The Kia K900 rear-wheel-drive sedan, launched for 2015, continues into the 2017 model year largely unchanged except for minor equipment revisions. The lineup has been narrowed to two trim levels: Premium and Luxury, the latter offered with either V6 or V8 power. For 2017, the VIP option packages also include a head-up display, automatic emergency braking, and adaptive cruise control.
Long known for value-priced smaller vehicles, the South Korean automaker has established a fresh reputation for stylish mainstream vehicles. Kia also has been seeking to move upscale, with the full-size K900 as the prime example.
Three configurations are available: Premium V6, Luxury V6, and Luxury V8. The 3.8-liter V6 engine develops 311 horsepower, while the 5.0-liter, direct-injected V8 generates 420 horsepower and 376 pound-feet of torque. Both engines mate with an 8-speed automatic transmission. Each powertrain is related to those used in the Genesis G80, from Hyundai’s luxury division. All-wheel drive is not available for the K900.
Passenger space approaches that of Mercedes-Benz’s big S-Class sedan, which costs far more than Kia’s top four-door. Standard equipment in each trim level ranks about average for the K900’s category.
Quiet-running and comfortable, the K900 lacks any particularly noticeable features that might distinguish it from full-size rivals. Whether it qualifies as a true luxury sedan, rather than a premium model, or even a plusher offshoot of a mainstream sedan, is debatable.
Neither the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has crash-tested the K900. Although active-safety technology is available, collision-avoidance systems are extra-cost options, offered for Luxury trim level. Most K900 competitors have made such valuable safety items standard, even in their base trim levels.
Blind-spot detection with rear cross-traffic alert is standard, along with a rearview camera and eight airbags. Lane-departure warning and a surround-view monitor are standard on the Luxury V8 model, and optional for the Luxury V6. Adaptive cruise control and automatic emergency braking may be added to either Luxury edition, as part of a $5,000 or $6,000 VIP Package.
Although little in the K900 qualifies as opulent, or differs much from what’s available in German luxury sedans, Kia’s top model commands far fewer dollars at the dealership.
Premium V6 ($49,900) includes leather seat trim, 18-inch alloy wheels, HID headlights with dynamic bending, heated power-folding mirrors, a panoramic sunroof, leather-wrapped dashboard, and aluminum interior trim. Also standard are a 9.2-inch infotainment display with navigation, 14-speaker audio, power rear sunshade, power driver and front-passenger seats, heated/ventilated front seats, and heated outboard rear seats. (Prices are MSRP and do not include $950 destination charge.)
Luxury V6 ($54,900) adds Nappa leather seating surfaces; 17-speaker, 900-watt Lexicon audio; wood interior trim; and a heated leather/wood steering wheel.
Luxury V8 ($61,900) comes with the 5.0-liter V8 engine, LED headlights, 19-inch wheels, and 12.3-inch instrument screen.
Crisp European-style bodywork is the rule for Kia’s smaller models, but the larger K900 comes across as a bit more ordinary. Though pleasant enough, the sedan looks more anonymous than its mates. Though it fits in with Kia’s midsize Optima and newly redesigned Cadenza sedans, the K900 lacks verve and imaginative detailing, when compared with some contemporary rivals.
Not every buyer yearns for a stimulating, stand-apart design, of course. Many will be more impressed by the promise of considerable comfort, punctuated by several classy cabin details. Undeniably long overall, with short front/rear overhangs, the K900 displays proportions in keeping with traditional rear-drive luxury sedans, led by an expansive hood and steeply-angled windshield.
Like its body, the K900’s interior doesn’t quite stand apart from the premium luxury pack. Yet, it feels stylish, if rather reserved. Soft-touch materials help impart a comparatively upscale tone, helped by wood trim in Luxury models but impeded by an excess of piano-black plastic, which is prone to scratching.
On the whole, K900 cabin design and materials don’t quite match those of competitive, full-fledged luxury sedans. As a result, the K900 might be deemed a premium sedan rather than an all-out luxury model.
Entering and exiting from the cheerfully bright, airy cabin is a breeze. Roominess is a valuable virtue. As many as five adults can expect abundant space in the quiet cabin, sufficient to stretch out readily. Seats are comfortably cushioned and trimmed with leather. A full-length sunroof is installed on all versions. A VIP package, optional for Luxury trim, includes a power recliner for back-seat passengers.
Controls are straightforward and easy to use. Kia provides an excellent infotainment system, even in Premium trim. Quietness is ensured by various noise-reduction measures, including underbody trays that help reduce air rush.
A comparatively heavy car, Kia’s biggest sedan is quiet and comfortable on most pavement surfaces. Easy and enjoyable enough to drive, it’s not as emphatically solid as a Mercedes-Benz sedan. While lacking the sporty behavior of a four-door Audi, the K900 promises well-composed, near-plush ride quality, yielding a moderately upscale, nicely refined overall feel. Through curves and corners, the body tends to remain quite flat, for a sedan of its type and size.
Both engines are strong, though V8 drivers might notice some evidence of lagging while accelerating hard. Exhaust noise increases when the engine is pushed, generating an unappealing rumble rather than an energetically melodic accompaniment, like some European luxury models.
Steering feels precise, if short on road feel â€“ hardly an uncommon demerit these days. As expected, the sedan’s deftly-damped suspension aims for easygoing comfort more than taut roadholding. Even on lumpy, fluctuating rural roads, the sedan’s stability-control system helps maintain satisfying balance.
Three driving modes (Normal, Eco, and Sport) are selectable, altering transmission shift points along with steering weight. Eco mode limits performance, but doesn’t produce a stifling effect. Sport mode adds a touch of powertrain responsive, but doesn’t affect road feel.
Helped by its 8-speed transmission, the K900 ranks around average in fuel economy for full-size sedans. The V6 version is EPA-rated at 17/25 mpg City/Highway, or 20 mpg Combined. With the 5.0-liter V8, the K900 is far less frugal, EPA-rated at 15/23 mpg City/Highway, or 18 mpg Combined.
While lacking any specific unique or distinctive features, the K900 delivers one singular virtue: strong value. Undeniably, the Genesis G80 from Hyundai, Kia’s parent company, promises even greater value. Still, the K900 yields quietly comfortable, predictable performance, without complexity. Shoppers in the next-luxury league, who aren’t impressed by prestige-brand nameplates, might be easily tempted by the top Kia.
Driving impressions by Andrew Ganz, The Car Connection. James M. Flammang contributed to this report.