Kia takes a seat at the big kids table with new 2015 Kia K900

2015 Kia K900Meaning to prove to American consumers Kia can build a luxury car every bit as good as the BMW 7-Series or Lexus LS460, the K900 is Kia’s first rear-wheel-drive luxury sedan brought to market in North America.

After driving it for a week, and again on the Northwest Automotive Press Association’s road trip event, Run To The Sun, I came away impressed. However, my first question to the Kia rep was, “At $66,400 (as tested) exactly who is going to buy this car?” In my view that’s a lot of money for a car that built its brand on small, economical, lower-market vehicles. She answered, “People who understand value, and aren’t concerned with their car, or anything else in their life, being a status symbol. This is a car for independent thinkers.”

How much of a value is it? The K900 V8 is priced $13,000 less than the Lexus LS460, $14,000 less than a V6 Jaguar XJ, $15,000 less than the V6 Audi A8, $18,000 less than a six-cylinder BMW 740, and a whopping $33,000 less than a Mercedes-Benz S550. Plus, it comes with a 10-year, 100,000 mile, limited powertrain warranty — better than any of those competitors.

Model Lineup: The 2015 Kia K900 comes with a choice of V6 or V8 engines, married to an 8-speed automatic transmission.

The 3.8-liter V6 offers 311 horses and rides on 18-inch alloy wheels. Standard features include leather upholstery and trim, three-zone climate control, 12-way driver with memory/8-way passenger heated and ventilated power seats, heated rear seats with pass-through, aluminum cabin trim, adaptive HID headlights, LED fog, tail and running lamps, power trunklid, smart key remote/pushbutton start, rain-sensing wipers, power-folding auto-dimming outside mirrors, illuminated scuff plates, 900-watt 17-speaker Lexicon AM/FM/HD/CD/XM sound system with USB/aux in and UVO eServices, Bluetooth, navigation, front and rear cameras, power tilt/telescope steering wheel, electro-luminescent instruments, front/rear parking sensors with park guidance, and manual side and power rear window shades. Options on the V6 include a panoramic moonroof, soft-close doors, Nappa perforated and piped leather, heated leather/wood steering wheel, blind spot/rear cross traffic alerts, smart cruise control with full-stop, advanced vehicle safety management system, 16-way power front seats and wood trim.

The V8 version boasts a 420 horsepower, 5-liter powerplant, and 19-inch chrome alloy wheels with low-profile tires. The V8 adds Nappa leather, wood trim, LED headlights, panoramic moonroof, heated leather/wood steering wheel, blind spot/rear cross traffic alerts and credit-card size smart key. The $6,000 VIP package adds soft-close doors, 12.3-inch TFT instrument cluster, around view monitor, advanced vehicle safety management, 16-way power front seats, ventilated power-reclining rear seats, power 60/40 reclining rear seats and head-up display.

Standard safety features on both models include front, front side-impact, rear side-impact and side curtain airbags, front belt pretensioners, front and rear cameras, electronic stability and traction control, brake assist and tire pressure monitors.

Walkaround: The K900 looks like a larger version of Kia’s full-size Cadenza with enlarged rear doors. It does have a longer, sleeker front overhang than the Cadenza. The V8 gets a distinctive 2×4 LED headlight array, and curiously, the back-up lights use bulbs, not LEDs.

There’s a purely cosmetic front fender vent, while badging and headlights are the main exterior differences between V8 and V6.

The V8 models use chromed alloy 19-inch wheels that are wider in back than the front, while 18-inch wheels on the V6 Alloys are same-sized all around.

Kia’s signature grille features chrome latticework, and there’s a smaller lower grille.

The short power decklid can be opened and closed from the driver’s seat revealing 16 cubic feet of trunk space — more than an Audi A8, less than a Lexus LS 460. Trapezoidal exhaust outlets, tube and rectangular lighting elements along with some chrome, finish out the rear detail.

Interior: The interior is plush — all leather, wood and chrome, showcased by black lacquer finishes. The seats are big, with cushy leather surfaces, and soft-touch panels. They adjust via Mercedes-like door-mounted switches laid out in the exact pattern of what they adjust. A suede headliner, leather wrapped assist handles, thick floor mats and thoughtful features like lower door pillars that aren’t hard plastic, and illuminated scuff plates all convey that large luxury car ambiance.

Steering wheel controls are logically arranged and easy to use. Our test vehicle had the TFT instrument cluster, which features clear, digital representations of analog displays. In the dynamic drive mode they become big digital numbers with small bar graphs rotating clockwise around the speedometer and counterclockwise around the tachometer.

The center stack showcases a 9.2-inch display screen that handles navigation, all infotainment features, as well as Kia’s UVO eServices telematics. Climate controls frame the analog clock, and basic audio controls.

A center console controller mimics Audi’s MMI and BMW’s iDrive as does the stubby shifter, which you curiously push forward for reverse and pull backwards to go forward.

The 17-speaker, 900-watt Lexicon sound system handles all media including DVD audio, and sounds excellent, although we’re personally partial to Infiniti’s Bose system.

Rear seats are exceptionally comfortable, especially with the VIP pack’s ventilated, power recline and winged headrests. Center armrest-mounted rear climate controls are standard.

Laminated side windows front and rear keep the K900 very quiet, and the rear cabin feels even quieter than the front.

Behind The Wheel: Our test model was equipped with the 420-horse V8.The 8-speed automatic is smooth, but requires gas pedal pressure to appreciate the engine’s power. The dynamic driving mode lessens that somewhat, but shifting isn’t as solid as its German counterparts.

The suspension is tuned for comfort rather than agility. The hydraulic-assist steering offers more feel than most electric-assisted vehicles. Overall, the K900 is a comfortable ride that doesn’t mind a winding road. Cruising the freeway is an outright serene experience.

Whines: The far left switch bank has blind spot. The parking sensors, traction off and trunk open/close are all adjacent with some indicator lights on the switch, and some in the dash. Standardization would help.

Bottom Line: Kia’s first sortie into the rear wheel-drive, V8 luxury market is luxurious, spacious, comfortable, beautifully finished, powerful, and loaded with features for the price. If you’re a value conscious, independent thinker, the 2015 Kia K900 deserves a test drive.