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2019 Kia K900 Test Drive Review
By and large, the car-buying public carries around preconceived notions about automakers. Name a car or type of car and you’ll likely start to form assumptions about the vehicle itself and even its owners.
Kia has had a reputation for being bargain-oriented, but lately, it's a brand on the rise. Last year Kia released the Stinger, a head-turning, athletic performance sedan. Kia already had a strong portfolio of (yes, affordable) vehicles, but the Stinger was a statement vehicle, a demonstration of the brand's capabilities.
Considering Kia's progress, the continued lack of awareness with regard to its quality is disappointing. If you need any more convincing, look no further than its luxury flagship, the K900 sedan.
Introduced in 2012, the K900 is now in its second generation. It is a fantastic car and a handsome reward for any sedan shopper looking to drive a high-comfort, high-quality ride. But buyers in this space have some interesting choices. For one, the K900 rides on the same platform as its corporate cousin, the Genesis G90. It's also offered alongside the Cadenza, which is also a spacious luxury car—but has front-wheel drive. There appears to be some overlap here, which makes the K900 and its positioning so intriguing.
So, Kia’s out there making a name for itself, and the K900 showcases what the brand is fully capable of delivering. But the mere presence of the Genesis G90 underscores a question: Where does the K900 fit in the world of full-size luxury sedans?
Look and Feel
The K900 is a capable, comfortable, and upscale sedan, but its styling doesn't do much to draw eyes and promote these attributes. Its overall design is clean, modern, and handsome, but it lags behind the daring designs that have become more common across the auto industry.
Compared to the angles and lines of the BMW 7 Series or the catfish-like front-end design of the Chevrolet Malibu, the K900's styling feels almost generic—like an image of a car that has been altered to be purposely ambiguous, so as not to violate some trademark. Perhaps Hyundai, which owns Genesis and part-owns Kia, did not want the K900 to upstage the G90.
And if you need more proof that the flagship luxury market is trending away from conservative styling, look no further than the Lexus LS, with its massive hourglass grille exploding out of the front of the vehicle like the Predator with its mask off.
The low-key styling is unfortunate, because more shoppers should be drawn to learn about the K900’s handsome, spacious cabin. It’s broad, comfortable, and bathed in warm tones and open-pore woodgrain inserts. But it’s more likely your eyes will be drawn to the massive 12.3-inch infotainment touchscreen, which can be operated via touch or the controller dial in the center console. It allows for large fonts and graphics, but when in full map mode, it feels more like an IMAX screen.
The front seats are comfortable enough and offer lumbar and even side bolster adjustment, but they are just a hair too firm. A Honda Pilot—a 3-row family hauler—has more comfortable leather seats.
The list of standard features is long and includes 19-inch wheels wrapped in Michelin tires as well as a power moonroof, a power hands-free smart trunk, LED headlights, dual integrated exhaust ports, and rain-sensing wipers. Standard cabin features include Nappa leather seating, a 20-way driver’s seat, a 12-way front passenger seat, heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, heated steering wheel, and leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter. The clock in the center console is from Swiss watchmaker Maurice Lacroix, and there’s even woodgrain in the steering wheel.
There’s only one option package for the K900, the VIP Package. It’s a $4,000 option that adds some of the K900's best luxury features, including a 12.3-inch fully digital instrument panel, reclining rear seats (14-way right-rear/12-way left-rear), an Alcantara headliner, ventilated rear seats, and a wireless phone-charging pad for the rear seats.
When it comes to luxury cars, there’s quality, and then there’s quality. In a vacuum, the K900 experience is fantastic. But nothing exists in a vacuum, and the established players in luxury flagships are simply on another level.
Be it the Audi A8, the BMW 7 Series, or especially the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, the approach to luxury is extensive and holistic. Materials are top-notch, fit-and-finish are expertly crafted, and various features and systems are blended effortlessly into the vehicle design. Spend time behind the wheel of any of these vehicles, and it won't take long at all to understand where the extra 20-, 30-, or even 40,000 dollars those vehicles cost was spent.
While there’s a difference in interior quality compared with other full-size luxury sedans, the K900 driving experience is up to par. The K900’s smooth, confident power delivery comes from a twin-turbocharged 3.3-liter V6, also used in the Kia Stinger GT as well as the Genesis G70 and G90. It makes a V8-level 365 horsepower and 376 pound-feet of torque. Power gets sent through an 8-speed automatic transmission to all-wheel drive (AWD). The automatic provides smooth shifting and power, but also brisk acceleration when called upon.
Steering has a light, effortless feeling, and the brake pedal follows that lead. It may feel light, but stomp on it, and the 4,600-pound sedan will come to an abrupt halt. These types of driver feedback are all hallmarks of the other full-size sedans, like the Mercedes S-Class and BMW 7 Series, putting comfort above all else.
A drive-mode button featuring Comfort, Sport, Eco, and Custom drive modes is located down by the shifter. Each mode cues up a display theme that corresponds to the drive mode. More importantly, each mode has unique tuning for the throttle and transmission response, steering feel, and suspension response.
According to Kia, the performance goal of the K900 was to deliver “confident comfort.” Like the K900's benchmarking competitors, the ride is more about comfort than anything else.
The K900’s AWD system can send up to 50 percent of the power to the front wheels. In Sport mode, it can send up to 80 percent to the rear wheels. The K900’s 20-way power driver’s seat has adjustable side bolsters, but in Sport mode, it automatically tightens up both sides to keep you in place during hard cornering.
Fuel economy for the K900 is 18 mpg city, 25 highway, 21 combined. In a week of combined city and highway driving, we observed fuel economy of 16.3 mpg. It should be noted that our driving route was city-heavy and somewhat lead-footed, resulting in a lower-than-expected fuel-economy average.
Form and Function
The front seats of the K900 provide tons of space, from legroom to hip- and shoulder-room and even headroom. The car offers some places for items in the door, as well as in the center console. The cupholders and center-console tray both have retractable covers. You can place items everywhere, close the lids, and hide everything away behind a clean aesthetic.
The design of the K900's shifter is similar to that of the Kia Stinger. It's okay, but it takes a bit of time to learn how to use it.
The rear seats of the K900 are the place to be. As is expected in this class of vehicle, the rear is very spacious and provides plenty of legroom. Incredibly, you can even recline both rear seats, and the front passenger seat slides and folds all the way forward, allowing the right-rear passenger to lie all the way out. These kinds of vehicles are often used by drivers ferrying around important occupants; providing a comfortable and spacious rear seating area is crucial. This car could be for executives or used as an UberBlack or livery car that doesn’t cost as much as a Mercedes-Benz S-Class.
Part of a great rear-seat experience is a center console, which the K900 offers. It’s all contained in a large armrest that folds down from the center of the seat back. It contains rear climate controls and dials for the 900-watt, 17-speaker Lexicon premium sound system. It also controls the reclining rear seats and power-deploying rear window shade.
The VIP package ensures the K900 will be a fantastic car to be driven in. It includes chauffeur switches that allow backseat passengers to move the front passenger seat forward. Combined with the power-retractable rear sunshade and rear side-window shades, the back seat of the K900 will rival some of the best international airlines' business-class seats.
The K900 has 15.3 cubic feet of trunk space, which is decent for the class. The A8 has less space, at 12.5 cubic feet, while the S-Class and 7 Series have more, boasting 16.3 and 18.2, respectively.
The Kia K900's massive 12.3-inch widescreen infotainment touchscreen comes standard. It has very intuitive controls and backup buttons and toggles down by the shifter, which are just below where your right hand will naturally rest.
With infotainment systems, everyone’s learning curve is different. Kia’s UVO system makes it as easy as possible, even for those typically averse to new technology. It’s quite helpful that it offers multiple ways to operate the system, and the driver also gets the benefit of a color head-up display, which can be customized via the center console.
The K900 also comes with UVO Luxe, a smartphone app that lets you stop and start the vehicle and remotely operate the climate controls—all from a smartphone! This app also includes access to Kia’s exclusive call center for premium clients.
The K900 comes standard with Kia’s Drive Wise suite of driver-assistance features. This includes standard forward-collision avoidance with pedestrian detection, blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic warning, lane-keep assist, a surround-view monitor, a driver-attention monitor, and adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go capability. That’s in addition to the standard list of front-and side-impact airbags, traction control, a tire-pressure monitoring system, and a reversing camera.
The fully digital instrument panel opens up a lot of possibilities for drivers looking to tweak the K900's driving experience. As we mentioned, you can change the instrument panel themes, but more importantly, it provides a clever blind-spot-camera system. When the driver clicks the turn-signal stalk one way or the other, the camera on the corresponding side of the car activates. It presents the video on the corresponding side of the instrument panel. This allows the driver to see both the left and right side blind spots before changing lanes. This will also be extremely helpful when parking.
Base MSRP for the 2019 Kia K900 is $59,900. The VIP Package brings the price to $63,900. That pricing is a steal compared to the BMW 7 Series or Audi A8, both of which start at $83,000. It’s an even better deal compared to the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, which starts at $91,000.
But a K900 likely won’t impress an owner of one of those cars. However, it will impress a first-time full-size luxury-sedan shopper. This may be someone who has previously owned smaller Kias—or a vehicle from another volume brand—and is now looking to step up into something larger and nicer.
It can’t be stressed enough: Inaccurate preconceived notions about Kia’s quality are outdated. If you're unsure about the K900's legitimacy, heed these words: Kia is a contender, and the 2019 K900 fully demonstrates the automaker’s capabilities.
From open-wheel racecars to specialty off-road vehicles, George Kennedy has driven it all. A career automotive journalist, George has been a contributor, editor, and/or producer at some of the most respected publications and outlets, including Consumer Reports, the Boston Globe, Boston Magazine, Autoblog.com, Hemmings Classic Wheels, BoldRide.com, the Providence Journal, and WheelsTV.
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