I’ve always had an affinity for grandpa sedans, especially fast ones. Ask anyone who knows me. I even drove my son home from the hospital in a ’74 Olds Omega sedan I’d souped up with a 383 stroker and some other choice parts. So when I got the chance to try out a brand-new Kia K900, it pushed all the right buttons, being a much nicer, much faster version of the ’65 Malibu sedan I also (foolishly) own.
Or maybe it reminded me of the ’86 Lincoln Town Car I used to drive way too fast around my hometown when I was on summer vacations in college.
The K900 is actually more like a modern version of the conservative-but-capable first-gen Toyota Avalon, which I’ve always liked. It’s comfortable. It has class. Frank Sinatra music plays whenever you start the engine (not really). When I climbed behind the wheel, I felt ready to chug a tumbler of Metamucil and speed on over to the golf course for a few holes. Only I don’t play golf. Nor do I drink Metamucil. And I’m not retired. (Well, not completely.) But I did still really enjoy this fast grandpa sedan.
(Full Disclosure: Kia let me borrow a K900 for a week, and dropped it off at my house with a full tank of gas.)
There was something else I liked about the car, too – something more realistic. Sure it has a lovely interior, roomy trunk, and a 150-mph top speed. But more importantly, it’s also a good deal. The K900 is no Audi A8, but it doesn’t carry an Audi pricetag either. The K900 is for people who like nice things, but know the value of a dollar. You know how those German luxury car marques are. You start with an $85,000 flagship sedan and by the time you add in all the stuff most people get in luxury cars – heated and cooled seats, LED lighting, driver assistance features, etc. – you’re looking at a price north of $100,000. That’s fine if you’re finance bro rich, but if you’re only, say, ER doctor rich, that’s just too much money. Fortunately, the K900 comes with all the luxury goodies for a fairly reasonable, factory warranty-backed price.
Lots of reviewers complain that the interior of the K900 feels cheap compared with a similarly optioned Audi or Mercedes-Benz. Maybe so, but when your standard of comparison for luxury is an ’86 Lincoln with navy blue crushed velour seats and vacuum-operated HVAC controls, the Kia starts to look really, really good.
Seriously though, the 20-way adjustable power seats are really comfortable, and it has a 12.3-inch infotainment touchscreen and aluminum accents and switch panels all over the dash. It’s a quiet car, but any hint of outside noise that might sneak in can easily be drowned out by the standard 17-speaker Lexicon sound system. It even has a classy-looking analog clock made by some jeweler named Maurice Lacroix. Not too familiar with him, but I remember the analog clock thing from ’90s Infinitis. Classy touch.
The back seats in the car I tested were even better than the ones up front. When I sat back there, I felt as if I’d found my next home office. There are electric shades to shield you from the sun (and from the prying eyes of all the street urchins green with jealousy that you have a fancy Kia and they don’t). The outboard seats recline and are heated and cooled. There’s a lot of legroom. And yeah, plenty of room for a child safety seat that looks like a piece of equipment left over from one of the Apollo missions. The LATCH anchors work just fine.
The trunk is 15.3 cubic feet – not huge, but generous. That’s smaller than the trunk in the Mercedes-Benz S-Class and BMW 7 Series sedans, but bigger than the Audi A8’s, and on par with the Volvo S90. It’s not possible to lay down the rear seatback in cars equipped with the power reclining rear executive seats – you get one of those ’90s-style passthrough doors that’s just large enough to accommodate the ends of a couple pairs of skis (but probably not a snowboard, you barbarian). It would be nice to have the full opening for larger items, but let’s be honest.
Luxury car people are supposed to have enough money to be able to pay someone else to cart their bulky junk from place to place (except for the damned car seat, which is just huge). Plus, my kid enjoyed wriggling through the passthrough like it was a tiny, Alice in Wonderland door put there for his personal enjoyment. So there’s that.
With its 122-inch wheelbase and classic rear-wheel drive layout, the K900 is as smooth around town and out on the highway as my mid-’80s Lincoln was. But its handling and braking are, obviously, so much better (and it wasn’t floaty). As a matter of fact, braking and handling on the biggest of the Kias is really about as good as on any new sedan. In the daily traffic slalom, the car performed admirably.
Supple ride and handling aside, what really makes the K900 so compelling a luxury sedan is its 365-horsepower twin-turbo V6. Its 376 ft-lbs of torque digs in at low engine speed – only 1,300 RPMs – and holds out to 4,500 RPMs. Since that’s the rev range most driving occurs within, giving the big K900 a bit of throttle is a gratifying experience. Kia says it’ll get to 60 mph in less than 6 seconds – not bad for a car that tips the scales at more than 4,600 pounds. I never got a chance to drive it at top speed, but it was very settled at faster-than-normal highway speeds on uncrowded stretches of highway. The K900 comes in either rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive configuration, and the AWD is biased toward the rear. It’s a great road trip car.
Not surprisingly, the K900’s fuel economy is just so-so. Its hefty weight is undoubtedly at play here. The EPA gives it an 18 mpg rating for city driving, 25 mpg for the highway, and 21 mpg combined. In a mix of city and highway driving, I saw closer to 20 mpg.
Although its Hyundai BH-L (IV) platform mates – the Genesis G90, G80, and G70 – are recipients of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) Top Safety Pick + designation, the K900 has not yet been rated. The federal government gave a five-star (out of five) safety rating to the Genesis G80, but has not yet rated the K900 (nor any of the other Genesis BH-L (IV) models). However, even though the K900 is similar to those other models, it’s not the same car, so we’ll have to wait and see how it does in the extensive battery of crash tests conducted by IIHS and the federal government.
That said, the 2020 K900 comes standard with all the active safety features IIHS loves, including forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic assist, lane departure warning, lane-keeping assist, and adaptive cruise control. It also comes with a driver attention monitoring system, surround-view cameras and a cruise control feature that changes vehicle speed as speed limits change on federal highways.
It may seem weird for someone to say this about a Kia, but the K900 is really nice. It ticks all the luxury boxes in a handsome package that looks a little different from everything else on the road. And it’s fast. Really, the 150 mph top speed is impressive, although I have no idea where you would be able to use that, save running the car in a Cannonball (and it would actually make a great Cannonball car thanks to its big trunk and comfy seats). The K900 should be a compelling option for anyone looking for a fancy car that doesn’t cost too much.
Then I have to ask myself why people buy luxury cars. Is it to get a good deal? Maybe for me, but I’m a cheapskate and would only buy a car like this if it were at least 10 years old. (At least.) No, your typical luxury car type is in it for the name recognition. If there’s anyone in the US, Canada or Europe who stops in their tracks and drools when a Kia rolls up to the valet at an expensive restaurant, I would like to meet that person, because I think we could be friends. I imagine that on some level, the person who springs for a luxury car wants to inspire jealousy – or at least command some weird form of materialistic respect – from others. A Kia – even one as nice as the K900 is unlikely to do that.
This is why you see people stuffing themselves and their families into absurdly small sedans like the Mercedes-Benz A-Class – so they can precede their arrival everywhere with that envy-inspiring three-pointed star affixed prominently to the car’s grille. If you just want a big, really nice sedan, you could go for a Toyota Avalon and save yourself more than $20,000 over the K900. Or if prestige is still your thing and you still wanted to save money, you could buy a Volvo S90 or an Acura RLX. Both models are very nice and a little sporty, and the brands they represent have more well-established riche-cred. Then there’s always the Stinger GT, which aside from being a fantastic car to drive, manages to pull off a bit more sex appeal than the K900.
Kia makes great cars. The entry-level ones are cheap, of decent quality and like all Kia and Hyundai vehicles, come with spectacular warranty protection. But I think that more time will have to pass before they’re able to pump up their image enough to attract luxury-oriented buyers. In the meantime, the K900 will be available for offbeat luxe-sters who don’t mind being trailblazers. That’s an unusual sort among those who are trying to impress others.