2015 Kia K900 First Test
Cue The Spotlight: Before Dropping the K900's Curtain, Kia Takes its Deepest Breaths Ever
Technically, this car has been on sale for quite some time. Peddled as the K9 in South Korea from May 2012 forward, it's called Quoris in international markets including Russia, Peru, and the United Arab Emirates. It has been renamed K900 for the United States because of course it has. It's tagged to compete against pride-of-the-industry luxury sedans such as the Lexus LS 460, Mercedes-Benz S550, BMW 740i, and Audi A8, not to mention its platform-cousin the Hyundai Equus. If you judge everything to be better when bigger, Kia is off to a good start.
Numerical ascension aside, Kia is once again looking to raise its profile. It's never done anything like the K900. Few vehicular templates are more ambitious to execute than the full-size, rear-drive luxe sedan. If an automaker wants to prove its aspirations are more than delusions of grandeur, it must subject its product to the single most powerful developed market in the world (ahem, the U.S.) There must have been major hand-wringing during many long nights at Kia.
Flagship sedans are statements, and the spotlight shines first on the exterior. Here, the rules of design are fixed. The K900 must be confident without being ostentatious, classy and capable of commanding attention without resorting to parlor tricks. It does carry a substantial presence, partially because of its size and partially because it retains a sense of tradition (lengthy proportions, graceful stance over the sizable and eye-catching wheels) intrinsic to big luxury sedans. Familial Kia cues from the Cadenza and Optima ensure the K900 will turn heads. LED headlights (16 elements, standard with the V-8 model) enhance the face. Auto-unfolding side mirrors welcome the driver before he even touches the door handle.
"Despite having never built anything like the K900 before, Kia appears to have had a decent how-to guide."
If there's commotion outside, back-seat passengers won't notice. Appointing the VIP Package to the K900 V8 adds power-reclining rear seats (60/40 split where adjusting the passenger side also alters the center seat in unison). Matched with the standard powered rear privacy/sunshade and manual side and three-quarter window blinds, this means it's always nap time in the second row. From the driver's vantage point, the Cadenza's influence reigns strongest on the center stack's visual design. But there are cabin items the K900 has and the Cadenza doesn't: a 12.3-inch LCD instrument cluster (in Sport mode, there's a special configuration showing both a digital tachometer reading rpm to the tens and a reverse-sweeping indicator a la Aston Martin); an around-view parking monitor with multiple selectable camera angles; a 9.2-inch center display with associated Audi MMI-esque knob, buttons, and GUI controls; and soft-close doors. Despite having never built anything like the K900 before, Kia appears to have had a decent how-to guide.
There's no doubt this is the quietest Kia ever -- mere snippets of freeway wind noise and subdued road noise seep in. Objectively, it's less than 2 percent louder than a Rolls-Royce Ghost (good company to keep) on the sones scale at a 65-mph cruise. It's definitely peaceful if you're a sane, normal driver delighting in the car's relaxing character. But stand harder on the gas pedal, and the 5.0-liter V-8 easily spins up the rear 275/40R19 Hankook Optimo H426s, sending the K900 V8 from 0 to 60 mph in 5.5 seconds and 0-100 mph in 13.0 seconds. The engine and exhaust notes sing as the speedometer registers ever-higher values, and the mechanical soundtrack is neither alluring nor grating. The V-8 is one of the main differentiators between the K900 and the K9/Quoris -- the overseas model presses a port-injected 3.8-liter V-6 into service, an engine not offered in the U.S. since 2012.
The U.S. receives a good engine, but we don't get available air suspension. Unlike the K9/Quoris or its Stateside platform-mate, the Equus, the K900 has a completely passive suspension. Each corner has a multilink system with coil springs and Sachs shock absorbers that are amplitude-selective in damping. Adaptable air springs provide a range of suspension setups. Being able to actively choose desired spring rates is a blessing for luxury applications, since the theoretical advantage is gaining access to a soft rate for a comfortable ride plus higher rates for more aggressive chassis control, all in one package. With the K900, it would have come down to picking a set of springs and fine-tuning the shocks. The margin for error in tuning is smaller for Kia.
Dialing in suspensions may have been a sore spot for Kia over the last few years, but recently released products, including the K900, make us think the automaker is soaking its deflection bushings, shock valves, and electric-steering maps in "Star Wars" bacta rejuvenation tanks. Our vehicle of interest has a springy ride that'll compete well against its more established rivals. It floats over bumps and gobbles up cracks and dips in the pavement with dulled thumps. It gets floaty over a series of continuous raised, round bumps, suggesting minimal levels of damping. Depending on the road, the car skates a fine line between feeling soft and feeling under-controlled. Fortunately, it only really feels under-controlled around our figure-eight handling course, where the body bounces around in the turns.
The K900 is all about achieving legitimacy. Kia acknowledges the prestige factor, an unquantifiable quality that plays a role in appealing to 7 Series and S-Class shoppers, will take time. Meanwhile, look for the Korean automaker to play up its strengths: giving customers the features, styling, and exclusivity (early predictions place the first-year sales goal at 5000 units) with value to spare. A less expensive V-6 model sporting a direct-injection 3.8-liter with 311 hp is on the way.
After learning what the K900 represents to the brand, we can imagine how it will score its biggest victory. The scene is a gas station. A K900 pulls up to top off its tank with regular-octane gas. A stranger at the opposite pump glances over, gestures for attention, and doesn't incredulously ask, "That's a Kia?" Instead, he plainly says, "That's a Kia."
|2015 Kia K900 V8|
|BASE PRICE||$60,000 (est)|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$65,000 (est)|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, RWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan|
|ENGINE||5.0L/420-hp/376-lb-ft DOHC 32-valve V-8|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||4624 lb (52/48%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||200.6 x 74.8 x 58.7 in|
|0-60 MPH||5.5 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||13.8 sec @ 103.2 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||113 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.84 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||28.3 sec @ 0.61 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON||15/23 mpg (est)|
|ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY||225/147 kW-hrs/100 mi (est)|
|CO2 EMISSIONS||1.09 lb/mi (est)|