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2015 KIA K900 Review By Steve Purdy

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2015 KIA K900
By Steve Purdy
The Auto Channel
Michigan Bureau

For a company that less than two short decades ago was making nothing but dismal small sedans Kia has come a long, long way. Here is the best example to date of how a sow’s ear (the company, that is) can become a silk purse – the Kia K900 full-size luxury sedan. With V8 power, rear-wheel drive, plenty of technology and high-end design both inside and out, the K900 can compete with anything in its class, and easily beat comparable luxury sedans on price.

Now, don’t get me wrong, top end Audi, Mercedes, Jaguar and a handful of other full-size luxury sedans, all of which cost considerably more, will out shine the Kia by a bit, but not by much.

We scored the K900 for our annual trek to the Chicago Auto Show in early February. We can usually count on some harsh winter weather at that time of year, particularly as we scoot along the edge of Lake Michigan. We were not disappointed. While the roads were mostly clear on that smooth highway jaunt into Chicago, as soon as we started home a good covering of snow added that other element of winter to the already bitter below zero temperatures.

The K900’s styling is conservative but attractive, in my view. It takes queues from the other successful members of the large luxury sedan class, particularly Lexus, and adds some of the Kia family details including the characteristic chipmunk grille. With just a cursory glance it reflects the profile and stance of a very large car. In fact it shares much with sister Korean company Hyundai’s Equus. A luxurious cabin with huge rear seat and upscale appointments do not disappoint. An analog clock in the center of the horizontally oriented dash compliments the other details we expect in a luxury sedan. The wood trim, though, is overly polished and unless you look close it looks more like piano-black plastic.

Ergonomics inside are mostly good. I found the controls intuitive for the most part although browsing around the multi-function screen was sometimes a challenge. They could learn something from Audi and Lexus in this regard. I’m also not fond of the electronic shift control, a large round knob on the console that often had me in a gear I hadn’t intended. The heated steering wheel got downright hot quite quickly but the heated seats did not. The seats are big and comfortable, though with just enough lateral support and firmness. The cabin is remarkably quiet even at extra-legal speeds and we hear no wind or tire noise. To their everlasting credit the Kia designers have located the seat adjustment controls on the door panel where they are easy to access.

The K900, and its cousin Equus, were designed to be chauffeur driven in Asian markets and its capacious and comfortable rear compartment reflects that market. The heated and ventilated rear seats recline but unlike some of the competition we have no rear entertainment or seatback trays. You’ll feel like a potentate back there. A power rear window screen will keep the sun off the back of your neck and the panoramic sunroof will allow you to enjoy the top of the skyscrapers as you cruise through the city.

The K900 is powered by a 5.0-liter, direct-injected V8 making 420 horsepower and 376 pound-feet of torque mated to an 8-speed, shift-by-wire (no mechanical linkage) transmission. Three driving modes – Eco, Normal and Sport – vary throttle response, shift points, steering dynamics and a variety of other elements. Acceleration, particularly in ‘Sport’ mode, is excellent and Edmunds testing measured it at a good 5.7 seconds 0-to 60 mph. The EPA rates this powertrain at 15 mpg in the city, 23 on the highway and 20 combined on regular fuel– not best in class for V8-powered luxury sedans but some of the others require premium. I managed 24.8 on one section of our freeway drive back from Chicago when traffic and road conditions kept us at around 60 mph. Otherwise we were within the EPA ratings.

Speaking of that challenging drive around the bottom of Lake Michigan we’ll note that all-wheel drive is not offered with the K900. Here in the northern climates that is becoming an expected option for most large sedans. Each time the car lost traction we felt it right away and the car adjusted not as quickly as we might expect. The electronic chassis dynamics allowed it to get a bit further off kilter before intervening, even at low speeds, than some of its competitors. Otherwise, I found the handling and driving dynamics excellent. Some other reviewers, I noticed, criticized the K900 for a lack of ride quality over rough pavement. I disagree after experiencing plenty of that on Chicago’s surface streets.

Our test car shows a base price just under $60,000 including an impressive array of standard content, like: 19-inch alloy wheels, 3-zone climate control, premium sound system, navigation with big 9.2 inch screen, blind spot detection, rear cross traffic alert, lane departure warning, front and rear cameras, premium leather seating and trim, push button start, power adjustable steering wheel, sunshades, power trunk, panoramic sunroof, adaptive LED headlights, and a plethora of other stuff. We have a $6,000 “VIP Package” that includes: adaptive cruise control, LCD instruments, head-up display, extra seat features front and rear. The bottom line on our sticker shows $66,400. Compare that feature to feature with its competitors and you’ll be amazed.

Kia’s warranty covers the whole car for 5 years or 60,000 miles and the powertrain for 10 years or 100,000 miles.

The Kia K900 will satisfy the owner who want a big and luxurious sedan without drawing attention to him/her self. Upon close inspection it projects an image of heft and quality without an ounce of ostentation.

Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved