2015 Kia K900 First Drive

K9001

Can Kia build a rear-wheel-drive luxury sedan that people will actually cross-shop with the established players? That's what an epic Super Bowl commercial tried to sell people on a few weeks ago, and we had a chance to take the red pill and spend a day piloting Kia's new 2015 K900 premium luxury full-size sedan to see just how deep the rabbit hole really goes.

Related: 2015 Kia K900 Video

Kia hosted this drive event in a location befitting a premium status: Newport Beach, Calif. From there, we wound down the Pacific coast and inland through parts of Southern California's wine country, which gave us a solid mix of highways and city streets as well as canyons to get a good feel for the K900's merits.

Kia plans to offer a V-6 and V-8 version of the K900, but only the V-8 will be available at launch this March. Its starting price is $60,400, including a destination charge. Our V-8 tester was also equipped with the VIP Package, which pushed the sticker price up to $66,400.

K900front

The K900 certainly looks the part of a luxury sedan — minus the kitschy portholes on either side. V-8 models feature adaptive LED headlights that are designed to mimic natural light. The element housings each fit four LEDs inside them and have a 12-degree range of motion for better illumination around dark corners.

Under the hood of our tester was a 5.0-liter V-8 that makes 420 horsepower along with 376 pounds-feet of torque. It is mated to Kia's first eight-speed automatic transmission, which curiously comes without paddle shifters in the K900. Instead of adopting the air suspension from the Hyundai Equus, Kia elected to go with a fully independent front and rear multilink setup. The company indicated that it was able to hit its ride and comfort goals without the air suspension; it also offers a simpler setup for easier maintenance and keeps the car's price down. I had no qualms with this decision; ride quality was excellent even over broken pavement, and the big sedan glides down the highway with nonchalance.

Kia representatives were careful to stay away from describing the K900 as "sporty" and with good reason — the K900 goes for comfort all the way.

K900profile

On curvier roads, body roll was noticeable, especially when making quick steering changes. The V-8 prioritizes even power delivery over quickness, which means you have to work a little harder to find the engine's sweet spot, but I was never left wanting for more oomph. The K900 is no lightweight at 4,555 pounds, but the V-8 never really felt taxed. Four different selectable drive modes — Normal, Sport, Eco and Snow — are offered.

K900interior

Kia engineers said cabin isolation was a focus for the K900. Wind and road noise is reduced by adding a full belly pan on the underbody, extra insulation and laminated front and side windows. While the K900 wasn't the quietest car we've been in, noises were muffled enough inside that conversations could easily be had between front and rear passengers, even at highway speeds.

When the K900 debuted at the 2013 Los Angeles Auto Show, one of our editors noted that it "still doesn't quite 'feel' like a luxury car," and after a day with the production version, that perception hasn't changed.

K900door

All of the traditional touch points in the car are covered in leather or soft materials, but the devil is in the details and that's where the K900 falls short with silver-colored plastic trim pieces where you'd expect to find something more upscale. The plastic multimedia controller also feels flimsy; a more substantial controller would have fit in better for this class.

K900knob

The added tech from the VIP Package was impressive, particularly the head-up display. It is easily visible in bright sunlight, with customizable display options including navigation directions, blind spot warning, smart cruise control settings and your speed. If you wear polarized sunglasses, the display isn't visible.

K900backseat

The backseat is comfortable and spacious with more than 38.2 inches of legroom and an almost equal amount of headroom. In fact, the second-row accommodations were so nice that for a few legs of the drive, I elected to sit in the backseat instead of the front passenger seat. The Rear Seat VIP Package, which is part of the VIP Package, adds rear climate controls, power reclining and ventilated rear seats with power lumbar support, and a convenient USB charging port in the center armrest, a helpful addition in our gadget-happy culture.

Kia knows the checkered history of non-luxury carmakers trying to break into this segment — the Volkswagen Phaeton comes to mind. But the K900's purpose isn't solely to bring a luxury car to market at a non-luxury price. No, Kia is interested in changing its brand perception. Its success won't be in sales; it will be in people walking by the K900 in showrooms, taking pause and slowly changing their impression of the brand.

While Kia has built a fine, comfortable luxury sedan with incredible technology and a lot of bang for the buck, the big issue still remains: Would someone pay more than $60,000 for a Kia? The answer for most will be "probably not." But the fact that I drove the K900 and think that it's still worth the price tag might be the real win for Kia.

K900lineup

Cars.com photos by Brian Wong

By Brian Wong | February 17, 2014 | Comments (35)

Comments 

Elliott

I just wish it did not look exactly like a Cadenza inside and out. A flagship sedan should have its' own look. Also, why the cheesy, AutoZone, fake side vent on the fender. It is a tacky add-on on an otherwise classy car.

Donny

Why cant Chrysler build a car like this? I would love to see an Imperial or New Yorker.

Rick

Donny,

I too would love to see Chrysler really invest in a state of the art Imperial. It would get automatic Luxury respect, something that Hyundai and Kia are striving for but may never get. Chrysler would have a hot full sized seller next to the mid sized 300.

I certainly would not pay $60k+ for a Kia. You still have the "stigma of a Kia" on it.

As for Chrysler, if you look at the 200 and what they did there, they shifted that vehicle more into the mid-size sedan category. I imagine the 300 will see a similar shift; quite frankly, if the 200 looks like that, the next 300 will probably LITERALLY blow peoples' pants off, and most likely several 10ks under what Kia is charging for this.

Dubb

Elliot,

Please tell that to BMW and Audi. The 7 series and A8 look just like their lesser counterparts, especially that 7. It also has a chrome side garnish.

Jay

K900 will be a tough sell. I guess Kia may be using it as a halo car. Frankly, I don't see a market for this vehicle. Its not a true luxury car and way more expensive than a the similar 2015 Hyundai Genesis.

Rock

Sky,

I am looking forward to the day that a car LITERALLY blows people's pants off.

M3

Nice car. I think the biggest obstacle will be inadequate dealership staff, service, and facilities. Our local Kia dealer has a terrible service department. No one buying a premium car will put up with a lousy sales and service experience.

wain

Looking to blow $50K plus in moving metal and Kia will never even cross my mind, maybe it's just me still associate Kia with a $15K car. At $66K most people are not looking for a reliable car, they're looking for a badge. Pretty sure a few proud Koreans will take one.

Tony

I don't think Kia even counting to market grab similar to what they do in cheap cars spectrum. It is a loser as far as sales before it even appeared. You've got some $60K laying around the house - ok, go grab Kia. Right. May be limo services will buy it?

Rock

In other news, it MIGHT be a steal of a pick up as a 3-5 year old car.

Vik

Rock- and Sky is looking forward to the day that you appreciate hyperbole. :)

Rock

Sorry, I refuse to allow a hyperbole to be written with the word "literally". Pet peeve of mine.

bd

The K900 is a luxury sedan and and is more akin to the Equus than the Genesis.

Won't be a big seller, but should do around 4-5k sales, a bit more than the Equus, until it gets AWD.

Bowrider

Rock, I have the same pet peeve. It's overused, and used out of context so much that people feel it's necessary to use when they speak or write metaphorically, which renders the phrase anything but literal.

Camaro Greg

A pig with lipstick, is still a pig .

Dean

Did I fall asleep for the past 30 years or something, because if not who the hell is going to pay more than $30k for a Kia?

Mariospheric

The name Kia doesn't sound classy or luxurious at all, but a Fisher Price toy wannabe brand.

The price tag is ludicrous. I can buy a beemer or a Merc with better interiors, the full multimedia shebang and well isolated cabin for less than $60,000.

kman

Boys and girls, can you say Volkswagen? I remember when Volkswagen came around in the us, some people laughed at them.. Now 2011-$66k for a 8 cylinder VW phaeton and the VW 12 cylinder phaeton tipped the scale at over $100k.Kia is laughing all the way to the bank. Face it America, they are taking over.

Tony

kman, all you need to know:

In the United States market, 1,433 Phaetons were sold in 2004, and 820 were sold in 2005, leading the company to announce that sales in the American market would end after the 2006 model year. The W12-engined models have depreciated significantly, and sell for a small fraction of their original cost.[13]

As of January 2011, Volkswagen reported the possibility of bringing the Phaeton back to the U.S. in the car's next product cycle.[14]

In autumn 2013 The Economist placed Phaeton into the report on Europe's biggest loss making cars

bd

The refreshed Optima SX-L will go for around #37-38k, so it's not like Kia doesn't sell cars heading into the premium/luxury range.

The Cadenza will do around 12k a year (more when the hybrid arrives) so doing 4-5k in sales with the K900 is doable.

Faride

After a snowstorm every week, i don't care who makes what anymore or if I win the powerball tomorrow, I will only buy Subarus from now on. At $66k, I can by two new Subarus. Kia... Hahaha! Shaking my head!

Dr. db

What we all need to keep in mind is that the Kia K900 is Kia's version of the Hyundai Equus. I was expecting Kia to come in at a lower price than they have. They are to close to the Equus price.

Smack Dab

I laugh at people who laugh at KIA because I know they don't know what they are talking about since they have never been inside or driven a new KIA. People don't laugh at Hyundai anymore either. They used to laugh at goofy BMW's also,(can't tell the models apart) and boring Mercedes. Nowadays, KIA is no longer cheap or inexpensive so you had better update your info people. These are probably among the best made cars out there.

Frank

100,000 mile power train was warrantee. Enough said.

Timmy

This K900 is very cool i like it.

Zac

whats with Kia and Ford stealing Aston Martin's front end??

JOW

kia for 5k, NO, kia for free, NO! kia for 66k, I don't do drugs. Now the Chrysler 300 thats a car, I kinda wished they would have kept the big headlights it made the car look more aggressive.

Casper14

@smack dab- u r right! I had a Kia Optima SXL and it's amazing!!!! You people better use the internet/social media for more than Facebook & IG!!! Kia and Hyundai are selling more than BMW and Mercedes...

Zam

i want car like this please help me tell me which Model this car?
and price

Sam

This is the most ridiculous vehicle I have seen in a very long time. Who in their right mind would pay 66k for a car from an automaker that makes cars that start around 12k... There is absolutely no market for it and the resale value will be terrible. No outstanding difference from the interior quality (buttons, knobs) of a basic Rio... The window switches and buttons (climate, radio) are the same... This is a terrible idea. To me the thought of paying even 30k for a Hyundai or Kia is something to laugh about. If I was going to buy a car for 66k, it would be a BMW or Lexus... This is just totally ridiculous.

Sam

Obviously copying the BMW gearshift knob...

Sam

Kia is the worst brand ever in the world. I bought one from north little Rock Crain Kia. Worst service and worst unprofessional people managing the store. Other bad and sad part is when you want to sell it, price will be almost half price what you paid for brand new.

grant

for those of u who r downing the Kia, I have a Cadillac and a Kia. the Cadillac does nothing different from the Kia. they both take me where I want to go. my optima looks much better than the bmw. as far as the price, it's only money. don't worry about the numbers, if u don't kike the Kia, u r not going to buy it anyway.

grant

O, and by the way, I can get about 400 miles on a tank of regular fuel in my optima. and Sam, did u not know that a lexus I nothing more than a toyota

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