Redesigned K900 shows how high Kia can fly

Redesigned and re-engineered for 2019, the Kia K900 is priced $35,000 less than the Mercedes-Benz S-Class sedan, yet it aims to match the Mercedes luxury model in appearance, performance, elegance and amenities.

An encounter I had while driving a Kia K900 says three key things about the large, luxury-laden sedan.

I was refueling, standing behind the car while the pump sluiced gasoline into its deep, 20-gallon tank. A man exiting the gas station’s convenience store paused to catch my eye.

When I noticed him, he called out, “You don’t see a lot of K900s around. That’s a really nice car.”

I explained that I was driving it for a week, courtesy of Kia, so I could write about it. After we exchanged a few observations about the distinctive, classically elegant sedan, he climbed into his own vehicle.

He was driving a Kia, too; a Sorento medium-sized crossover sport-utility vehicle. Kia moves far, far more Sorento SUVs than it does K900 sedans. Through mid-summer, the South Korea-based car company had sold 230 times more family-oriented Sorentos than it had 900 sedans, with Sorento sales in the United States totaling 55,274. The tally for K900s sold through those seven months? 240.

The conversation affirmed how nice it feels to encounter people who will strike up a friendly chat with strangers. On top of that, regarding Kia, the incident illustrated that it operates as a well-established car brand that has followers who feel real enthusiasm for its vehicles.

You have Ford guys. You have Chevy guys. Both those brands have been around for more than a century. By comparison, Kia is just a youth, bringing its first model to America in 1993. And here was a guy who felt so enthusiastic about the brand that he was fully informed about Kia’s halo car. Never mind that the K900 I was driving priced out at $64,895. The Sorento he drove starts at a list price of $27,335, and doesn’t go higher than $47,535 unless you load on some options.

That was the first key fact revealed: Kia enjoys an active following.

The second truth the incident showed is that as its high-level halo car, the Kia K900 really does attract attention.

I noticed its noteworthy character at other times while trying out the K900. People looked at the stately sedan. Kia makes it hard to miss, with a wide and commanding, well-settled stance and with smoothly polished, graceful surfaces.

If they had seen inside, the onlookers would have been just as impressed by the elegant wrap of the dashboard that blends gracefully at its corners with front doors that are finished in arcing wing patterns. They would have noticed the cabin’s lustrous wooden panels, its supple leather upholstery accented with quilting, its high-grade surface coatings, metal accent beads, and artfully perforated metal Harman Kardon speaker covers.

This year the K900 gives people a new vehicle to look at.

The 2019 model is a re-engineered and restyled, second-generation version of Kia’s big cruiser. It is larger, with a longer wheelbase and wider stance, than the prior, first-generation version, which Kia had introduced as a 2015 model.

The most noteworthy advance in this year’s re-made sedan is its higher level of luxury, attained by its abundance of technologically advanced equipment, top-grade features, and carefully crafted details.

From the outset the K900 was conceived as an upper-crust cruiser. It strives to match pampering full-size luxury sedans like the BMW 7 Series and the Mercedes-Benz S-Class in appearance, performance, elegance and amenities, but at a considerably lower price. For example, the K900’s starting list price of $60,895 is nearly $35,000 lower than the opening bid of $95,245 for a Mercedes S-Class.

Kia comes with all-wheel drive. You have to add another $3,000 to the Mercedes to get four-wheel traction.

The inclusion of all-wheel drive as a standard feature shows just how hard Kia is trying with the K. The company also equips the car with such features as high-powered 17-speaker surround-sound audio, wireless phone charging, windshield-projected data display, rear power window shade and door-glass shades, and navigation operated through the K’s big monitor-and-control touchscreen. The K900’s driving aids and automatic safety systems include front, rear, and side collision warning and avoidance assistance, lane monitor and steering assistance, distance-keeping cruise control that stops and starts with traffic, parking guidance, and driver wakefulness monitoring and warning.

Kia powers the K900 with a V6 engine that uses two turbochargers to boost output to 365 horsepower. When driving, I felt that the model rolled with a commanding sense of purpose, aided by quick-launch abilities provided by the motor’s 376 pound-feet of torque. The K900’s eight-speed automatic transmission shifted with such smooth precision that gear changes were imperceptible.

The sedan also was supremely quiet. I noticed its lack of wind or road noise, because I’ve been surprised by plenty of other luxury cars with whistling window leaks. Not so in the K900.

I also noticed that the K900 tracked with calm and assuring stability when I rushed at freeway speeds through a powerful rainstorm that coated the road faster than its surface could shed the water. I attributed the car’s stability in part to its all-wheel-drive traction. Certainly features like the model’s electronically controlled suspension helped. It adapts to road conditions and driving demands, in part by constantly keeping an equal load on all four wheels.

The redesigned K900 also received careful aerodynamic tuning, and it gained turbulence-reducing aids like air curtains in the wheel arches and panels sealing the underbody. Those measures helped to keep it on track when strong wind gusts dashed against the K during the rain squall.

So the Kia K900 succeeds in gathering attention. And as a halo car, or flagship, it helps make Kia enthusiasts like my friend at the filling station feel good about their brand. Its luster rubs onto the Sorentos and other Kia models that most people drive.

The third fact revealed about the K900 came right from the enthusiast’s first statement: “You don’t see a lot of K900s around.”

An online search showed just two 2019 K900s in dealer inventories within 100 miles of us. One is in Burlington and one in Attleboro.

But then, Kia doesn’t have to sell a lot of them. To help it sell its more populous models, Kia only has to show that it can make a car that stands beside the best. The K900 does that.

Jeffrey Zygmont is an author of fiction, non-fiction and poetry books, and a long-time auto writer. Contact him at www.jeffreyzygmont.com.

2019 Kia K900

Vehicle type: 4-door, 5-passenger, all-wheel-drive large luxury sedan

Price range: $60,895 to $64,895

Warranty: 5 years/60,000 miles basic warranty; 10 years/100,000 miles powertrain warranty; 5 years/60,000 miles roadside assistance

Engine: 3.3-liter twin-turbocharged V6

Power: 365 horsepower at 6,000 rpm; 376 lb.-ft. torque at 1,300 rpm

Transmission: eight-speed automatic

Fuel economy: 18 mpg city; 25 mpg highway

Wheelbase: 122 inches

Length: 202 inches

Width: 75 inches

Height: 59 inches

Weight: 4,662 pounds

Fuel capacity: 20.3 gallons

Turning circle: 39.2 ft.

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