Given Kia's reputation in the US and the kinds of cars it offers around the world, the 2015 K900 comes off as the most unexpected model to wear the South Korean automaker's badge. However, if you've been paying close attention, this big, luxury-oriented sedan follows a logical progression from the Optima through last year's new Cadenza model. Throw in a shared platform used in the Equus from sister company Hyundai, and the K900 becomes a foregone conclusion.
At last year's Los Angeles auto show, Kia announced it would bring the K900 to the US from its home Korean market. Other English-speaking markets, which tend to favor smaller, more fuel-efficient cars, seem less likely for this big sedan.
The luxury sedan genus carries two common characteristics: rear-wheel-drive architecture and a V-8 engine. The K900, unlike all other Kia models, boasts both of these, making its class and the company's intentions clear. At close to 17 feet long, the rear seat area afforded a wealth of legroom, and at over 6 feet wide, I wasn't hurting for elbow room.
Still, there's more to a luxury car than a large carcass, eight pistons, and a long drive shaft. As I saw last year in Mercedes-Benz's updated S550, a car in this class should also pamper the driver while giving bystanders a sense of something very special passing by. The new S-Class also looked a bit menacing to the surrounding traffic, but that's just a bonus.
The K900 comes off as a bit cut-rate in some of these qualifying appointments, such as lacking an adaptive suspension, which reflects its bargain-basement price of around $60,000. Making up for any deficiencies, I was pleased to find a host of high-tech goodies in this big roller.
Retaining its Korean market model name rather than follow the musical theme Kia uses for its US models, the K900 sports common Kia design elements such as the tiger nose grille and fender ports. A wire grille inset and optional LED headlights that aim into turns set the car's upscale status. In a cue taken from Mercedes-Benz, seat controls sit conveniently on the doors, and the rear seat offers some power adjustment.
With the $40,000 you would save buying the K900 instead of the Mercedes-Benz S550, you could hire a chauffeur and ride comfortably in the back.
A 9.2-inch LCD in the dashboard showed me a navigation system I found familiar from other Kia models, but the interface was completely new. Instead of a touchscreen, the K900 employs an indirect controller mounted on the console, as in other big luxury sedans. The button layout around the center dial took some getting used to, as there were two contextual buttons, a menu button that did not have function on every screen, and a home button that takes you back to a home screen.
This home screen was a bit of a mess, using an elliptical menu that let me scroll through not only main functions such as navigation and phone, but every audio source available for the stereo. Audio sources would fit better in a submenu, making less clutter on the home screen. As for response, the K900's tech interface was as quick as any I've seen, bringing up functions and menu items with no hesitation.
Voice command was, however, a little lacking. While I could ask it to call people in my Bluetooth-paired phone's contact list and enter addresses for navigation in a single string, I couldn't ask for specific music from a connected USB drive or iOS device.
Navigation, as I mentioned above, was familiar from other Kia models, which meant the maps only show in plan, or top-down view, with no perspective view. Otherwise, the maps were easy to read and offered traffic flow information. Under route guidance, the system could dynamically route me around bad traffic, and I found the turn-by-turn directions easy to understand.
The K900 offers typical destination options, such as entering addresses or choosing from a points-of-interest database. Missing is any sort of online destination search, a must-have feature in the luxury set. Kia integrates its Uvo app with the car, which brings in maintenance scheduling and telematics. Uvo lets you look up and save destinations on a home computer, then sync them with the car.
Among the audio sources, which include HD Radio and an onboard hard drive, Kia provides Pandora as the only Internet streaming option. The onscreen interface showed a full music library for my iPhone or a thumbdrive when plugged into the car's USB port. For Bluetooth streaming audio, the interface only includes basic functionality, not letting me actually choose music.