2015 Kia K900 Review

Santa Barbara, California--The sleek center fielder Curtis Granderson added power hitting to his game in mid-career, the Clash started as punks but attained some elegance and sophistication, and, of course, Thomas Edison groomed his filament to perfection. Welcome now the 2015 Kia K900. Entering the American market twenty years ago, Kia was reviled for its crude cars, and earned customers who were eagerly sought by payday loan companies.

The K900 obviates all that ugliness. Prepare to be amazed by this unexpected, stately, substantial sedan. Settle into the 16-way, Nappa leather driver’s seat of the K900 V8 VIP, which goes on sale with backseat accouterments in late-February for $66,400, and rest your sensible head. (The standard Kia K900 V8 starts at $60,400 with destination.)

Yes, this is a Kia. Behold the dashboard’s marquetry. Peer over the cowl that obscures windshield wipers, presenting instead a sensuous undulation of sheetmetal with its high-quality paint job--all that separates you from the road. Press the start button and watch two rings meet in the center of the 12.3-inch cluster and populate with graphics that will indicate the car’s speed and inner labors. Lay your thumb over the shapely e-shifter’s lever to command eight speeds.

And get ready, because the 5.0-liter direct-injection DOHC V-8’s variability is at your bunion’s command. In fact, the need to nudge into the throttle may be a blessing, for it’s easy to make these 4555 pounds lurch. The K900 surges forward, and gears are exchanged as tracelessly as derivatives on international markets. Meanwhile, the chassis displays Churchillian rigidity. Very far away, the exhaust note displays a hint of wrath. But tune out completely if you want: 900 watts and 17 speakers render Arcade Fire almost listenable.

Conventional aspects are met to perfection

We drove the K900 V8 VIP from a base camp at Santa Barbara’s recently refurbished El Encanto Inn to the college town of San Luis Obispo, and it was fitting that we had started out the morning on floors of heated marble: it helped us ease into thrones that are warmed, cooled, and power-adjustable at four positions. (Five people can be seated in all.) The steering wheel with its wood insert is also heated. In fact, every relevant creature comfort and safety feature we can think of is included in this harbinger of Kia’s future.

Sweeping through turns between hills and dashing over narrow byways through vineyards and along river benches, the car was excellent--especially when we remember that the Cadenza Limited was the company’s most ambitious effort until now.

With three driving modes (and a Snow setting), the 2015 K900 is semi-dormant in Eco, rubbing the sleep from its eyes in Normal (Comfort), but quite alert in Sport. Even more steering assist in Sport would be nice, but putting on our Lexus hat was the quick fix. On those occasions when we operated the transmission manually, we found ourselves grasping in vain for paddle shifters, which are not included. Otherwise, everything makes sense and operates easily, and the amount of carefully crafted details--the metal trim around each button and control, for example--overwhelmed us.

The morning after our wine country test, we stopped fifty-five miles into the trip home from Santa Barbara, showing the car to a friend who raved about the beauty of the analog clock. “Somebody spent some time putting that together,” he said.

Detail works

Kia says the 2015 K900 is for brand loyalists who have made their way from indenture to partnership. We say it’s a big, rear-drive stud, measuring 200.6 inches long, 74.8 inches wide, and 58.7 inches tall. Blake Griffin will fit in any seat except the rear-center without feeling that a zone defense is collapsing on him.

Outside, the 2015 Kia K900 shows the hint of a Jaguar’s schnozz. It wears a high beltline and flaunts a symmetrically tall tail with just a cusp of spoiler. The 19-inch wheels are elegant. The car commands attention and exudes dignity. Dress well; everyone will be looking, and you’re on display for truckers who can gaze through the panoramic roof, read the 9.2-inch central screen, and know you’re playing the Bangles.

LED lamps are used at all positions, including lovely U-shaped indicators on each side mirror and the elevated rear stop lamp’s broad inscription. With tubes agleam and adaptive headlamps blazing imperiously, the 2015 K900 looks sensational at night, one part Vegas, the other part contemporary museum installation. Inside the cabin, courtesy and accent lighting create warmth, which counterbalances the leather upholstery’s disappointing lack of leathery aroma. Pull up next to an S-Class and rev your illumination: there might be hasty dimming in response.

Gourmet or Goulash?

By the K900’s on-sale date a few weeks from now, a V8 model without all the backseat amenities will join the V8 VIP at a presumably lower price, which is yet to be announced. Kia says a few more than 200 of its 700-plus dealers will offer the car. Look for initial rollout on the West Coast and in Southern states.

Meantime, the Acura RL and Volkswagen Phaeton are reminders of how to belly flop in premium luxury waters. And the Hyundai Equus hardly abounds on roadways. Then again, the premium sedan class isn’t that big.

Besides Hyundai, no mass-market automaker -- Kia, with more than 500,000 units again last year, far outsells the previously named niche brands -- has attempted to paddle out to the shipping lane where Lexus, Mercedes-Benz, and BMW are steaming along. (The exception is pickups that threaten the $60,000-barrier.) In fact, every time we looked hard at the Kia nameplate on this fine car, it was like beans for dessert. Will it sell in Beverly Hills or Rancho Cucamonga?

Kia officials say people must experience the 2015 K900 for themselves. We know from our own reaction, and that of a discerning friend, the wow-factor is insuppressible. We imagined an S-Class owner’s sneers turning to smiles upon being invited inside, but the only other stopping point on the 200-mile drive home from Santa Barbara was an old Kia haunt, Walmart (this one near Irwindale Speedway), where premium luxury sedans were not in abundance.

Too bad, for it would have been an appropriate place for the sneering upper crust to receive the message that emanates from the 2015 Kia K900: you overpaid.

2015 Kia K900 V8

On sale: February 2014
Price as tested: $66,400
Engine: 5.0L V-8, 420 hp @ 6400 rpm, 376 lb-ft @ 5000 rpm
Fuel economy (est): 15/23 mpg (city/highway)
Drive: Rear-wheel

Just Anon
It's a strange sort of buyer that *needs* a gigantic luxury barge so badly, yet can't afford an S, 7 A8 or LS, won't step down in size to an E, 5, A6 or ES and refuses to just go with a Lincoln or Buick and save money (the Kia brand is negative value, so it's not like a Buick is much worse). And with all of that is willing to fork out Mercedes money for a completely commodity (low end really) experience when it comes to *every aspect* of the life cycle *other* than the car (crappy clueless dealers engineered to serve customers paying 1/5th the cost of this thing, lousy service depts who see 1 a year at best, and the "you paid WHAT for a KIA?!?!" factor)The proof is that after years the Equus can't crack 4k in a annual sales and depreciates like a stone.
Red Blazer
Love this car!  BUT hate the name!  No, not Kia, but K900...   K900???   Get the F out of here!  They are calling their flagship car a Fing DOG!?!?!?   NFW
tjkoby
With this price nobody sound in their mind will buy it. Most rich people are not stupid.Maybe short of few dealers forced to have it in showroom as halo car.Therefore the only thing that matters is how expensive the lease will be.Then off lease they will be available for a quarter of original price.
mynamehere
Chevy SS? LMFAO! not even close on the level of amenities and luxury. 
OMEGATALON
There's no doubt that this Kia K900 is a good car, but at $66K, it competing with the big boys and offers no real advantage over cars in this segment.  If Kia wants to succeed, they need to drop the price to $46K as this would give the K900 a price advantage; but at $66K, Kia is just spinning their wheels.
the_roadrunner
The K900 weighs over 4500 lbs, SUV territory.  Doesn't Kia get that a premium car uses aluminum, magnesium or even carbon fiber components to reduce weight?  This must surely negatively WEIGH on acceleration, handling and gas mileage.
the_roadrunner
They used to call Buick a doctor's car, but I bet the KIA Canine Hundred will be popular with veterinarians.
the_roadrunner
Since this is a non-premium brand, run a test against the Chevy SS.  When the Chevy smokes the KIA in acceleration and runs rings around it in handling, try to tell us why a V-8 k900 is worth a $20K premium.
AhRetirement
I am on my 4th Mercedes Benz (SL550 this time) and I know they are great cars; but, Kia and Hyundai are really stepping up.  I will be looking for a luxury cruiser in a few years to replace my SL and for the price of an E class, this Kia or it's sister the Hyundai Equus offer S Class performance and over the top luxury.   When new these Korean luxury cruisers are about $40K less than an S Class, BMW 7 Series or Audi A8. it's hard not to notice them.   I've noticed that the Equus value drops about $20K after the first year which is significant.  These look like the best luxury car to by as certified pre-owned and a real bargain.  
the_roadrunner
$66K for a large RWD V-8 well-optioned  car from a clearly non-premium brand.  Why would any one pay this when the Chevy SS, this car's competition, offers a large RWD V-8 well-optioned car for $47K?  For $60K, you could get a Cadillac V-sport which will outaccelerate and outhandle this Korean barge.
jmccool6969
I sat in one of these at the Detroit Auto Show and admit it has a beautiful interior and a nice exterior, but with out driving one, I think I would prefer the new 8 cylinder Hyundai Geneses. Cleaner style and I suspect, better performance.
Sam Y
i'm willing to pay $40k for a really nice car.  at >$60k, i want a brand name that flaunts my wealth.  so i'll wait a year or two for these to drop to $40k, which right now is the market value of the $66k MSRP Hyundai Equus.
Sideways the Seven
I like it, but I can't see paying that much money for this car. Maybe a test drive will change my mind. 
johncarync
A note to the photographer: The article mentions the shapely gear shift, the beautiful clock, the cool graphics of the instrument panel, the 9-inch central screen, and the panoramic roof...and NONE of the 39 associated pictures show these features. Perhaps there was an error during the upload of these pictures. Quite a few are duplicates.
OldSalt
I like the grill, but not the gas mileage!!!
mynamehere
@OMEGATALON  Yea. Put those other 66k cars next to the K900. Stripped from features, small in size and power. 
tjkoby
@the_roadrunner  Buick is the car for people who go to a doctor. Knew only one doctor who bought Buick, and only for cheap price as used car.The doctors who buy Buick are all retired now.
mynamehere
@the_roadrunner  The Chevy SS won't hold a candle on this car's luxury level. This is not a sports sedan. It's a LUXURY sedan to comfort.

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