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2015 Kia K900 V8 Review by Carey Russ +VIDEO

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2015 Kia K900

Handsome, quiet, smooth, and light on it's feet; Kia has successfully entered the executive luxury class with the K900.


      • SEE ALSO: Kia Buyers Guide

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2015 Kia K900

What is the first thing that comes to mind when thinking "Kia"? Besides hamsters. Maybe the small, stylish Soul? The mid-size Optima sedan? The Sportage and Sorento crossovers? The compact Forté or subcompact Rio? Probably not an executive luxury sedan, although the Cadenza has given the Korean automaker a toehold in the entry-luxury class.

The Cadenza has a new and larger sibling. The K900 is Kia's first rear-wheel drive sedan and its first V8-powered sedan. (there is also a V6 model) It's meant to go head-to-head against the world's executive luxury sedans, meaning Lexus LS, Audi A8, Mercedes-Benz S-Class, BMW 7-Series, and Jaguar XJ. And no, it's not April 1…

Kia entered the American automotive marketplace at the bottom twenty years ago, and was best-known for its Sportage mini-SUV, and later, compact and subcompact sedans. After financial difficulties, a controlling interest was taken by fellow Korean automaker Hyundai. The two companies operate separately but share platforms. Meaning chassis and engines, with different styling and marketing. Differences between Kias and related Hyundais are far from mere badge engineering.

I've heard talk of upscale luxury aspirations from Kia for the past decade, and Kia's higher-end vehicles have been selling well. The Cadenza was the first step into the luxury classes, and the K900 is the latest.

When the Japanese manufacturers entered the luxury field 25 or so years ago, they did so with dedicated brands. Toyota created Lexus, Nissan created Infiniti, and Honda created Acura in order to differentiate their upscale offerings from their mass-market products. They have been successful. Lexus is as prestigious a marque as are any of the Europeans, even at the premium level. Infiniti is a serious contender in the entry- and mid-luxury classes and has just entered the premium level. Acura does well in the entry- and mid-luxury classes, and has so far stayed away from the premium class.

A separate luxury brand differentiates the products, but does require quite an investment to create a separate dealer and supply network. When Hyundai went upscale with its Genesis and Equus sedans, it kept its own name. Judging by the number of upscale Hyundais I've seen, living on the Pacific coast, they're doing well with that. So Kia will follow that development model. There are risks -- ask Volkswagen. It marketed the Phaeton, which, although as good as any competitor, was still a VW to too many people. The market mostly ignored it… Other animals grow mating and dominance plumage. Humans buy it.

So, is America ready for a $66,400 Kia? That's the bottom line on this week's K900, with the optional S6,000 VIP Package. It has absolutely every comfort, convenience, and gadget expected in a premium luxury sedan, and then some, all wrapped in a handsome package. A 420-horsepower V8 ensures quick acceleration when needed, and effortless cruising on the highway. In ride and handling, it's very European. It costs $12,000 to $30,000 less than its competition, and so provides excellent value. The prestige aspect is as yet unclear, but give Kia a few years. The K900 promises an interesting future.

APPEARANCE: All of Kia's best styling cues appear here, with further development. The K900 is a handsome car, with proportions proper for a luxury sedan. It has presence, and not just because of its size -- just over 200 inches long on a near-120-inch wheelbase. The tabbed grille, sculpted hood, strong shoulders, sleek roofline, and faux vents just ahead of the front doors are familiar, but taken to the next step. LED headlamps look like spaceship ray gun emplacements -- and do a fine job of lighting the road at night. The front chin and rear apron are pleasantly different from other cars. There's just enough chrome to establish the K900's luxury nature without being excessive.

COMFORT: Walk up to the K900 with the "key" fob in your pocket, and the outside mirrors fold out into position. Open a front door, and you're greeted by puddle lamps (LED of course) on the bottom of those mirrors and lit scuff plates, with further ambient lighting inside. Real wood and stitched leather trim the inside panels, with perforated leather seating surfaces and both cushion heat and ventilation for the front and outboard rear seats. Everything is power-adjustable, and both front seats have three memory positions. Pushbutton start/stop, of course. With the VIP Package come power-reclining outboard rear seats with adjustable lumbar support -- executive sedan means VIP rear passengers. The also have a power rear sunshade and manual side shades. There is no shortage of head or leg room.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2015 Kia K900

Back up front, the driver gets a bright, visible multi-view TFT LCD display for the speedometer and tachometer and trip info. The heated, wood-and-leather rimmed power-adjustable steering wheel has cruise, information, and audio system controls. A knob-and-hard button controller on the console works the navigation, audio, phone, and vehicle information systems. Most interesting is the surround-view camera system -- wide-angle cameras in the grille, trunk lid, and side mirrors feed images to the screen on the center stack. It's especially useful in tight parking spaces, and since this is a large car, most spaces fit that description. A heads-up display shows speed and blind-spot info warnings. The 900-watt, 12-channel Lexicon audio system has all current choices -- AM, FM, and Sirius/XM radio, CD and MP3CD, Pandora streaming, auxiliary jack and USB/iPhone. The trunk lid opens remotely but must be closed by hand. The trunk is huge, and a large-size space-saver spare lives underneath its floor.

SAFETY: Especially with the VIP Package, the 2015 Kia K900 V8 has all of the required and expected safety systems and then some, including rear-seat side airbags, four-wheel antilock disc brakes, blind-spot monitoring, lane-departure warning, front and rear parking sensors and rear cross-traffic alert, the Surround View Monitor, Advanced Smart Cruise Control, and the Advanced Vehicle Safety Management system, which integrates multiple safety systems to further protect passengers.

RIDE AND HANDLING: It's big, long, and heavy at over 4500 pounds, but the K900 is quiet, smooth, and light on its feet thanks to a well-designed and carefully-calibrated fully-independent multilink suspension. The near-ten foot wheelbase ensures stability. Steering effort changes with drive mode, being a touch stiffer in Sport than Eco or default, but the changes are not huge. The four-wheel ventilated disc brakes work well.

PERFORMANCE: Yes, the K900 is a large, heavy car. But its 420 horsepower (at 6400 rpm) 5.0-liter V8 is far more than adequate. A 32-valve, dual overhead cam design with direct fuel injection and a high 11.5:1 compression ratio, it has variable cam phasing and the block and heads are of aluminum alloy. Torque peaks at 376 lb-ft at 5000 rpm, with plenty down low for quick acceleration when needed. As with a high-end audio system, the power is there more for "overhead" than constant speed. An eight-speed automatic transmission further improves efficiency. As is increasingly common with electronically-controlled cars, there are three drive modes. Default gives a moderate throttle pedal travel for effect, and moderately light steering effort. Sport gives sharper throttle response and slightly heavier steering, while Eco decreases throttle response and very slightly increases steering assist. Default works best most of the time, with Sport for passing and merging and Eco for highway cruising. EPA fuel economy ratings are 15 mpg city, 23 highway. With mostly city driving and some highway I got a 16 mpg average for the week.

CONCLUSIONS: Kia enters the executive luxury class with the K900.

Watch the introduction of the K900 at the Los Angeles Auto Show


2015 Kia K900

Base Price $ 59,500

Price As Tested $ 66,400

Engine Type DOHC 32-valve V8 with direct fuel injection and variable cam phasing on all camshafts

Engine Size 5.0 liters / 307 cu. in.

Horsepower 420 @ 6400 rpm

Torque (lb-ft) 376 @ 5000 rpm

Transmission 8-speed automatic

Wheelbase / Length 119.9 in. / 200,6 in.

Curb Weight 4555 lbs.

Pounds Per Horsepower 10.8

Fuel Capacity 19.8 gal.

Fuel Requirement 91 octane unleaded premium gasoline recommended for maximum performance

Tires P245/45 R19 / P275/40 R19 Hankook Optimo m+s

Brakes, front/rear vented disc all around, ABS, BA, ESC standard

Suspension, front/rear independent multilink / independent multilink

Drivetrain front engine, rear-wheel drive


EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 15 / 23 / 16

0 to 60 mph 5.5 sec


VIP Package -- includes: Advanced Smart Cruise Control (ASCC), Advanced Vehicle Safety Management (AVSM), power door latches, 12.3" full LCD TFT instrument cluster, head-up display (HUD), surround-view monitor, driver's seat cushion extension, front seat power headrests, power reclining rear seats, ventilated rear outboard seats, lateral adjusting rear headrests, rear-seat lumbar support $ 6,000

Inland Freight and Handling $ 900