Kia isn't exactly the go-to brand for a lot of consumers. Especially the ones in the luxury segment. The Kia K900 may just change the perception.
It’s hard for me to wrap my head around the concept of a luxurious Kia. But here I am in a Kia K900 Luxury, thinking that this unimaginatively named vehicle actually has the potential to take on the luxury car establishment. In stereotypical Korean-car fashion, this K900 blatantly borrows from the best: it has the automatic, soft-close doors of a Bentley; the door-mounted seat controls straight from Mercedes-Benz; a funky, geometrically complex gearshift lever lifted from BMW; and the well-thought-out sales model of the Volkswagen Phaeton.
Well… three out of four ain’t bad. The thing is, no one is looking to Kia for a luxury car experience, and despite a LeBron James endorsement, Kia just can’t move the K900.
Its styling certainly isn’t helping things – the K900 looks just like a larger version of every other Kia. The trouble with that is, when people seek out a luxury item, they’re searching for something special, something unique. And they don’t want others to think that they had to walk past a wacky inflatable tube man to acquire it.
If you can shake your preconceptions about Kia, however, you’d find that the K900 does a lot of things right. So it looks like a larger version of every other Kia, having a bigger version isn’t a bad thing at all. And by “bigger” I mean “massive,” and when sprayed in the Snow White Pearl of my tester, this K9000 has an undeniably powerful presence.
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There’s a lot to like about the K900 Luxury. Soft, supple Nappa leather covers the seating surfaces, dash and major touch points, and the cabin is detailed with piano black accents and genuine wood trim. You get an oversized nav/infotainment screen, a customizable full TFT display in the gauge binnacle, and an easy-to-read heads-up display for the driver.
The tech and toys one expects from a luxury barge are present and accounted for—including heated and ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel, a 17-speaker, 900-watt Lexicon sound system, and a suite of sensors to help prevent this house-sized Kia from getting into an accident. Passengers in the back get an even nicer space, with plenty of room to stretch out, heated and ventilated full-power seats with a recline feature, unique climate controls, and a non-stop opportunity to call the driver “Jeeves.”
As for the driving experience itself, it’s quiet—too quiet. Those soft-close doors (and trunk) make almost no noise when they shut, there’s no discernible exhaust note from the K900’s 5.0-liter V8, and wind noise is a non-issue. Couple all this with a glass-smooth ride, and you get a car that can get you into trouble.
In other words, it’s incredibly easy to speed in the K900. Driving between Los Angeles and San Diego—in very light traffic—I found myself regularly approaching triple-digit speeds. And it’s a little too easy to do—this car’s got 420 horsepower on tap, but there’s no real sensation that you’re moving fast. I spend the bulk of my drive weaving in and out of traffic—thinking everyone is deliberately going under the speed limit—and it’s only when I pause to look at the speedometer that I see just how fast I’m going. I luckily managed to avoid a collection of speeding tickets this go ‘round, but my observed nine mpg is hurting my pocket book just as bad.
Nothing about the K900 screams that it’s racetrack ready, but it weaves through traffic and handles abrupt maneuvers with confidence and poise. It’s like this car was designed to run free on the Autobahn—unfortunately, it’s stuck driving a handful of folks over terribly maintained US highways. Even then, it’s happy to deliver a peaceful, serene ride.
Though the K900 may have the desire to be an Autobahn stormer, it’s not quite ready to compete with the big boys from Germany. It’s a little too soft and lacks that dynamic “driver’s car” feel found in the best Europe has to offer. What it is, however, is a solid alternative to the Lexus LS. My fully equipped K900 Luxury tester—loaded with pretty much every option on offer—carries an MSRP of just $66,400. The Lexus, by comparison, starts at $72,500.
Of course, the biggest hurdles facing the K900 are brand perception and the Kia dealers themselves. It doesn’t matter that the K900 offers a Lexus-like experience for just a fraction of the price—the intended market just doesn’t want to walk past a wacky inflatable tube man to buy one.