|Positives: Opulent looks, rich and fully-outfitted interior, very roomy, strong acceleration, high levels of comfort for driver and passengers, a supremely quiet environment.|
|Negatives: Kia badge on a high-end luxury car, poor throttle response, handling and steering on par with a '70s Cadillac Eldorado, not distinct enough to be a game-changer.|
|Bottom Line: For those considering a Lexus, the K900 is a seriously viable option and will let you funnel the savings toward more opulent buffets and better golf courses, but it's certainly less distinct -- but no less luxurious. Also, it's hard to make a strong case for this car unless you want to save money and don't care about badge cred.|
The new V6 trim level came in response a year after the K900's introduction into the market due to low sales volumes of the 4.2-liter V8 car, bringing the base price a hair under $50K. It's a smart move for Kia and gives new access to a luxury car that's eons ahead of their first attempt, the weird Amanti in 2007. We drove the V6 K900 recently and came away with strong impressions on both sides of the fence.
Helming the K900 is less about driving and more about being ensconced, insulated from pretty much everything, including anything resembling connection with the road. It's quiet, cushy and comfortable, but fails on nearly all levels including handling, steering, feedback, and balance. Its only salve is the strong acceleration from the potent engine.
But the engine does both good and bad things. It moves you almost as quickly as the V8 does, but its gas mileage is barely better. Makes you wonder if you're saving money or robbing yourself of a bit of extra "fun" (we use the term softly because the K900 isn't really entertaining to drive). That being said, this car will appeal to those who want a floating ride where bumps are absorbed and sounds are kept out with authority, with no desire for hitting apexes or getting the pulse up beyond 100.
Ride Quality: Like riding on pillows. It manages all bumps and undulations very well and could be mistaken for a Lexus if your eyes were closed.
Acceleration: Though the K900's throttle response is akin to the reflexes of a sloth, the car eventually gets going and accelerates strongly. You just have to plan a little bit in advance. Why the car has steering wheel-mounted paddle shifter is beyond us. It's like giving an adult trike racing slicks.
Braking: The brake pedal feels on the mushy side, especially at initial travel, and the stopping distances seem a bit long and without any good feedback.
Steering: Vague and not on center. Little feedback to speak of and very light. Keeping the car centered even on highways is a bit of a challenge.
Handling: The car holds on in turns, but you feel the body roll and the weight of the thing. This is not a car that enters turns imparting confidence, but it's also not aimed at drivers who care about that.
The technology in the K900 is one of its strong suits. There's really nothing lacking in terms of functionality and visibility, and everything works well together. The large touchscreen has excellent, highly legible fonts and graphics (lose the italics, Mercedes), and the center console control knob that mimics Audi and BMW works pretty well. All of it is quite intuitive and fluid, and we can't really fault Kia with how they've laid out all of the infotainment and controls.
Infotainment System: The big screen is easy to read and combats glare well. It's also very responsive, and its menus are simple to understand.
Controls: Easy-to-use buttons and knobs for audio and climate control Steering wheel controls and the center console knob also work quite well and look handsome. We would've like to have seen a shifter that didn't look or work like BMW and Chrysler's.
Bluetooth Pairing: Kia makes it seamless, and the K900 paired easily with our smartphone.
Voice Call Quality: Clear and crisp with no issues. Good volume. The quietness of the cabin surely contributes to this.
Very few luxo barges these days look truly original. The Jaguar XJ, even though it's been around for years, does a good job of setting itself apart. And though the Mercedes S-Class and the BMW 7-Series look damned fine, they're not exactly pushing the envelope when it comes to styling. Lexus' LS doesn't count, even with the big spindle grille slapped onto it. So, we can comfortaby say that the K900 looks good but not distinct. Its prominent tiger-nose grille is chromey enough to turn heads, but the rest of the body is a bit, well, conservative. That being said, it's not unattractive by any means. The average K900 customer probably doesn't want anything racy and likely turns to the K900 for its relative affordability and is willing to accept its somewhat vanilla looks.
Front: It seems everyone wants to copy Bentley when it comes to big, chromey, crosshatched grilles. The K900's shows its upscale leanings, and the look is a good one. The large headlights have an interesting plastic knife head shape with complex lenses. Thankfully, the rest of the front isn't overly busy.
Rear: Wholly unoriginal and looks nearly identical to the Lexus LS460's rear fascia including the taillights, exhaust pipes and lip spoiler. The chrome accent above the lights at least goes the full width of the car, unlike the LS.
Profile: Nothing offensive here but also nothing really distinct. We long for the disappearance of that non-functioning front fender vent that mimics the grille. Awful and trying too hard to look fancy.
Cabin: It feels rich but derivative, an amalgam of Lexus, Audi and Genesis, the latter of which doesn't surprise us. We just wish there was less piano black and glossy wood trim, which both pick up fingerprints like crazy and are starting to look a bit too common.
The K900 is a comfy beast and does what it sets out to do in terms of providing a solid level of luxury for a great price. Anyone in the market for a truly cosseting interior as a priority would be hard-pressed to find something this comfortable for this price. It borrows from other luxury cars to good effect, including an Audi MMI-like infotainment controller that rests in the perfect spot in relation to the driver's right arm, and the rich level of materials from leather, wood and metal are all upscale. We just wish the comfort were matched by distinct design that might belie the car's exterior.
Front Seats: The seats have good bolstering and deep cushioning, making drives very relaxed.
Rear Seats: This qualifies as a long-wheelbase car thanks to its ample room and comfort for rear passengers. Six-footers will have no problem, and the rear power reclining function is much-welcomed.
NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): This is a well-built car that keeps its occupants sheltered from the noisy outside world. No vibration or build issues, putting it on par with Lexus.
Visibility: The seating position is good, and visibility out the front matches. The large C-pillars, though, make it a bit difficult to see toward the rear.
Climate: We're big fans of Kia's climate controls, and these are no exception. The rear center console in the armrest is fantastic and prevents the front occupants from having to worry about the comfort of their passengers.
Though we don't doubt that a car at this level would be safe, it still hasn't been tested by the IIHS or the NHTSA. That being said, the car comes rife with standard safety features and comes with a plethora of optional safety technology that puts it on par with its competitors.
IIHS Rating: The K900 has not yet been tested by the IIHS, so no ratings are available.
Standard Tech: The V6 Luxury comes with electronic stability control, ABS, traction control, hill-start assist control, front and rear camera display, front and rear parking sensors with Park Guide System, HID headlights and Dynamic Bending Light, and auto rain-sensing windshield wipers.
Optional Tech: Our test car came with the VIP Package and includes a vivid color head-up display, autonomous emergency braking, blind spot detection, rear cross traffic alert, advanced smart cruise control, and a surround view monitor. We wish the car came with lane-keep assist, which is our only beef.
Like any big luxury car should, the K900 has storage aplenty. The K900 provides convenient storage and enough rear trunk space for multiple golf bags, which owners will mostly like have as their leisurely sport of choice.
Storage Space: A big center armrest compartment and deep door pockets provide ample room. The large glove compartment is roomy but smacks the front passenger in the knees when opened. Aside from this issue, there's not much missing from this equation.
Cargo Room: The K900 has 15.9 cubic feet of cargo room, which is about 2 cubic feet less than the big Lexus but is still plenty of space for luggage and gear. The power trunk lid works very well and provides added convenience.
Big Kia's and Hyundais aren't exactly great on gas mlieage, and the K900's V6 isn't on par with cars like the Audi A6 3.0T, which also has a V6. The Audi has more horses (329, compared to the K900's 311) and gets better city and highway gas mileage. That being said, we doubt that any customers of luxury cars care all that much about great mpgs, except for maybe those looking for a bargain luxury car. Oops.
Observed: 18.6 mpg combined.
Driving Factors: As usual, we kept the car in Sport mode, which gave us cause to be a bit heavy-footed. Plus, it's the only way to get a modicum of responsiveness from the K900. We combined urban and highway driving in almost equal measures.
Aside from great sound with rich base and clear notes, the 17-speaker and 900-watt amplifier system is truly premium and comes standard, unlike so many other luxury brands that expect you to pony up thousands extra for the upgraded sound system. Controls are very easy with physical knobs and buttons, and the fact that you don't have to shovel out $6,300 to get the Bang & Olufsen premium audio system that's an option in the Audi A8 is truly thumbing your nose at the Germans.
All in all, the K900 V6 luxury presents a solid case for the affordable luxury car that comes without pretense. If it's brand cache you want, this isn't the car for you, but it shows that $50K can get you power, comfort, technology and roominess in one package. The downside is that it doesn't give much in the way of driving fun, which is what we hope for in virtually every car we drive (but don't expect). Those in search of a car that has a great warranty and will provide years of posh comfort and long-distance highway prowess will find satisfaction. Those in search of more should probably look elsewhere and be prepared to spend thousands more.