The first-generation Kia K900 was actually a pretty sweet ride, balancing upscale appointments and high value, but had trouble finding success. Perhaps buyers just couldn't reconcile the idea of a full-size luxury sedan from Kia, the brand with dancing hamsters in its commercials. Whatever the cause, this perfectly good car was an extremely poor seller. Since its introduction in 2014, Kia has only sold just over 5,200 K900s in the US.
Rather than cut its losses, Kia is hoping to do better with a vastly improved second-generation model, which I recently had the chance to sample in Korean-spec K9 guise. Is it second time's a charm for Kia's big luxury sedan?
The K900 is a very luxurious proposition, and puts its best foot forward with a well-appointed cabin behind its soft close doors. The fit and finish have dramatically improved over the outgoing K900, with richer leather and higher quality stitching. Real exposed wood and brushed metal accents on the dashboard, steering wheel and consoles round out the premium interior.At night, the driver and passengers are treated to ambient lighting with seven "mood-enhancing" color themes designed in partnership with color experts Pantone. If none of those seven pre-set designs suit your fancy, the 14 points of LED illumination can be customized to any color in the RGB spectrum via a menu in the infotainment system.
And really, what kind of luxury sedan doesn't have an analog clock in its dashboard? Kia is the latest automaker to partner with a watchmaker for its timepiece, with a Maurice LaCroix Masterpiece clock in the K900's cabin. This bit of dashboard jewelry looks gorgeous with its guilloche dial and Roman numeral indices, but it's just a normal electric clock behind that pretty face.
This twin-turbo V6 makes 365 horsepower and 376 pound-feet of torque, mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission and only available with all-wheel drive. And before you get too excited about that Stinger connection, remember that the K900 is a larger, heavier car, and has a much more comfort-oriented mission.
There's plenty of power for passing and cruising. Around town, the eight-speed automatic feels nice and unobtrusive. The K900's exhaust note is quieter than the Stinger's, even when the car is in sport mode. Drivers can choose between Sport, Eco, Comfort and a customizable drive mode. Lacking an adaptive suspension, these modes mostly adjust the weight of the steering, the behavior of the transmission, the responsiveness of the throttle and add extra engine acoustics in the Sport setting.
Kia is not only adding more content and quality to the K900, it's re-emphasizing the car's value proposition, as well. Pricing hasn't been confirmed just yet, but I don't expect it to differ too much from the outgoing model's $50,000 to $65,000 price range.
Meanwhile, the first-generation K900 has found a second life as one of the best values in the pre-owned luxury market. If Kia can keep its pricing in check, the new 2019 K900 could also tap into that market as a very compelling alternative to a pre-ownedor Mercedes-Benz S-Class. It'll also be taking shots across the bow of the , and provided that buyers can look past the badge and see the value.