Back when Kia debuted in America 20 years ago, the tiny Sephia — hardly more than a soup can on doughnuts — was the South Korean automaker’s calling card.
The times they are a-changin’, and how.
Today, Kia is a spunky automotive upstart with reliable, well-designed vehicles that are still parsimoniously priced. Americans like Kia: Sales more than doubled during the troubled years from 2008 to 2012, and last year, almost 560,000 Kias made their way onto domestic driveways.
Now, the company has thrown down the gauntlet in the highly competitive U.S. luxury sedan market with the K900, an ambitious, attractive family cruiser priced at around $65,000 and boasting a litany of creature comforts.
The obvious question here, however, is whether Kia is ready for the white-hot competitive furnace for luxury cars in America. And more to the point, are status-conscious buyers willing to turn away from status-laden marques and shell out $65,000 (or thereabouts) for a top-of-line upstart from the likes of Kia?
If value is the buyer’s primary goal, the answer might well be yes.
Badged in 2012 in Korea as the K9 (where the American analogy to a dog is presumably unknown) and the Quoris elsewhere, the K900 is built on the same reliable platform as partner Hyundai’s Equus and Genesis. But thanks to an appealing, shapely, fluid design, the K900 boasts a more aggressive, sporty stance. Its branded “Tiger Nose” grille is flanked by adaptive LED headlamps and a bodyline that runs to the top of the trunk, creating a visually prominent and pleasant presence.
Inside the appealing cabin, seating is cushy, head and legroom are ample, and fit and finish are exemplary. Standard offerings include high-grade leathers, a 12-way power driver’s seat, 18-inch wheels, heated/ventilated front seats, a 17-speaker, 900-watt Lexicon audio system, a 9.2-inch center panel screen, front and rear park-assist sensors and cameras, and a credit card-style smart key that unfolds the outside mirrors and turns on exterior lighting when the driver approaches (standard on all but the base V6 Premium model).
The K900 debuts in America with a 5.0-liter V-8 (420 hp); a 3.8-liter V-6 (311 hp) comes later this year. Both will be mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. Performance is peppy but not thunderingly so; the ride is comfortable and relaxed as opposed to sports-oriented.
Things get complicated when you try to discern the merits of various option packages. There’s a “Premium” package for both the V6 and V8. The V6 has two packages: “Luxury” and “Technology.” You can get either or both.
Your best bet, however, is to just suck it up and opt for the V-8 “VIP” package that packs all the goods: reclining rear seats, a 16-way driver’s seat, a color head-up display, adaptive cruise control, a configurable 12.3-inch full-color LCD instrument cluster screen, soft-close power door latches, a heated steering wheel, power-operated rear sunshade and retractable side window sunshades, blind-spot monitor, rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning, front/rear parking cameras and door panels in white sycamore or dark charcoal poplar.
In addition to the standard 10-year/100,000 mile new-car warranty and roadside assistance program, the K900 also comes with a three-year, 37,500-mile complimentary scheduled maintenance program at participating dealerships.
If snooty status and blistering performance are your deals, then the K900 probably isn’t for you. But if you’re seeking value, comfort, reliability and a darn nice-looking car, Kia’s latest might just be the ticket.