistication and design. Everything looks upscale and upper class. There’s only a slight “Las Vegas” feeling. If you get up real close and start to tap on things, some of it just feels imitation.
The K900 is a large car, and it’s a comfortable one. Sporting intentions are nowhere to be found. Stepping into Kia’s flagship is akin to being exiled from the outside world. Sound is muffled and road imperfections are softened away. The 5.0L V8 under the hood pumps out 420 horsepower and 376 lb-ft of torque, but never feels hurried in its duty. The power delivery is immensely smooth, and Kia’s new 8 speed automatic works brilliantly in tandem. We’d be hard-pressed to find a poor sounding V8. What engine sounds you do hear, usually only when pressed hard, are pleasant ones. Like all other Kia’s the shift-mapping and steering sensitivity are driver-selectable. The Eco, Normal, and Sport nomenclature isn’t very applicable. It should be a range of Comfort, More Comfort, or Most Comfort.
Kia has to convince consumers that it’s a worthy luxury competitors. Value proposition is a great place to start, the K900 is a full $23,000 less than the Lexus LS460 we tested. But without a luxury heritage or upscale brand identity, it’s a tough uphill climb. K900 owners might also feel alienated from the rest of Kia’s customers. It will be especially strange to deliver your car for service and drive away in a complimentary K900 or Cadenza loaner vehicle. Don’t mind the huddled masses waiting in the service area.
To us, the K900 comes across as a bit younger than the Hyundai Equus. Not only is it slightly less expensive, we think the Kia has a better design. If we had a choice, we’d go home in the K900. The interior, simply put, redefines the Kia brand with new-found class. And it comes equipped with all the same technology and driver aids found in its competitors. Is that good enough to make a name for itself? The K900 does what it needs to for it to be successful. Now it’s a matter of drawing a new type of customer to Kia.
|2015 Kia K900 Luxury
|As Tested MSRP||$66,400|