2015 Kia K900 Review by Marc J. Rauch +VIDEO
You’ve come a long way, ah gi!
AUTO CENTRAL - About eleven years ago Kia took a giant step forward in the American market when they introduced the Amanti “luxury” sedan. The only reason I put the word “luxury” in quotation marks is because at the time Kia didn’t actually refer to the Amanti as a luxury car; they called it a “big car.” They shied away from calling it a full size sedan because they worried that it would tag the vehicle as something akin to your grandfather’s Oldsmobile 88, Crown Vic or Mercury Marquis (Mercury Marquis... when was the last time you thought about that car?).
Of course, the Kia Amanti wasn’t anything like an Olds, but the timing of the Amanti introduction did coincide with the end of the Oldsmobile brand, so any comparison would have made any car marketing guy shudder.
I remember seeing the vehicle for the first time at the San Francisco Auto Show, back when the SF show was staged before the Los Angeles Auto Show (so this was one of those times when the SF show could boast they had a real national or global debut). I thought it was great, and when I subsequently had the opportunity to test drive it I was very impressed, especially because the car was only in the mid $20k range; a price that was low-ish for a luxury car even in those days.
The Amanti received lots of well-deserved high praise for Kia, despite those boo-birds who couldn’t comprehend that the Koreans could be capable of building a luxury vehicle (somehow these people completely missed the history of marketing post-world war European and Japanese cars in America). The Amanti’s success led to the introduction of Kia’s next affordable luxury-ish cars, Optima and Cadenza, which have been enjoying considerable success.
In 2012, Kia took its next step up the luxury ladder with the introduction of the K9 in Korea. The K9 follows the model-naming convention that they use in Korea (K3, K5, K7); similar to BMW, Audi, and Mercedes’ (7-Series, A8, S Class, respectively).
A quick video look back at the K9 in 2012
However, when it came time to introduce the K9 to America, they couldn’t really go with K9 because of the “canine” association - after all, if acceptance of the vehicle didn’t go well, Kia would be forever saddled with the Edsel-like commentary that this was Kia’s dog of a car.
Watch the complete U.S. introduction of the Kia K900 at the L.A. Auto Show
As it turns out, Kia probably could have kept the K9 designation because of all the excellent characteristics related to canines, not the negative insinuations. The Kia K900 is a sleek, beautiful “animal,” and it has everything that you’d want in a best friend - automotively speaking, of course.
I had the lucky opportunity to attend a Kia media event in early February to test drive the K900 and learn more about the car. The event was staged at the Pelican Hill Resort in Newport, California, and the setting was appropriate: first class luxury all the way.
I was picked up at the airport in a K900 and had the chance to experience the ride from the rear seat. There was so much leg-room that I asked the driver if the vehicle had been stretched to be more limo-like. Turns out it wasn’t; the standard K900 is consistent with the long-wheel configurations of other manufacturers’ comparable models. Added to all the extra leg-room, the rear passenger seats electrically recline to make the incredibly comfortable leather seats even more incredibly comfortable.
On the first evening Kia treated us to a wonderful culinary cavalcade that featured several different cuisines, including Spanish, Italian, North African and Turkish...All this to help convey a feeling of world-class lavishness.
The next day was the test drive day. The route took us from Newport south to San Diego County, and then east to Temecula in Riverside County. My driving partner was old friend Ted Biederman, a long time highly respected automotive journalist. We laughed, we cried, we slept (I nodded off a few times, as a passenger), and we swapped fishy fish tales, so to speak.
In my opinion, the K900 looks similar to a Jaguar. Since I think that Jags and Aston Martins are the best looking cars on the market in the under $150,000 category (Aston Martin is in the $200k range, but what’s $50,000 between friends?), this automatically makes me think that the K900 is better looking than any of its primary competition from Audi, BMW, or Mercedes. It’s not that I think the others are ugly; it’s just a matter of relative beauty.
In the areas that really count: on-the-road driving and interior creature comforts; I’d say that the K900 is at least as good as the rest. I guess that sounds a bit underwhelming, but because the competition from Audi, BMW and Mercedes basically represents the best there is it’s like saying, “Yeah, my gold is 24kt, too.”
If you like driving an Audi A6 or A8, which I do, you’ll like driving the K900. If you like driving an E or S Class, you’ll like driving the K900. Ditto for the 5 and 7 Series. If saying some money is what you also like, you’ll prefer the K900. Some people know that New York pizza is the best, and some think that Roundtable is the “last honest pizza,” whatever that means. Since the first year’s production of the K900 is rather limited, it’s just as well that not everyone knows that there’s nothing better than NY pizza.
The K900 has everything, including a tri-control climate system: the driver can have his perfect temperature, the front seat passenger a different temperature, and the back seat passengers another different temperature. The sound system works great; the GPS is easy to operate and see; and the navigation information conveniently also appears in the heads-up window display alongside the odometer readout.
The Kia K900 is a really, really nice car. It should be the same disruptive force in the luxury vehicle market that Lexus was when it was first introduced. I believe it will position Kia, once and for all time, a manufacturer of fine automobiles in almost every price category. The initial rollout of the K900 is all V8 engines. Later editions will be joined by a V6 model. The V8 version I drove is priced at $65,500 before the usual shipping, destination and tax fees.
• Incidentally, “ah gi” is Korean for “baby.”
Watch the Kia K900 on the road
|Type/layout||3.8L V6 DOHC Gasoline Direct Injection (GDI)||5.0L V8, DOHC Gasoline Direct Injection (GDI)|
|Displacement (cc)||3,778 (cc)||5,038 (cc)|
|Bore x stroke (mm)||96.0 x 87.0 mm||96.0 x 87.0 mm|
|Horsepower||311 hp @ 6,000 rpm||420 hp @ 6,400 rpm|
|Torque||293 lb. ft. @ 5,000 rpm||376 lb. ft. @ 5,000 rpm|
|Transmission||8-speed automatic||8-speed automatic|
|Final drive ratio||3.909:1||3.538:1|
|Layout/drive||Front engine/RWD||Front engine/RWD|
|Wheelbase (in.)||119.9 in.||119.9 in.|
|Length (in.)||200.6 in.||200.6 in.|
|Width (in.)||74.8 in.||74.8 in.|
|Height (in.)||58.7 in.||58.7 in.|
|Track (in.), front/rear||63.6 in. / 64.3 in.||63.8 in. / 64.1 in.|
|Curb weight (lbs.)||4,277 lbs.||4,555 lbs.|
|Fuel capacity (gal.)||19.8 gal.||19.8 gal.|
|Seating capacity||5 passenger||5 passenger|
|Head room, front/rear (in.)||40.2 in. / 37.6 in.||40.2 in. / 37.6 in.|
|Leg room, front/rear (in.)||45.9 in. / 38.2 in.||45.9 in. / 38.2 in.|
|Shoulder room, front/rear (in.)||59.1 in. / 57.2 in.||59.1 in. / 57.2 in.|
|Passenger volume (cu. ft.)||110.8 cu. ft.||110.8 cu. ft.|
|Cargo volume (cu. ft.)||15.9 cu. ft||15.9 cu. ft|
|Total volume (cu. ft.)||126.7 cu. ft.||126.7 cu. ft.|
|Front||Multi-link type||Multi-link type|
|Rear||Multi-link type||Multi-link type|
|Wheel size (in.)||18 x 7.5||19 x 9.0|
|Tire size (front; rear)||245/50R18; 245/50R18||245/45R19; 275/40R19|
|Estimated Fuel Economy|
|Fuel tank (gallons)||19.8||19.8|
|City/Highway (mpg)||18 / 27||15 / 23|