2015 Kia K900 First Drive

  • Full Review
  • Pricing & Specs
  • Road Tests (2)
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2015 Kia K900 Sedan

(3.8L V6 8-speed Automatic)
  • 2015 Kia K900

    2015 Kia K900

    Kia finally interprets the Hyundai Equus with its own styling. It's a little derivative of European luxury sedans, and that could be a good thing. | January 30, 2014

30 Photos

Going for the Big Play

In football, the Hail Mary pass is a distance throw deep into enemy territory that has little hope of success. If it connects, not only can it change the game, but it will likely remain legendary for years to come. In some ways, the 2015 Kia K900 is a bit like that blind toss into the end zone. Unlike the desperation-tinged Hail Mary pass, though, completion isn't a win-or-lose proposition for Kia.

For the last couple of seasons, Kia has been on a winning streak. With sharp exterior styling and an epic turnaround that has seen significant improvements throughout the product range, it's not as though the company needs to gamble on such a bold play.

We traveled to Santa Barbara, California, to see firsthand if this luxury sedan has what it takes to take on the pricier and more exclusive Audi A8, BMW 7 Series and Mercedes-Benz S-Class. Consider this our scouting report.

In Formation
In the swanky valet circle, the K900 has all the presence of the German sedans parked in the distance. As is customary with Kia, the K900 is based on a related Hyundai vehicle. In this case, it's built on the Hyundai Equus platform. Comparisons to its cousins are inevitable, but the K900 does have its own distinct style to set it apart. Stylistically, it has more in common with a BMW 7 Series with its blunted nose and stretched headlights. From the rear, the BMW and some Lexus LS 460 influence are even more evident.

2015 Kia K900

The 2015 Kia K900 plays the role of premium luxury sedan very convincingly. Strip the badging off the car and the casual observer would probably never guess that it's a Kia. For the most part, the same holds true for the interior, too. A BMW-like gear selector on the center console and a suite of infotainment controls are now expected in this class, and the K900 delivers. Door-mounted seat controls take a page out of the Mercedes playbook. In terms of materials quality, the Kia approaches German standards. Premium Napa leather surfaces have the look, feel and, yes, even the smell of the well-established luxury sedans.

In the bells and whistles department there's a large 9.2-inch central display, tri-zone automatic climate control, heated and ventilated front seats and a 17-speaker, 900-watt audio system that delivers clear highs and powerful bass. Other standard features include 19-inch wheels, a panoramic sunroof, adaptive LED headlights and a power trunk lid. These items are often costly optional extras in Audi, BMW, Lexus and Mercedes flagships.

Our K900 also includes the $6,000 VIP package that adds soft-close doors, virtual gauges, a head-up display, adaptive cruise control, a surround-view camera system, 16-way power-adjustable front seats, reclining rear seats with heated and ventilated outboard positions and additional safety features (self-tensioning belts and frontal collision warning).

Our fully loaded Kia K900 V8 VIP test vehicle represents the only model that will be initially offered when it hits West Coast and Southern state dealerships in mid-February. With an as-tested price of $66,400, the K900 V8 VIP undercuts those sedans' base V8 price by $10,000-$20,000.

Power To Make the Push
Under the bulky hood of our 2015 Kia K900 is a 5.0-liter V8 producing a respectable 420 horsepower and 376 pound-feet of torque. An eight-speed automatic (the only shifting option) sends power to the rear wheels. Following the launch of the K900, a 311-hp 3.8-liter V6 will be available, along with models without the VIP package.

2015 Kia K900

A tap of the start button awakens the V8, not with a roar, but with a subtle shudder. The engine idles smoothly enough to have you double-checking whether it's actually running. In normal driving conditions, acceleration is as linear as an electric car and free of any drama. Even under hard acceleration, there's no burly growl. Given its crypt-quiet cabin, that suits the K900 just fine. But dropping a few gears to pass slower traffic requires a bit more throttle than we'd expect.

As we wander from Santa Barbara on highways and the vineyard-lined back roads, the K900 provides a pleasantly quiet cabin. We make liberal use of the adaptive cruise control, which smoothly transitions from acceleration and braking in order to maintain our preferred interval. The system even brings us to a complete stop, then accelerates with a tap of the "Resume" button if we're stationary for more than a second or so.

As the road squirms through the foothills, the big Kia maintains its composure. The 4,555-pound curb weight is obvious if the big sedan corners with enthusiasm, and body roll is present but not excessive. The brakes are up to the task, providing the strength to scrub speed quickly but offering response delicate enough for limousine-quality stops. From the driver seat, the K900's overall performance is good, though it still lacks the composure of its sharper German rivals.

Fuel economy could be better: The EPA estimates 18 mpg combined (15 city/23 highway). Most of its competitors outperform the K900 by a few mpg.

Luxury Is the Name of the Game
If the Kia K900 has any chance of success, it has to deliver class-competitive comfort and isolation. For the most part it does so. Engine and road noise are both damped to virtual nonexistence. Except for a slight whistling by the mirrors, wind noise is nearly silenced.

Moderate bumps in the road are transmitted into the cabin and rough roads will keep the driver fairly busy, especially if Sport mode — which noticeably livens up the steering — is engaged. Air-ride suspension, which is offered on many cars in this segment, is not available, nor is adjustable damping. Even so, we didn't find the ride objectionable.

Front seats feature 16-way power adjustment as well as heating or ventilation. After hours behind the wheel, fatigue is nonexistent. The heated and ventilated outboard rear seats are equally comfortable and feature sliding/reclining adjustments with an abundance of head- and legroom. The center seat lacks the padding of the ones flanking it, and with a center hump occupying its floor space, it's really meant for use in a pinch. The center armrest will be deployed most of the time anyway, as it houses most of the comfort-related controls.

Just Short of the Goal Line
Comfort, features, style and performance all bode well for the 2015 Kia K900, but there are some items that snap us back to reality. We are pleased with the interior design and supple leather surfaces, but the trim's plastic look and feel are below standard for the class. We're assured it's genuine wood, but the thick coating of glitter-infused lacquer suggests otherwise. And although the cabin is packed with features, the buttons that control them lack the precision this segment demands.

2015 Kia K900

Other minor annoyances include the lack of controls available to the rear-seat passengers. Though the rear temperature and ventilation, sunshade and the front passenger seat are all accessible from the rear seats, audio functionality and sunroof controls are distinctly absent. Missing, too, are rear-seat trays and entertainment options. While the virtual gauges in front of the driver function well and lend a modern look, direct sunlight has a tendency to wash them out.

Our biggest complaint, however, is reserved for the infotainment system. Its complicated and counterintuitive menu structures were frustrating and continued to be a burden even after extended use.

This Is a Kia?
Perhaps the biggest hurdle for the 2015 Kia K900 lies in its very ambition. A luxury flagship sedan bearing a Kia badge is sure to raise a few eyebrows. When we pressed Scott McKee, Kia's director of public relations, on what success for the K900 would look like, the reality of brand recognition was of obvious concern.

Kia maintains that the K900 won't be judged on sales figures, as its intent is to elevate the brand as a whole. The notion of people seeing and experiencing the vehicle and reacting with, "This is a Kia?" could possibly lead shoppers to less expensive supporting models.

Success is something the market will decide in the end. Assuming that the K900 won't be a volume seller reinforces our assertion that it's a Hail Mary pass. It has the potential to make the highlight reel if it connects, but it won't decide the outcome of the game.

Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.

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Most Recommended Comments

By dfelix70
on 01/31/14
12:55 AM PST

The positioning of this car (and the Equus) is getting a bit annoying. Saying that it's going head to head with the A8/7/S is such a fallacy. Comparably equipped Germans models will cost plenty more than just $10k or $20k difference. Folks don't buy full-size German cars to have stripped-down versions and they are very unlikely to cross-shop the Koreans. If anything, buyers of the A6/5/E will see the K900 and Equus as comparably-priced, roomier, and better-equipped alternatives. Just because a car is the same size as another and offers similar power, does not necessarily make it an automatic competitor.

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By screwball71
on 01/31/14
9:19 AM PST

It doesn't have the panache, opulence, pedigree, refinement, build quality, or the right country of origin to even pose the slightest risk to Germans. I wish someone at Edmunds would answer me back when I ask this question: Do y'all really believe this car is going to woo anyone from a Sonderklasse or 700 Series buyer? Do you think ANY Lexus LS owner would give up their supremely built Japanese sedan for this thing that is sold right next to a Forte? All this Equus/Genesis/K900 mumbo jumbo is getting out of hand. Someone needs to remind Kyundai that they are NOT ready for the likes of Acura, Audi, BMW, Cadillac, Lexus, Infiniti, Mercedes Benz, or even Volvo. And anyone who says, OMG I really wanted a S550 but I think I just might settle for this K900, NEVER could really afford a S-Class to begin with. People who buy those kinds of cars AREN'T in the business of SETTLING.

Recommend  (32) (60)

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By kiiwii
on 02/01/14
2:30 AM PST

can't afford a real luxury ride? should have worked harder.

Recommend  (7) (29)

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