Saturday Road Test – 2015 Kia K900

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2015 Kia K900

Going After the Big Guys

By Ron Amadon

DAMASCUS, MD – It doesn’t seem possible. Kia is already celebrating its 20th anniversary in the U.S. and there is a lot to celebrate.

Kia posted an all-time monthly sales record in May with 60,087 units sold and a hefty 14.8 percent increase year-over-year. The big numbers were led by the Optima, Soul and Sorento in that order.

With that solid base “the next logical progression of Kia,” in the words of Executive Vice President Michael Sprague, was to move upscale into the luxury market.

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Enter the K900 aimed at consumers who look around the neighborhood and see lots of Mercedes and BMWs and feel like something different – A car that can stand up to the others when it comes to a luxury environment inside and beat many of them with standard and available options.

It is a large car, some 200 inches long and riding on a nearly 120 inch wheelbase. In overall length it comes in close to the Mercedes E class and the BMW 6 and 7 series.

Where consumers will really see the size of this car is when they sit in the second row. There is limo like room there and if you check the right boxes those seats also recline, keep your bottom cool, with shades to block the sun if a nap is in order.

The K9 is a greyhound when it comes to performance. It should with a refined 5.0-liter V8 with 420 hp @ 6,400 rpm and 375 lb-ft of torque @ 5,000 rpm teamed with a very responsive 8-speed automatic. Look for a 0-60 run in about 5.5 seconds and a driver selected “Sport” mode that holds gears a bit longer, handy when slow moving farm tractors are ahead on back roads.

One bugaboo was the unintuitive shift lever, copied out of the BMW. To engage reverse from park for instance, one moves the lever forward rather than back.

In a week’s worth of driving I racked up 16.5 mpg, within the EPA rating of 15/23 mpg city/interstate and 18 mpg combined. Okay, I admit the 420 hp was addictive.

The ride is very soft compared to its European rivals, and the K900 is clearly aimed at consumers who want a smooth ride and don’t care how many g’s the car can post in handling tests. Some vibrations were fed back to the interior on rough country roads. Kia does not offer the air suspension option of its platform mate, the Hyundai Equus.

What the K900 does best is eat up interstate miles while offering complete comfort to the driver and his or her seatmate.

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There is a huge amount of room up front, especially elbow room.  Drivers face a 12.3 inch TFT instrument panel that was an easy read. The heads-up display can do more than tell you when you might attract the attention of the fine folks with the blue lights – turn-by-turn navigation, blind spot detection and lane departure information are all available.

Switching to the sport mode changes the instrument panel to digital for both tach and speedo, a nice touch.

The relatively easy to program navi system is contained in a 9.2 inch display controlled by a center console knob and surrounding soft touch buttons – all in all a most Audi-like MMI style. Its many features are exhaustively detailed in a rather thick book, which lives alongside an even bigger owner’s manual. Yet unlike other luxury cars I have driven, the entire package does fit in the globe box.

Design wise it would appear Kia has a hit here. It turned heads everywhere I went, even in upscale neighborhoods and I would guess very few grasped it was a Kia. The sexy 19” chrome alloy wheels helped the cause as well.

In addition to a long list of standard equipment that included a sunroof, 3-zone automatic climate control, Nappa leather seats and “genuine wood accent trim” the test car came with a $6,000 VIP Package that I would recommend, or as my car buff step-dad would have said, “in for a dime, in for a dollar.”

That brought to the party 60/40 power reclining rear seats, a 16-way adjustable driver’s seat with air lumbar support, driver’s seat extension, power headrests and soft close power door latches, and a surround view monitor among other goodies.

With a $900 delivery charge, that brought the MSRP of the test car to $66,400. Comparing base price to base price, the only fair way to do it, the Kia at $59,500 most closely matches with the BMW 535d XDRIVE at $59,825 or $54,500 for the Mercedes E450 luxury sedan.

Is that a lot of cash for a Kia? Yes and no. If one can live with the boulevard ride and the somewhat frustrating shift pattern, there is a lot to like here. A long list of amenities, an extended 10-year, 100,000 mile limited power train warranty, 5 years of roadside assistance, with scheduled maintenance free for 3 years or 37,500 miles along with a loaner.

In the end, it all comes down to what you are looking for in your first, or next, set of wheels in the luxury class. If you pop for the K900, do give the boss and your mother-in-law a ride in the rear seat.

Instant affirmation baby, INSTANT.

 

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