The K900 Review: Livin’ Large in Kia’s $67,000 Sedan
The first time you climb inside of Kia’s gargantuan K900 luxury sedan there is a realization that you could log over a dozen hours of windshield time and rack up 800 miles on the odometer and it still wouldn’t be enough driving time. It may have the fuel economy and curb weight of a Norwegian fishing barge, but when you’re this goddamn comfortable you really don’t care what kind of mileage you’re getting just as long as it’s this car that’s taking you there.
In short, the K900 is a fantastic first attempt at luxury from Kia, because despite its nameplate and heritage, this car offers almost everything one could want in in a luxury model for far less than anything on the market today. It has the legroom of a personal yacht, there is headroom for an NBA star (no, but actually), and it has a ride that makes you wonder if the tires have been replaced with Jet-Puffed marshmallows. This is an extremely comfortable car to ride in, with seats that cauterize, cool, conform, and comfort your every curve, and genuine Napa leather adorns every angle in an attempt to assure us that this vehicle is indeed a cut above the crowd.
You don’t really “drive” Kia’s K900; that seems far too crude of a task. The word “glide” would be far more appropriate, as it floats over obstacles and absorbs obnoxious knocks, all while the 420-horsepower V8 waits to kick like a raging Panzer tank at a moment’s notice. This sedan truly is a magnificent thing to experience if you are okay with a modern-day Korean interpretation of the luxury cars of yesteryear. Which leads us to the K900’s first major hurdle: Its lineage, because… well… it doesn’t have one.
We know full-well that Korean automakers have upped their game exponentially over the past five years alone, and yet Americans still think that buying a Lexus LS460 is going to grant them that much more seniority over something like the K900. That’s not to say that there is anything wrong with the LS460 (it’s truly a fine piece of machinery), but let’s not forget that in the early 1990s car buyers were hesitant about committing to Japanese luxury brands out of fear that BMW owners were going to make fun of them for not getting a “real luxury automobile.” Back then, owning a Lexus meant you had a Camry with leather seats, power everything, and a next generation laser disc player that skipped on every bump. But despite their early beginnings, Infiniti, Acura, and Lexus have remained strong over the years. Being based around brands Americans trusted and knew gave them that much more of an advantage.
This leads us back to this palisade of poshness seen here. By now, many Americans have shrugged-off the notion that Korean cars are inferior, as both positive reviews and long-term reliability have increased exponentially since the mid 2000s. But the minute you put “$67,000″ and “Kia” in the same sentence, people scoff and make snide remarks about how there is no way it could be a good car, which is like saying that you refuse to buy a modern Lexus because it is nothing more than gussied-up Camry. However, these people have never gotten behind the wheel of one. So we did.
While some people may be inclined to the sportier slice of the luxury market, there still are lots of drivers out there who just want something comfy. Some advice: Test drive the K900, but wait to see what the next incarnation entails. There aren’t a plethora of problems with the K900, but there certainly are some oversights and design decisions that could use some amending — starting with those super cushy “Amplitude Selective Dampers.” While undeniably smooth, under heavy braking and cornering they are entirely too supple. There also is the issue with the brakes themselves and the steering, which even in “Sport Mode” feel about as firm as a bowl of oatmeal, as you sway in and out of lanes on the interstate with the lane departure warning beeping incessantly.
Outside of these few gripes, the mechanical-side of the K900 is quite solid. We found ourselves taking more issue with Kia’s styling and layout options than with the way the car performed. Again, there weren’t any major deal-breakers in the amenity division, but you do get the feeling that waiting for the next generation might be your best bet.
Inside the cabin, you’ll find that there is entirely too much faux wood in this car, and choosing to encase the top of the steering wheel with this hard plastic means you’ll singe or shiver every time you touch it. A sleek piano black or polished nickel color would make the interior look far less dated, and while the steering wheel has lots of controls, their layout seems unnatural, so you can’t really adjust volume without moving your hand and taking your eyes off the road (though we imagine that over time you’ll get used to this if you have really long thumbs).
There was also an issue with the gauge cluster — it’s completely digital, and if sunlight hits the polished steering column at the proper angle, you won’t be able to see it at all. The control buttons could be a little heavier, the BMW-inspired shift lever is polished but overly sensitive, and while the K900 has a bevy of outboard cameras covering every angle of the car, the video quality is a dash grainy for today’s modern age. It also suffers from a few late 1990s aesthetic issues, like the overly chromed-out grille and the matching 19-inch chrome wheels. Further, the K900’s grille-mounted camera has to be one of the most poorly placed pieces of technology imaginable, and is not stealthy at all.
But that’s about it from the complaint department. For the money you’ll be hard-pressed to find this much luxury in anything else on the market today, because when Kia says the K900 comes loaded, they aren’t joking. From the automatic rear window shade to the unobtrusive heads-up display with lane departure and blind spot warnings, this car has it all. Sure, the headliner isn’t real suede, but it still feels good, and when those sunroof shades open to reveal a panoramic view of the heavens above, you’ll suddenly be a believer too.
The infotainment, navigation, and audio are easy enough to access and control, and computer reaction times were quite adequate. The air conditioned seats had three settings for intensity as did their heated portion, and the rear seat’s center armrest-mounted control system was sharp to say the least. Cubbies and storage areas were plentiful, as were USB ports and soft-glow LED lighting touches, and the ever-adjusting LED headlamps kept up with the road regardless of what twisties awaited.
Backseat legroom in this car is fantastic to say the least. Driver visibility is superb, thanks to all of those gargantuan rear windows, and the trunk is large enough to fit several golf bags and still have room for more. Outside of the overly “blinged-out” grille and the chrome wheels, we liked the external styling of the car, and while it may not be the most original-looking design, those integrated exhaust ports, C-shaped mirror signals, and properly proportioned lines give us even more reason to like the K900. Hell, even the front windows utilize a water-repelling hydrophobic coating that helps improve visibility, and the side mirrors automatically fold in when the car turns off.
There is a reason why Car and Driver calls the K900 the “nicest Lincoln Town Car ever,” for it truly is an homage to the boats of yesteryear, all while carrying the modern amenities we demand for very little money. It has a stout V8, offers all the interior space you could ever need, glides wherever it goes, sports the soft touches of real luxury, and doesn’t look half bad in the process. Virtually every aspect of this car works well, and for that we must commend Kia — getting this close to hitting a home run right off the bat is a tough thing to accomplish. Sure, the K900 may not be a full-blown grand slam, but it’s at least a triple. So with a bit of luck maybe the next generation of the K900will be the car that makes the wealthy realize that owning a Kia is nothing to be ashamed of anymore.