Four years after corporate cousin Hyundai soared into the luxury-sedan market with the 2011 Equus, Kia is in the game with the 2015 K900. As of September, it hadn’t caught on, with just above 1,000 units sold — far short of the company’s goal of 5,000. The 2015 Equus was doing better, with about 2,600 units sold as of the end of September. But the jury remains undecided on whether Korean automakers, with a reputation for high quality and long standard-features lists for small money, can compete in this rarefied sector.
Our white K900 test car’s sticker price was extravagant, by Kia standards: $66,400. It had just one option, a $6,000 VIP package that added several convenience, comfort and safety features.
Realistically, can this 420-horsepower Kia compete with Lexus, Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar, BMW, Audi and a handful of other companies that build big, opulent sedans? In terms of price, the K900 competes fiercely. The Mercedes-Benz S-Class, generally considered the best of the large luxury sedans, starts at nearly $108,000. Prices for the Lexus LS460, Audi A8, BMW 7 Series and Jaguar XJ range from $72,140 to $124,075. The base K900 can be had for about $60,000, with a less expensive, more fuel-efficient V-6 model soon to arrive.
So, do K900 owners wish they’d splurged rather than skimped? It’s hard to say. We’ve driven just two of the cars listed above — the Jaguar and Lexus — and it’s safe to say they’re quiet, refined, composed, powerful and comfortable all the time, not just on smooth interstate highways. The K900 exhibits those qualities most of the time.
To wit: Interstate 84 in western Connecticut, where we do most of our highway driving, is something of a mess at present, with seemingly permanent bridge-reconstruction projects and tree-removal work going on, and potholes opening up all over. The K900’s suspension easily absorbs most of the bumps, but some crash through. The 8-speed automatic transmission usually responds instantly to driver commands and circumstances, but once in a while, there’s a brief delay before it finds the right gear. The UVO telematics system, while versatile, isn’t as intuitive as the CUE system in the Cadillac Escalade we test-drove after turning in the Kia. Fuel economy is so-so; we averaged a little better than 21 mpg, using premium unleaded gasoline.
Still, the K900 is a very comfortable, roomy, luxurious sedan, loaded with standard features, and it’s priced far lower than any competitor can match. This new model hasn’t undergone crash-testing, but the Equus has been designated a Top Safety Pick for the 2011-13 model years, so the K900 should garner similar results. And most Kias are fairly trouble-free.
People accustomed to Mercedes-Benz-style pampering and driving dynamics may find the K900 falls short of their expectations. But you get what you pay for, and Kia is betting the American consumer is willing to get a little less car for a lot less money.
Steven Macoy (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel, Conn.
2015 Kia K900
Engine: 5.0-liter V-8, 420 horsepower, 376 lb.-ft. torque
Transmission: 8-speed shiftable automatic
Weight: 4,555 lb.
Suspension: multi-link front and rear
Wheels: 19×9-in. alloy
Tires: 275/40R19 all-season
Seating capacity: 5
Luggage capacity: 15.9 cu. ft.
Fuel capacity: 19.8 gallons
Fuel economy: 15 mpg city, 23 mpg highway
Fuel type: Premium unleaded gasoline (recommended)