AP NEWS

Mainstream Luxury In K900

May 4, 2019

During its rise in both vehicle quality and U.S. market share, it was fairly apparent that Kia has had its eye squarely on the premium automotive segment. With four-door models like the midsized Optima and compact Forte holding their own against those from the likes of Honda and Toyota, Kia has put its toe in the premium market with the K900, a full-size highway cruiser that rolled into 2019 showrooms completely redesigned — a second-generation standard bearer of the Korean automaker’s corporate aspiration. We spent a week back in 2015 with the then-all-new K900, and came away impressed with its overall fit and finish, concluding that it delivered a good measure of the driving experience of high-end rides like the BMW 7 Series or Audi A8 for many thousands of dollars less. The new model can make the same claim. Changes are largely evolutionary — the K900’s overall shape and appearance remain easy on the eye (we got a couple of thumbs-up from passersby during the week we had it), and the driving experience is a relaxing combination of leather-lined luxury and power. As if to make shopping choices easier, Kia has simplified the K900 range down to one trim level, dubbed Luxury, that can be matched with one options package. All-wheel drive is standard, as is a twin-turbocharged 3.3-liter V-6 gas engine (the V-8 is no more) that’s mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission with steering-wheel-mounted shifter paddles. Any simpler, and Kia would be in “any-color-you-want-so-long-as-it’s-black” Model T territory. Prices start at $59,900 and include a laundry list of standard kit, including dual-zone climate control, Lexicon Logic Surround Sound audio, satellite navigation, a huge 12.3-inch LCD infotainment interface, leather upholstery, keyless entry and ignition, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity, 360-degree exterior camera surveillance, intelligent cruise control, heated and ventilated front seats, heated outboard rear seats, and a bevy of safety-minded sensor and warning systems. Our K900’s asking price came in at a premium-level $64,895 thanks to the aforementioned options package and a $995 delivery tab. Adding $4,000 to the total, the VIP Package adds a 12.3-inch LCD instrument cluster, three-zone auto climate control, power-adjustable rear seats with ventilated outboard seats, a wireless charger pad for back-seat passengers, a premium headliner and more. Sixty-five grand is a lot of coin for a car bearing a mainstream badge. To be fair, though, the K900 is a lot of car for the money, especially considering that comparable offerings from the Germans command asking prices more than $20,000 north of the Kia’s. With a rated output of 365 horsepower and 376 foot-pounds of torque, the twin-turbo V-6 makes for liquid-but-lively acceleration. The engine is tractable and easy to live with in and about town and a hoss on highway entrance ramps. Our observed 18.9 mpg in combined driving was shy of the EPA’s 21 mpg estimate, due largely to my heavier-than-usual right foot. Handling is precise and predictable but hardly sporting, though; this is a large and — due to its 4,462-pound curb weight — heavy car, better suited to highway cruising than corner-carving. Ride quality is quite comfortable, although not on par with the established luxury rides that are the K900’s bogeys. Road roar is present over nubbly pavement, and the suspension can yield a busier ride than one might expect from a corner-office sedan. The well-organized and attractive cabin places all instrumentation and controls within easy reach. High-quality materials are used throughout and tightly stitched and screwed together. Front-seat occupants are given loads of head, shoulder and leg room; rear-seat occupants will find nearly limousine-like accommodations in the split-folding bench. The trunk will swallow up to 15.4 cubic feet of cargo. 2019 Kia K900 Luxury Vehicle type: Four-door, five-passenger, full-size, all-wheel-drive luxury sedan. Base/as-tested prices: $59,900/$64,895. Engine and transmission: 3.3-liter twin-turbocharged V-6 (365 horsepower, 376 foot-pounds torque), eight-speed automatic with steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters. EPA estimates: 18 mpg city, 25 mpg highway, 21 mpg combined. The good: Completely redesigned for 2019 model year; powerful and smooth-spinning twin-turbo V-6 delivers lively acceleration; standard all-weather AWD system; handsome exterior design; luxury-level appointments decorate the comfortable and spacious cabin; soft and supportive front seats with adult-proportioned second-row accommodations; large trunk; there’s only one trim level and one options package, so shopping’s a snap; comfortable ride quality; bristling with high-tech warning systems. The bad: VIP options package makes an already pricey mainstream car even more so; ride feels busy over rough pavement; despite the horsepower on tap, this is a big car and handles like one; type sizes on the otherwise well-designed LED infotainment interface could be larger and easier to read; for a manufacturer known for vehicles called Optima, Forte and Soul, “K900” seems curiously prosaic. Bottom line: The K900 offers a fair measure of high-end German-style luxury and power for about 20 grand less.