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Review: The Latest Kia K900 Is a Big Step Up

If you're looking for a big luxury car, you owe it to yourself to check it out.

Arthur St. Antoinewriter, photographer Eleonor Seguraphotographer

Kia's flagship luxury sedan is all-new for 2019, but the same questions repeatedly asked of its first-gen sibling remain: Will anyone shopping for a premium, five-passenger four-door give the Kia K900 a serious look? Should they?

In the case of the gen-one K900, which hit showrooms in 2014, the answer was "probably not." That car, powered by a 32-valve V-8, didn't wow in any sense but showed some promise—Kia "has to start somewhere," I wrote charitably back in 2014. Its maker sold fewer than 5,500 examples of the first-gen K900, but the new, bigger, second-gen model is leaps and bounds better. The Mercedes S-ClassAudi A8, and Volvo S90 aren't exactly trembling in fear over the arrival of this newly enhanced player from South Korea, but Kia engineers have clearly listened to criticisms of the first car. The new K900 now offers enough goodness that budget-conscious luxe-sedan shoppers would be doing themselves a disservice if they didn't check it out.

Based on similar mechanicals as Hyundai's slightly larger, slightly ritzier Genesis G90, K900 v2.0 is a step up in spaciousness from its old self. The car has grown in every meaningful dimension, particularly in wheelbase, which is now 2.3 inches longer. Rear-seat legroom benefits, and it verges on extravagant. Indeed, with the optional VIP Package ($4,000), the flip-down center rear armrest includes controls for the power seats, audio system, and climate control, plus there's a wireless phone charger and rear-seat ventilation (heating is standard on the rear outboard seats)—it all affords passengers in back a limousine-like sense of indulgence. Manual side sunshades and a power rear-window shade offer welcome protection from annoying paparazzi.

Gone is the old 5.0-liter V-8, replaced by the same twin-turbo, 3.3-liter V-6 that also sees duty in, among others, Kia's sporty Stinger GT. At 365 horsepower, the V-6 isn't as potent as the old 420-horse V-8, but the 376-lb-ft max torque number is identical and the peak now comes on stream at just 1,300 rpm versus 5,000 rpm for the 5.0-liter. The K900 also gets the Stinger's eight-speed automatic with paddle shifters. This is not the sort of powertrain one waxes poetic about—it's neither sexy-sounding nor racy in character—but it's unfailingly quiet and smooth, shifts are handled unobtrusively, and acceleration is damn impressive for a beefy rig that closes in on 5,000 pounds. The turbo six will surge the K900 to 60 mph in just over five seconds, the torque-vectoring all-wheel-drive system putting every pound-foot to the ground without slip. Also, EPA fuel economy is up from 15/23 mpg city/highway to 18/25.

One could quibble about the richness of some of the cabin materials and switchgear—this is not an Audi cockpit—but at a starting sticker of just under $61K, the K900 is positively awash in luxury amenities and convenience features. Standard equipment includes Nappa leather seating, a splendid Lexicon Logic 7 surround-sound audio system, a 12.3-inch central touchscreen with nav, a surround-view monitor, smart cruise with stop and go, keyless entry with pushbutton start, a power sunroof, and every imaginable active-safety system. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration are also included. Opting for the aforementioned VIP Package nets the aforementioned rear-seat gear, plus a 12.3-inch LCD primary instrument cluster and triple-zone climate control. For under $65,000 loaded, the K900 offers basically everything (though a bit less cabin space) that you'll find in some of the more famous brands, but for thousands less. A base Audi A8L, for example, starts at $84,795.

The K900 driving experience is focused on plushness. There are five selectable driving modes: Comfort, Smart, Sport, Eco, and Custom. While Sport does firm-up the steering and the ride to some degree (it also allows more engine noise to play through the cabin speakers), and Smart tries to predict the desired responses based on the driver's actions at the wheel, mostly I just left the car in Comfort. The K900 seems designed to do its best work there. This is not a vehicle created for mountain-road hustling—though the chassis hangs on far better than you might expect. Steering feel is all but nonexistent in any drive mode, and responses to the paddle shifters are lazy. But refined, genteel motoring? Ah, now you're talking.

The K900 glides over the road. Visibility is superb. Switches and buttons move with an expensive feel. And the infotainment interface—as I've noted in reviews of other Kia and Hyundai products—is all but unmatched in simplicity and ease of use. No frustrations accessing any of the innumerable systems the K900 offers. I'm less fond of K900's optional TFT instrument display. Instead of uniform illumination, the gauges shine brightest wherever the speedo or tach needles happen to be pointing. It's like looking at a digital watch versus an analog dial—somehow you lose a sense of the "big picture." The K900 also includes an innovative blind-spot warning system. When you flick the turn-signal lever left or right, the corresponding dial in the gauge display is replaced by a live rear-camera view of that side. As I noted when sampling a similar system in the new Kia Telluride SUV, the camera view can be tricky to decipher—"what exactly am I looking at?"—but the display in the K900 is much larger than the Telluride's. Still, I much prefer a simple alert that lights whenever a car glides into my blind spot—turn-signal-activated or not.

The latest K900 is beautifully crafted, structurally rigid, and a solid performer all-around. It's a big step up from the gen-one car and, for many buyers, this astutely engineered, lavishly outfitted flagship offers everything they're likely looking for—minus, of course, a very, very expensive ornament on the hood.

2019 Kia K900 Luxury Specifications
BASE PRICES $60,895/$64,895 (base/as-tested)
ENGINE 3.3L twin-turbo DOHC 24-valve V-6; 365 hp @ 6,000 rpm, 376 lb-ft @ 1,300 rpm
TRANSMISSION 8-speed automatic
LAYOUT 4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, AWD sedan
EPA MILEAGE 18/25 mpg (city/hwy)
L x W x H 201.6 x 75.4 x 58.7 in
WHEELBASE 122.2 in
WEIGHT 4,750 lb (est)
0-60 MPH: 5.2 sec (est)
TOP SPEED: 149 (mfr)