by Ian Wright
Kia's flagship sedan is the company's best-kept secret in the US. It's sales numbers over here are measured in hundreds, yet the Kia K900 is a terrific luxury sedan. The only problem it has now is that it doesn't have a premium badge.
In South Korea and other countries, it's called the K9 or the Quoris and sells well. For 2019, Kia gave the K900 a full redesign with the US market in mind, and the automaker has focussed on increasing the handling dynamics and premium content while making the vehicle bigger. On top of providing a beautifully comfortable and understated car, the Kia K900 delivers fantastic value for money and a twin-turbo 3.3-liter V6 lifted from the Kia Stinger to deliver ample performance. Kia originally introduced the K9 to the US market during the recession when it noticed Americans were downsizing its luxury vehicles. Things are different now, though, and Kia has upped its game but retained the excellent value proposition. If you can overlook the non-premium badge on the nose, the K900 could just be one of the best luxury sedans you'll ever buy.
The K900 comes off of a full redesign for 2019. Kia has not minced their intentions with the second generation of their luxury sedan, which has grown not only in stature but in overall capability as well. The 2019 K900 is longer and wider than the outgoing model with the wheelbase stretching out to 122.2 inches, 2.3 inches longer than the first-gen, while standard power is now supplied by a gem of a turbocharged V6 engine, sending power to all four wheels. The V8 engine has been discontinued. On the tech side of things, new safety and infotainment features keep the K900 relevant for 2019.
It would seem that Kia had gone for function over form when they redesigned the K900. It looks better than the outgoing model, which was about as exciting as a pharmaceutical rep conference, but it still looks like an amorphous luxury barge with no distinctive Kia design language to speak of; this coming from a brand that designed the Soul, which has become popular around the world in part because of its oddball design, and the racy Stinger. What the K900 does well is hide premium exterior features such as dual-lens LED headlights, active aero, rain-sensing window wipers and a power sunroof underneath a body design that is the car equivalent to Agent Smith from the Matrix. This understated look might appeal to those who prefer to fly under the radar, but even so, a touch of design flair would go a long way to give an otherwise capable car some personality. At least they've given it 19-inch alloy wheels, but even these pale in comparison to the flashy wheels you can select on your favorite German luxo-barge.
The Kia K900 slots into the full-sized luxury sedan class without any hesitation, especially after its recent redesign which has seen the Korean barge grow in length and width. With a total length of 201.6 inches on a 122.2-inch wheelbase, one can get a good idea of the exterior size. A width of 75.4 inches and a height of 58.7 means that new owners will have to get used to maneuvering the big Korean in and out of tight garages and parking spots. As is the nature of big luxury sedans, the K900 has sacrificed a moderate curb weight in favor of piling on the features. The 2019 Kia K900 weighs in at a stout 4,662 pounds, only 32 pounds more than it's Korean cousin the Genesis G90.
If you're ever battling to fall asleep, just glancing through the 2019 Kia K900's color palette should almost guarantee a solid eight hours of shuteye. A total of seven colors are on offer, each carefully curated to match the underwhelming design of the exterior. Snow White Pearl and Silky Silver are the only two hues available on the lighter side of the color spectrum, while the remaining five all take on various shades of 90s business suit. There's the gray/green Lake Stone, dark maroon Marsala, Deep Chrome Blue, Aurora Black Pearl and the awesomely named Panthera Metal, which is coincidentally also the best-looking color on the K900.
The 2019 K900 is powered by a turbocharged 3.3-liter V6 producing 365 horsepower and channels its power through an eight-speed automatic transmission to a now-standard all-wheel-drive system that is capable of shifting 80% of its power to the rear wheels. It might not be as characterful as the brawny V8 from the first generation model, but it's got a whole lot of turbocharged zest, which sees the big Korean hammering out the 0-60 mph sprint in five seconds dead. There may be offerings from BMW and Mercedes that do it quicker, but when you're living your best life in the back seat of a luxury sedan, you don't want to be haring around at super-sedan pace.
Kia has opted to go with the smaller capacity turbocharged V6 instead of the larger, heavier and thirstier naturally aspirated V8 found in the previous generation K900. The 3.3-liter V6 engine, borrowed from other Hyundai/Kia offerings like the Stinger GT, features double overhead cams and four valves per cylinder as well as continuously variable valve timing, direct injection and idle stop and go technology. A traditional eight-speed automatic gearbox mated to an electronically controlled AWD transfer case puts the power down on the black stuff. The turbocharged six-pot generates ample figures, with 365 hp and 376 lb-ft of torque on tap.
We've reached a point where a turbocharged V6 engine can give the smooth and torquey power that V8s traditionally supplied, and the Kia V6 is a case in point. Acceleration from the engine, backed up by the super-smooth eight-speed transmission, is effortless all the time, and then rapid when you want it to be. Added to that is a drive-mode feature that allows a granular approach to customizing the drive experience from steering-weight to engine response or the amount of noise being piped in through the speakers.
If you were to close your eyes while you're driving, it would be incredibly inadvisable, but you would be hard-pressed to believe you're in a Kia. After fiddling with the drive modes, we concluded that the K900 is not threatening to be a sports sedan along the lines of a BMW 7 Series, despite the upgrade in dynamics and its relationship with Kia's Stinger model.
Comfort mode is king, and the K900 excels within itself as a comfortable cruiser. While it will happily drop a gear and deliver some crisp and controlled cornering, the joy to be found is in wafting around the city or down the freeway in understated luxury. Then, in its back pocket, the K900 has all the thrust you need to pass dawdling traffic and get where you need to be on time.
The modern internal combustion engine has been honed to a level where full-sized, turbocharged executive luxury sedans weighing close to 5,000 pounds can still manage to return gas mileage numbers that would've been seen as frugal for an average family sedan two decades ago. The 2019 K900, powered by that 3.3-liter turbo V6 will return an EPA estimated 18/25/21 mpg city/highway/combined. The Kia K900 is fitted with a 20.3-gallon fuel tank, which will allow it to waft its occupants around for an estimated combined range of 426 miles. The 21.9-gallon fuel tank in the Genesis G90 affords it a combined range of nearly 450 miles, despite a 20 mpg combined gas mileage figure.
We covered a lot of freeway miles, as well as time in the city, and pretty much hit the EPA estimates for the K900. Refilling the car's big tank made us wince but, considering the range once its done, it just means traveling further between visits to the gas station.
The interior of the K900 has a decidedly premium European look and feel, in part due to a clean and sophisticated design that flows seamlessly from door card to dashboard and center console. Kia has left no stone unturned in terms of interior features, and list close to 80 on their website. A head-up display, three-zone climate control and wireless phone charging technology are but a few worth mentioning. Plush leathers adorn every surface, ambient lighting gives the cabin the look of either a high-class business lounge or cheap club - depending on which of the 64 colors you set it to - and a huge infotainment display spanning 12.3 inches stands proud in the center of the wood-trimmed dash.
When it comes to filling the K900 with a driver and passengers, there are absolutely no complaints when it comes to space and comfort. While it's a pleasure to drive, the K900 is also a pleasure to ride in the back of with a chauffeur up front. Legroom is ample, even for those of a taller persuasion, and that also applies to the head and elbow room throughout the car. Adjustability is also excellent for the driver and passengers, and there's no excuse for anyone to be uncomfortable on a long drive. Kia has also included a "chauffeur switch" that moves the front passenger seat to clear room for the seat behind and then tilts it to its most forward position.
The K900 offers the kind of quality in materials cars twice its price offers, and it's not until you look carefully for the judicious use of cheaper plastics that you'll find them. Kia has done a great job of making sure less expensive materials are tucked away and not used for touchpoints and leaves you free to enjoy the cushy high-end leather seats and unpolished wood trim.
Out test car arrived in black Nappa leather, and while it was comfortable and elegant, the black interior with a little wood felt bland. We would recommend looking at the Beige Nappa or Brown Sienna Nappa leather interior for a more elevated atmosphere inside.
Kia designed the K900 for carrying around five people in five-star luxury, which in turn has somewhat limited cargo capacity, which remains generous, but not class-leading. The trunk of the Kia K900 measures 15.3 cubic feet, which is less than you get in some mid-size sedans such as the Toyota Camry or Honda Accord. Another limiting factor is the fact that the rear seats aren't foldable, although Kia has thought it reasonable to include a passthrough section for longer items. In terms of cargo space, you'll be able to fit around 100 neatly folded business shirts within the trunk of the K900 and still have space to spare.
Small-item storage is ample, especially in the rear, where backseat passengers are offered spacious seat and door pockets, while passengers in the front have a center console and glove box at their disposal, along with a pair of cupholders and large door pockets.
The features list of the 2019 Kia K900 is something to behold; in a bid to attract buyers of more traditional luxury sedans, Kia has flooded the K900 with everything that opens and closes automatically. Starting with the exterior, notable features include auto-dimming side mirrors, a power trunk lid, LED lighting with auto control, low beam assist and daytime running lights, and a power sunroof. The interior is where the real show is; standout features worth mentioning include a head-up display unit, three-zone climate control, front and rear USB charging ports and wireless phone charging, an auto-dimming rearview mirror with HomeLink technology and ambient 64-color LED interior lighting. The K900 goes the extra mile in terms of luxury features by including specialized items such as a coat hanger, overhead sunglasses holder, surround-view monitoring and even a front-passenger chauffeur seat switch. The safety features are typical of Kia's premium offerings, with everything from blind-spot monitoring and adaptive cruise control to lane-keep assist and safe exit detection, all under the Kia Drive Wise system.
While the technology and operating system in the K900 are excellent, the long list of standard infotainment features includes a 900-watt Lexicon 17-speaker sound system. It's a truly beautiful system, and one of the best we've tested in a long time. The sound system sets the bar for the infotainment system to match, and it gets close. The 12.3-inch touchscreen is responsive, and the software easy and intuitive to use. It's also positioned well for both the driver and passenger to use, and can be controlled easily by rear passengers via the console set into the rear armrest. It's jam-packed with functionality, too, incorporating AM/FM/MP3 functionality as ell as Bluetooth, satellite navigation, a Wi-Fi hotspot, satellite radio, HD Radio, wireless charging up front and in the rear, and full Apple CarPlay/Android Auto functionality.
Prospective buyers can breathe a sigh of relief: the K900 has not had a single recall since going on sale in the U.S. and the people over at J.D. Power considered it to be "better than most" when it came to predicted reliability. Of course, this is also hinging on the fact that it hasn't been on sale for more than a year. Kia's class-leading warranty leaves the competition in the dust: buy a new K900, and your powertrain will be covered for ten years or 100,000 miles, while a basic warranty of five-years or 60,000 miles is as impressive. Kia also includes a five-year/100,000 mile rust and corrosion warranty, along with a five-year/60,000 mile roadside assistance plan.
As is the case with most luxury cars, the 2019 Kia K900 has not been tested by either the NHTSA or IIHS, who lack the appetite for destroying $50,000+ vehicles that only sell in their hundreds. There is no doubt that the K900 would deliver an impressive performance whenever given a chance thanks to an extensive list of safety features including an array of active safety and driver assistance features and the fact that its close relative, the Genesis G90, managed to achieve a Top Safety Pick+ award from the IIHS. Kia lists over 40 safety features on their website just to put things into perspective.
All the traditional safety features are present, but some exciting inclusions are brake fade compensation which automatically increases hydraulic pressure as brake temperatures rise, and cornering brake control. A slew of nine airbags in the front and rear will cushion corporate heads from the hard streets below, incorporating rear seat-mounted airbags for executive protection. The K900's biggest party trick is its extensive list of active safety features that will warn the driver of almost anything short of potholes 200 miles up the road. The list of safety tech starts off with blind-spot avoidance, warning, and monitoring which pairs up with a driver attention warning (DAW) system that monitors the driver's activity, and sends out a notification when it notices any slip in concentration. Forward collision warning with pedestrian detection assists the driver with automatic braking while lane departure warning and lane-keep assist make sure the K900 remains in line. Rear cross-traffic collision avoidance and warning keeps the rear safe while the safe exit assist system can detect oncoming traffic and alert occupants when it is dangerous to exit the vehicle. Smart cruise control and a head-up display system place the cherry on top of the safety cake.
We felt that the week-long test of the K900 came to a close too soon. It was a joy to live with for the week, and for friends and family to be ferried out to dinner and a party in. The lack of pretension was a breath of fresh air in something so luxurious and left us just to enjoy the car for what it is and not what it costs. The K900 is an excellent car for passengers, but also the driver. We found ourselves relaxing and enjoying going from A to B, even in heavy California traffic. It also manages to have an old school charm while featuring new technology that works as you expect or delivers betting than the badge implies.
What nails down the Kia K900 is the value proposition for those that can live without the brand cachet offered by large European sedans. For the money, the K900 delivers everything it should and a lot more. We're not sure we should compare it to the European counterparts, though, as it is an unpretentious yet refined car that can fly under the radar while its owner enjoys the good fortune of being able to afford it. Even then, for around $60,000, it doesn't mean someone has to be stinking rich to provide that level of class and luxury. The only downside for many is that the lack of pretension could be interpreted as bland.
Pricing on the K900 is a simple affair; the Korean luxury sedan starts off with an MSRP of $59,900 before options and a $995 destination fee. Kia hopes that an aggressive pricing strategy will lead to more sales of their underrated luxury land boat, and considering the fact that its relative the Genesis G90 is priced almost $10,000 more in base form makes the K900 look all the more appealing. Traditional rivals from Europe such as the Audi A8 only start at the $80k mark, and won't offer many standard features by comparison.
There's one trim level on offer (Luxury), which means the options list stands in place of the more traditional trim hierarchy. The good news is that most of the significant features are already included as standard; LED lighting, a 12.3-inch touch-screen display, a head-up display, forward collision warning, and adaptive cruise control are but a few of the standard features found in the 2019 K900. What Kia offers is a full-house; the K900 is jam-packed with virtually all of the tech and safety goodies on offer, which is a pleasant departure from the industry standard of asking a premium for more advanced features.
3.3-liter Twin-Turbo V6 Gas
Kia has been so generous with the K900's list of standard safety features, that there are only four optional extras to choose from, the most significant being the $4,000 VIP package which consists of a rear wireless phone charger pad, power-adjustable and ventilated rear seats with lumbar support and a svelte Charmude headliner. The addition of a 12.3-inch full LCD meter display and a chauffeur front seat switch which allows the driver to move the front passenger seat from the driving position adds to the K900's image as a stealth corporate limousine which offers more than the eye can reveal.
With just one trim level, this question is easy to answer. If the K900 is to be used for ferrying rear passengers around, the VIP package is essential and relatively inexpensive. From there, you may as well add the paint protection, bumper applique, and wheel locks for $455. That puts you in a fully loaded luxury car for $65,350 out the door.
As of 2019, the Genesis G90 and Kia K900 share the same chassis and drivetrain, which Kia hopes will help improve sales of their premier luxury vehicle in the US. The Genesis G90 is powered by the same turbocharged V6 as found in the K900, with the most significant difference being the fact that the G90 sends its power to the rear wheels as standard, while the K900 channels its 365 hp to all four wheels. The Genesis G90 is slightly heavier on fuel, returning 17/24/20 mpg city/highway/combined. The G90 offers more interior room and a slightly larger trunk. A Top Safety Pick+ award from the IIHS puts the G90 in front, but a premium of close to $10,000 over the Kia is a hard pill to swallow. Choose the G90 if you want a bit of flash, or go for the K900 if you prefer flying under the radar.
The ceaseless push by Korean car manufacturers to offer cars that surpass European standards in terms of luxury, safety, driving experience and most importantly, value, is exemplified at the top of the pile, where luxury sedans duke it out in a shrinking but traditionally significant sector of the market. The BMW 7 Series is a household name in luxury motoring, and the 2019 model does not fail to impress. Powering the Teutonic behemoth in 740i guise is a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine producing 320 hp and 330 lb-ft of torque, significantly less than the K900, although the K900 has to lug around almost 500 pounds more bodyweight. The BMW offers a larger interior with superior rear legroom and a larger trunk, and the interior feels better put together overall. Technology and safety tech is on par, but the Kia can't be beaten for standard features. The BMW demands a premium of almost $25,000 over the Kia, making the Korean contender all the more appealing, despite its lack of prestige.