Engine: 5.0L V8, 420 hp, 376 lb-ft of torque
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Price: Starts at $55,400 including delivery, $60,800 with “Luxury” trim
EPA fuel economy: 15 mpg city, 23 mpg, 18 mpg combined
Power, prestige and affordability; pick two because there isn’t a car in the world that can genuinely offer all three. Or is there?
One company is quietly offering a car that is close to being able to skirt this rule, except it is burdened by the three letters on its oval badge. Yes, the 2015 Kia K900 is a pleasure in many ways that will surprise most car owners from the past 20 years.
A Victim to the Past
But that’s its sore spot. Even some of Kia’s senior-level management admits that their effort to build a premium brand in the U.S. is filled with challenges that stem back to the brand’s lowbrow past. So the K900 has the power and affordability, but not the prestige (yet). Still, anyone with an objective perspective and a passion for business should admire Kia. The automaker may lack brand prestige, but the speed with which it and parent company Hyundai grew in this competitive market deserves respect.
Even if it continues to struggle in finding firm footing among American drivers, the K900 is a clear counterexample to what conventional wisdom suggests a car can be at a certain price. It ranges between $55,400 for a base model to $68,800 including the $8,000 “VIP Plus Package.” The basics include a 5.0-liter V8 with 420 hp and an eight-speed automatic transmission linked to the rear wheels. Generously equipped models come with quilted leather, a front passenger “chauffeur” seat switch and reclining rear outboard seats that are both heated and cooled. They also have power lumbar settings and headrests. The center console is also available with a split opening much like what you would find in, well, a Mercedes-Benz.
Power and Poise
The kingly Kia offers more than an endearing equipment list because there is enough padding between you and the world to soften the sound of a siren. Acceleration is similarly silky with the slight hint of rich V8 noise if you press the pedal with verve. But just like the cars Kia aspires it to be compared with, there is virtually no sensation of speed. You just glide.
Similarly, Kia’s infotainment user interface is a breeze to navigate. A multi-directional dial and dedicated button outlay make it easy to jump between screens and enter commands. The optional 900-watt Lexicon stereo creates rich bass and crisp treble that can vividly recreate your favorite Vivaldi overtures or bump Biggie Smalls with the best of them.
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Still, the K900 has limitations. The German products that the Kia K900 tries to imitate have a certain sense of agility when you want them to change direction quickly, and that’s something this car lacks. Even in the “Sport” mode where steering weight increases, the wheel feels loose and body roll is obvious. At 4,555 lbs, K900 is a heavy car and it feels that way. But that isn’t always such a bad thing because it feels like a couch on wheels and that’s basically what it was meant to be.
Fuel efficiency isn’t spectacular, but that comes with the territory for cars like this. I averaged 17.4 mpg with a light foot and mixed time between stop-and-go city driving and less congested highway jaunts. Even if that seems low, that’s only a hair below the advertised mileage.
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The trouble is that you can only have one with rear-wheel drive. In good driving conditions, it’s easy to chirp the rear tires from a stoplight and I can only imagine what it would be like on snow and ice. The northern market seems to agree because Canadians are flat-out saying “no” to buying them. With more than a year on the market, Kia only reports selling 34 of K900s in the whole country. All else equal, Canadian sales are typically about 10 percent of the U.S. market, but, in this case, sales in Canada represent roughly 2 percent of U.S. sales over the same time period.
The Verdict: 2015 Kia K900 Review
If you live in an area where having a powerful rear-wheel-drive luxury car isn’t likely to be troublesome, the K900 is an unbeatable value. It’s quiet to sit in, smooth to drive and stylish to behold if you can swallow the idea of paying almost $70,000 for a Kia sedan.