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Kia shows there’s more to a luxury car than just a name with the K900

The Kia K900 is an all-new luxury sedan from the South Korean automaker, taking the company into new territory. It is aimed at competing against some of the top models offered by European and Asian manufacturers.
The Kia K900 is an all-new luxury sedan from the South Korean automaker, taking the company into new territory. It is aimed at competing against some of the top models offered by European and Asian manufacturers.Paul Borden

2015 Kia K900

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Considering the company's humble history in the U.S., the concept of a $60,000 Kia may come as a shock to a good-sized segment of the public.

A $60,000 Kia?

You mean the company that came into the U.S. market selling econoboxes of quality so questionable it seemed on the verge of saying “goodbye” just a few years after it first said “hello” to American buyers in the early 1990s?

Yes, that Kia.

But if many have a problem getting a grip on that notion, savvy shoppers (i.e., those who care more about what’s in a car than what nameplate is on it) have come to recognize Kia has a company that is producing quality products with sharp styling and lots of technology and features that return a lot of value for the buck.

So it is with the Kia K900.

The company unveiled its first venture into the luxury segment earlier this year with this full-sized sedan designed with an eye toward competing with high-end models from traditional luxury manufacturers like Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Lexus, and Cadillac.

Kia didn’t expect the K900 to be a big seller, but hoped it would serve as an example of what the South Korean automaker could do if it put its mind to it. The idea was that if folks saw something this good, it might also help Kia sell other models in its lineup from the Cadenza to the Optima on down to the Forte', Rio and Soul.

In fact, the company didn’t even release sales projections when it previewed the K900 to media back in February lest falling short of such numbers be interpreted as a “failure” for the car.

So far, the numbers have been modest but fairly steady. Since it went on sale in March, Kia reports that 948 K900s were sold through July, a pace that would give it close to 2,000 for its first full year.

One thing working it is favor: The more luxury shoppers take a look at it, the more they are going to appreciate what the K900 offers at a considerable savings over its competitors.

It is, as noted, a full-size sedan, but with its 5.0-liter V8 engine (420 horsepower, 376 pound-feet of torque), it delivers a lively performance and is a very comfortable cruiser. It is matched with an eight-speed automatic transmission that features a sport mode for more rapid response and an Eco mode to help save some fuel. (A 3.8-liter V6 rated at 311 hp and 293 lb.-ft. of torque is in the works for the future, but right now the company is concentrating on the V8).

Its ride is what you would expect — no, demand — from a car of this class, which is quiet and smooth. The front seats are comfortable and supportive, and the back is spacious with just over 38 inches of legroom for passengers. There’s nearly 16 cubic feet of cargo volume for the trunk, which is competitive for the segment.

The base K900 includes expected standard features such as three-zone climate control, navigation, Kia’s UVO telematics system, front and rear camera display and parking assist, Nappa leather seats, push-button start with keyless entry, power tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel, power-closing trunk, and a panoramic sunroof.

Among safety features are blind-spot detection and a lane-departure warning system that can be a bit too aggressive at times. There is just enough real wood trim to augment the cabin’s ambiance.

It’s when you include the optional VIP package that the K900 really stands out. For a charge of $6,000 added onto the base price of $59,500 (including destination and deliver), that package adds such niceties as advanced “smart” cruise control, a vehicle safety management system, power door latches, a 12.3-inch full LCD instrument cluster, a heads-up display that projects your speed and some other information onto the windshield in the driver’s line of sight, a surround view monitor, and upgrades to both front and rear seats, including rear-seat lumbar support.

Along with a $900 feet for destination and delivery, that puts the final MSRP for the V8 model at $66,400, which is around $20,000 less than what you likely will have to pay for similarly equipped competitors from Europe and Japan.

About the only thing the K900 lacks is the brand cachet of its more-established competitors. Is that worth twenty large to you?