At its first drive event for the K900, Kia offered only the top-of-the-line VIP model, featuring a 420-horsepower direct-injected V-8 engine—Kia’s first—that produces 376 lb-ft of torque. It’s paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission that drives the rear wheels. This is a similar powertrain to that of the Hyundai Genesis and Equus models, and it provides suitable power to move this relatively heavy car expeditiously.
We noticed some lag in throttle and shift response when flooring the accelerator, more so than in the Jaguar XJ sedan, which uses the same eight-speed transmission paired to a V-8 engine. The K900’s shift lever could be moved into a manual-shift mode to control the transmission, but oddly, paddle shifters behind the steering wheel are not available, even as an option. When pressed hard, the exhaust note rises perceptibly, but it’s a generic mechanical sound rather than the distinctive sound you might find in a Jaguar or Maserati.
A second powertrain, consisting of a 311-hp V-6 engine with the same transmission, will follow shortly after the launch of the V-8 versions. We have not been able to drive that model. We’d also note that all-wheel drive, an option on both medium and large luxury sedans from Audi, BMW, Jaguar, Lexus, and Mercedes-Benz, is not offered at all in the Kia K900.
The driver can select among Normal, Sport, and Eco drive-mode settings, which remap the transmission’s shift points and also change the feel of the electric power steering. The sport setting made the powertrain slightly more responsive, without notably changing the K900’s road feel, and the Eco mode downgraded the performance without the wet-blanket effect such settings often induce on smaller cars. In the end, we left the K900 in Normal mode for the bulk of our test drive—as we suspect all but a handful of likely buyers will do.
The large Kia’s suspension is well-damped, but tuned more toward the comfort end of the scale than for roadholding. The big car corners flat, to its credit, and the combination of traction control and stability control made it well-behaved even on lumpy and cracked country roads. The traction control can be turned off, allowing the driver to spin the rear wheels—but why?