Five-Point Inspection: 2015 Kia K900

Craig Cole
by Craig Cole

Kia is a brand that’s going places. Just a few years ago their cars were the equivalent of latex gloves; you’d use them once and throw ‘em away. But now the South Korean company is building some truly impressive, even class-leading products.

The Soul is an unmitigated sales success, their Forte lineup is more than competitive and the Sportage is a solid offering in the small-crossover segment. But with triumph has come a sense of restlessness; they want more, which is probably why Kia has cast its gaze upon the luxury segment.

It was crazy enough when Hyundai introduced a fancy rear-wheel-drive sedan in the 2009 model year. The Genesis reset everyone’s expectations of what this Korean automaker was capable of. It was a genuinely impressive car that didn’t compete on price alone; it didn’t have to (though it was still a bargain). And then they introduced the Equus, a flagship model that raised the bar even further.

Now Kia is getting in on the game; Hyundai’s corporate sibling wanted a little high-stakes action and their salvo into the luxury segment is the K900. It shares essentially the same architecture as the two rear-wheel-drive models mentioned above, which is a good thing since it’s a solid foundation.

Introducing a full-blown luxury sedan is an interesting way of celebrating Kia’s 20th anniversary in the U.S., though it makes us wonder why Lincoln can’t do the same. Obviously they’ve been around a lot longer.

In any event the K900 comes standard with all kinds of high-end goodies. It rides on 19-inch chrome wheels; features heated, power-folding, auto-dimming side-view mirrors; there are also LED headlamps, rain-sensing wipers and dual exhaust pipes. Inside, the car’s got a navigation system with a 9.2-inch display, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning, Bluetooth connectivity and much more. Suffice it to say this thing is loaded and there are only a handful of options.

Accordingly, the K900 is a relative bargain compared to similar offerings form Lexus, BMW or Audi. Base price for a V8-powered version is right around $60,400, including 900 bucks for shipping and handling. The most affordable 7 Series starts around $75,000 and only comes with a turbocharged six-cylinder engine.

Two engines are offered in the K900. There’s a base 3.8-liter Lamba V6 that churns out 311 hp and 293 lb-ft of peak torque, figures we suspect are more than enough even for this full-figured four-door. But if you’re the sort that has to have it all you can pay a little extra and nab yourself a booming 5.0-liter Tau V8, which our test car was equipped with. It delivers a full serving of horsepower, 420 to be exact along with 376 lb-ft of twist. Both engines are matched to an eight-speed automatic transmission.

At 119.9 inches the K900’s wheelbase is identical to the Equus’ and a couple inches longer than the Genesis sedan’s. Its overall width falls just short of 75 inches, which makes it about half an inch wider than either of Hyundai’s sedans. The curb weight for a V8-powered K900 is 4,555 pounds, slightly more than an Equus.

Suffice it to say, this Kia is a large, powerful car with fuel economy to match. The model we evaluated stickered at 15 miles per gallon city, 23 highway and 18 MPG combined.

On paper the K900 checks all the right boxes from features, performance and pricing standpoints. It’s a remarkable facsimile of a true luxury flagship. However, when you cross the 50-grand mark the little things start to count and this is where the K900 loses a bit of its luster.

The car’s interior is certainly good, great even, but it just doesn’t feel quite as nice as what you’d find in an Audi A8 for instance. It’s hard to quantify the differences because they’re so subtle, but it feels like something was lost in translation, like engineers worked off a checklist rather than aiming to produce a cohesive product.

Take the digital gauges for instance. The frame rate seems to be a bit off, especially with the fast-moving tachometer needle. It appears to jump or stutter as it moves, which is a bit odd. It’s not immediately obvious but it’s there. Also, glare constantly obstructs your view of the instruments and it doesn’t seem to matter which direction the sun is shining.

Design-wise the K900 is something of a mixed bag. Kia’s styling that works so well on smaller vehicles like the Optima sedan doesn’t seem to scale up. The K900 is pretty generic, with a puffy-looking front. Nonspecific fender vents punctuate the mostly unadorned sides, which flow into a pretty forgettable rear. There’s a bit of Maserati here, a touch of Audi there and some 7 Series thrown in for good measure.

In a lot of ways the Kia K900 is Korean ersatz luxury; it’s like an LG dishwasher that plays a needless little jingle when it’s finished with a cycle; it’s like a Samsung smartphone that’s jam-packed with cutting-edge features (many of which never get used) yet it’s wrapped in a chintzy plastic case.

The K900 redeems many of its shortcomings when you start driving it. Overall the car provides an enjoyable on-road experience. The 5.0-liter V8 has tons of power and torque that imbues this beastly sedan with impressive giddy-up. Nail the accelerator and it leaps ahead with vigor, but it doesn’t stop pulling at higher speeds, either.

The eight-speed automatic transmission is very responsive and smooth, delivering the appropriate gear at the just right time. The car is also flagship-quiet; wind and road noise are essentially absent.

The Kia K900 is a nice car. It’s powerful, responsive, quiet and comfortable; our complaints about it are relatively minor. When you factor in its pricing, which is MUCH less than comparable German sedans it only becomes more appealing.

GALLERY: 2015 Kia K900

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Craig Cole
Craig Cole

Born and raised in metro Detroit, Craig was steeped in mechanics from childhood. He feels as much at home with a wrench or welding gun in his hand as he does behind the wheel or in front of a camera. Putting his Bachelor's Degree in Journalism to good use, he's always pumping out videos, reviews, and features for When the workday is over, he can be found out driving his fully restored 1936 Ford V8 sedan. Craig has covered the automotive industry full time for more than 10 years and is a member of the Automotive Press Association (APA) and Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA).

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