Driving through ritzy Orange County communities like Newport Beach, not many cars can turn heads, not when Bentleys and Ferraris are nearly as common as Nissans and Fords. But somehow, the big sedan we’re piloting along the Pacific Coast Highway draws plenty of stares.
The full-size, four-door is certainly luxurious. Its massive V-8 hardly murmurs, and the coffin-quiet interior is lavished in wood and leather and filled with a long list of high-tech amenities. But it is the name badge that catches the eye. This isn’t a BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Audi or Lexus. The new 2015 K900 is a Kia—but certainly not your father’s Korean econobox.
It’s been half a decade since Kia’s sibling, Hyundai Motors, shocked the automotive market, rolling out its first high-line model, the Genesis, in the process winning the coveted North American Car of the Year trophy. The K900 shares its basic underpinnings with Hyundai’s larger and even more lavish Equus sedan. But the Kia is not a Hyundai clone, nor is it a German wannabe. A few years back, Kia snatched the talented Peter Schreyer from Audi as its global styling chief. His distinctive touch is readily apparent—both inside and out.
As the K900’s beefy Tau V-8 underscores, Kia’s engineering prowess has rapidly improved as well. It purrs gently in traffic, but blasts out a 420-horsepower roar when you slam your foot to the floor. If there’s any place where the new Kia sedan falls short it’s in aggressive driving, especially in sport mode. While that configuration is intended to give you a more taut, precise ride, the K900’s rear suspension can get a bit jittery. Roadway bumps and potholes jounce the sedan in a way that you just won’t experience with a comparable German offering.
That likely won’t be a deal breaker for most buyers, certainly not for those who want a plush ride, but not an Autobahn driving experience. For them, the sumptuous leather seats, wood accents, audiophile infotainment system and suite of high-tech safety features will likely be more important—especially with Kia putting the emphasis on the “value” of the new model.
It’s not exactly rock-bottom pricing. (An all but fully loaded K900 VIP edition will go for around $66,000—nearly five times the price of a base Kia Rio.) But a comparably equipped BMW 740 costs almost $20,000 more. Traditional German luxury buyers will likely be a difficult sell. But customers from Kia’s Japanese rivals and those who seek a cost-effective route to a big, posh, luxury sedan should be easier to entice. So expect that soon the K900 will be turning heads in a tony town near you.