- Comfortable ride
- Spacious rear seat
- Quiet cabin
- Inoffensive lines
- Value for money
- Anodyne styling
- No distinguishing features
- Lag on acceleration
- No crash-safety scores
features & specs
The 2016 Kia K900 is a great value in a luxury-sedan context, but not all of its details add up to pure luxury.
The 2016 Kia K900 full-size luxury sedan remains an unlikely vehicle for consumers who associate the Korean brand with the small and inexpensive economy cars it launched in the U.S. two decades ago. But those buyers haven't been paying attention; Kia now offers a line of smartly styled and feature-rich entries in a variety of segments. The K900 just takes it further upscale, following the script that launched Lexus 25 years ago.
Just as it did when it launched the pricier and more luxurious Optima Limited mid-size sedan, Kia has priced the large K900 for value. The idea is to launch a more luxurious and larger model than ever before—but undercut the traditional competitors in the segment. That will bring new buyers into the brand's showrooms, although we think it'll get fewer conquests from the German brands than buyers moving up from mass-market models because they're attracted by the value equation.
Whether Kia can wrap luxury into the same brand and same dealers as $14,000 subcompacts, however, remains an open question. Lexus had the advantage of a separate brand, dedicated showrooms, and a relentless focus on making its service absolutely first-class. Kia's now spanning a very broad range of vehicles, but the K900 is a creditable first attempt that ends up somewhere between premium and outright luxury in style, capabilities, and tone.
Its smaller cars have crisp European lines, but the big K900 is less distinctive. It's inoffensive, but anodyne, and for 2016 (only its second year on the market), Kia has already tweaked the grille and rear styling to add a bit more chrome, hopefully translating to flair and distinctiveness. The brand's chrome-ringed grille is the most distinctive element, with swept-back headlights leading to a conventional sedan shape echoes of some other cars in the segment, from the Tesla Model S at the front to recent Lexus sedans at the rear.
Lined up with Kia's smaller Cadenza and Optima sedans, only size really distinguishes the three cars. That’s not necessarily bad—brand identity is necessary for any car—but it means the K900 doesn't stand out in a crowd of upscale sedans. Kia says the K900’s buyers don’t need to make a visible statement; they're more interested in the experience of the car.
Kia offers two engines in the K900, a 311-horsepower 3.8-liter V-6 and a 420-hp 5.0-liter V-8. Both power the rear wheels through an 8-speed automatic transmission, but all-wheel drive isn't offered as an option, unlike most other large luxury sedans. Nor is there a hybrid or diesel version to provide a fuel-efficient headliner. EPA ratings are about average for the segment, with the V-6 at 20 mpg combined at the V-8 at 18 mpg combined.
The K900 is comfortable inside, with leather and wood trim and a feature list that's standard for its segment. That said, it has no single feature that's unique or sets it apart from other contenders. Behind the wheel, it's heavy and pleasant enough to drive, but offers neither the bank-vault solidity of the largest Mercedes-Benz nor the sporty feel and roadholding of a BMW. The biggest Kia corners flat, but without demonstrating any zeal.
In the end, Kia’s new K900 luxury sedan is comfortable, quiet, predictable, and easy to understand. It's a decent opening effort to put "a stake in the ground," as one executive said. At prices from about $50,000 to more than $65,000, the K900 will likely find buyers willing to forego a prestige brand to obtain its obvious value for money. Kia is to be commended, too, for avoiding the lengthy option lists that German makes use to bump up their bottom lines significantly. But that returns us to the question of what Kia's new luxury sedan really competes with.
The company's launch presentation suggested the K900 falls between mid-size luxury sedans (Audi A6, BMW 5-Series, Lexus GS, Mercedes-Benz E-Class) and their full-size counterparts (Audi A8, BMW 7-Series, Lexus LS, Mercedes-Benz S-Class). The K900 obviously can't go head to head with the S-Class, which offers numerous technology features missing from the Kia. Nor will it lure customers seeking the sportier driving reputation of BMW’s big sedans—and the same goes for the Jaguar XF and XJ as well.
Kia says it plans to stay in the luxury segment permanently. Today, the K900 falls somewhere between a premium sedan and a genuine luxury car competing with the Germans. That’s how Lexus started, and we won’t count Kia out—but we wish it offered at least a few distinctive aspects or features.
2016 Kia K900
The 2016 Kia K900 is almost anonymous aside from its grille, so anodyne are its classic sedan proportions.
The 2016 Kia K900, only in its second year on the market, benefits from a few minor styling enhancements—perhaps to give its rather generic shape more road presence and visibility in the haunts where large premium sedans are usually found. Overall, the biggest Kia extends the brand themes onto a shape considerably larger than the Optima, but it breaks no new ground. That keeps it safe, but also lacks distinction, which arguably is needed by any brand's very first entry into such a high-end category.
For 2016, K900 sedans get new 18-inch alloy wheels (for the V-6 model) or 19-inch chrome wheels (on the V-8 versions). The front grille has been slightly revised, and the rear gets different chrome trim, taillights, exhaust pipes, and a new bumper. Otherwise, the K900 remains a long car, with the classic proportions of a rear-wheel-drive luxury sedan, including a long hood, steeply raked windshield and rear window, a shorter and high trunk, and short overhangs.
At the front, a pair of quad-LED headlight arrays sweeps back under a clear lens in each fender from Kia’s signature chrome-ringed grille, set low and almost upright. In the rear quarters,a strong shoulder line leads into a slightly upswept lip on the trunk lid, with wraparound LED lights below it and a pair of chrome-outlined exhaust ports in the lower bodywork. While the rear has changed for 2016, you'd have to be an aficionado to spot it on first glance.
Save for one crisp accent line on the flanks, the K900's forms are soft and rounded, especially at the front—while the latest German models mix both rounded and crisply lined designs. It all works fine on the K900, with only one truly dissonant exterior note: a chrome-trimmed “vent” on each front fender between the front door and wheelwell is so shallow that it's visibly fake.
But absent that Kia grille, you'd likely be hard-pressed to identify what brand spawned the car. And unfortunately, looking at the K900 eventually produces a nagging feeling of familiarity. Haven't we seen that front, with the oval grille and swept-back lights, on the Tesla Model S? Isn't that rear from recent Lexus sedans?
The cockpit is stylish and comfortable, with the requisite soft-touch materials and luxury surfaces like wood and matte silver metal. There’s quite a lot of glossy piano black plastic in the dashboard, a material we fear is quickly become a cliché. The usual luxury touches—a heated, leather-wrapped steering wheel, LED ambient lighting, dual-zone climate control—are all present, as is a console-mounted knob to navigate through the menu options on the large central 9.2-inch touchscreen display (enlarged for 2016). The seats and other surfaces of high-end V-8 model are covered in Nappa leather, in either black or white with contrasting piping (it’s an option on the V-6 model). High-gloss walnut or poplar wood trim are matched to the two colors, respectively.
The K900's interior is easy to use and pleasantly straightforward, but it's not entirely convincing as a full luxury vehicle. it offers nothing different or even extravagant that can't be found in German sedans or various Lexus models. And a few surfaces are still hard plastic, in places passengers likely won’t touch. You might call it quiet luxury, for those who want substantial value for their premium-car dollar and don't feel the need to show off in a prestige brand.
2016 Kia K900
The 2016 Kia K900 offers dispassionate but sufficient performance, though its on-road behavior can't match the Germans.
The 2016 Kia K900 is offered with two different engines, both of them powering the rear wheels via an 8-speed automatic transmission. Unlike most of the cars it competes with, all-wheel drive (AWD) isn't offered. That may hurt its sales in colder regions, where AWD is fitted to four out of five large luxury sedans from Audi, BMW, Jaguar, Lexus, and Mercedes-Benz these days.
The humbler of the two engines is a 311-horsepower 3.8-liter V-6, while the higher-end models get a 420-hp direct-injected 5.0-liter V-8 engine—Kia’s first—putting out 376 pound-feet of torque. The latter is a similar to the powertrain combination used in the Hyundai Genesis and Equus models, and it should provide suitable power to move this relatively heavy car expeditiously.
We still haven't driven the V-6 version, but with the V-8, we noticed some lag in the shift and throttle response when the accelerator was floored. While the Jaguar XJ sedan uses the same 8-speed transmission, also paired to a V-8 engine, it did not exhibit the same symptoms. Under hard acceleration, the exhaust note rises perceptibly, but it produces a generic mechanical sound rather than the distinctive note of a Jaguar or Maserati.
For 2016, the option of paddle shifters behind the steering wheel has been made available on all versions. The big Kia’s shift lever can also be shifted into a manual mode to let the driver control the transmission in versions without the paddles.
The large Kia’s suspension is well-damped, but tuned more toward the comfort end of the scale than for roadholding. To its credit, this big sedan corners flat, and the combination of stability and traction control kept it well-behaved even on lumpy and cracked country roads. It's possible to turn off the traction control, allowing the driver to spin the rear wheels—but why bother?
Kia offers Normal, Eco, and Sport drive-mode settings, which remap the transmission’s shift points and also change the steering feel. The Eco mode downgraded the performance without the wet-blanket effect such settings often induce on smaller cars, while the Sport setting produced a little more responsiveness from the powertrain without notably changing the car’s road feel. In the end, we left it in Normal mode for most of our test drive—as we expect all but a handful of likely buyers to do.
2016 Kia K900
Comfort & Quality
The 2016 Kia K900 offers a spacious cabin that's quiet and comfortable to travel in, along with good build quality.
The 2016 Kia K900 is a new entry in a tough segment, and it's likely to get the eagle eye from anyone moving laterally from a German or British competitor. Buyers moving up from lower segments, however, may find its interior and lavish features just fine.
The bright and airy cabin is easy to enter and exit, with a full-length tinted glass sunroof standard on V-8 models.
Up front, the driver and front passenger accommodations are adequate, but not expansive. A tall front-seat passenger found that even with the front seat moved as far back as it could go, the glove-box lid hit his knees when opened. The driver's seat has standard 12-way power adjustment, with 16-way adjustment on the Luxury model. Both offered comfortable positions for two quite differently shaped adults during a day-long test drive.
But the back seat proves to be the saving grace, with a great deal of space and very comfortable upholstery for those riding in the back. The V-8 Luxury trim with added VIP package we tested included rear-seat climate control, adjustable heated individual seats with lower cushions that slides forward as the seat backs recline, and adjustable winged headrests. That model also lets rear-seat riders position the front passenger seat from a console built into their wide fold-down armrest.
Certain elements of the interior materials and trim, however, say “premium” more than “luxury.” Large areas of the dash trim are piano black plastic—not only a tired cliche by this point, but easily scratched as well—and while we wouldn't mind if it were one of several trim options, it's the only choice for those areas.
There's more: The sides of the instrument housing are made of plain black plastic rather than the matte silver found on German competitors. And a round analog clock in the center of the dash is particularly unfortunate, with molded plastic fins clearly visible through the clear plastic face. They’re little touches, but they’re important to buyers coming from other cars that cost $60,000 or more. They may be less important to those coming from less expensive models.
For drivers, the dashboard is logically laid out, and Kia’s crisp, clear digital graphics are among the easiest to read and interpret of any car we’ve tested. The Nappa leather feels good, and wood is used on top-end models both on the console and parts of the steering-wheel rim—though not on the dashboard itself. Kia also gets credit for providing large rotating knobs for things like audio volume to supplement both steering-wheel controls and the touchscreen/pointer-control knob combination.
On the road, we found the K900 comfortable and quiet on most road surfaces. Kia has incorporated several different noise-reduction measures, from underbody trays to reduce air noise (and improve fuel efficiency) to laminated front and side window glass.
In the end, we concluded that Kia's biggest and priciest model is a comfortable car that falls right in the middle of the segment: It has no hint of passion either for extravagant luxury or high-performance travel. It has neither the removed feel of the cushiest luxury sedans nor the sports-car handling of the best German models. And in that, perhaps it mirrors the taste of many middle-aged Americans who want comfort and quiet along with predictability.
2016 Kia K900
The 2016 Kia K900 offers various active and passive safety systems, but hasn't been rated for crash safety at all.
The 2016 Kia K900 is fitted with eight airbags as standard, along with several electronic safety systems, including optional adaptive cruise control and a forward collision warning system with automatic emergency braking that can bring the vehicle all the way to a stop. It also offers blind-spot monitors, rear cross-traffic alert, and a surround-view system with parking guidance.
However, neither the independent IIHS nor federal testers have issued crash-test safety ratings for the Kia K900. Pricier and lower-volume vehicles are sometimes never tested, so it's unclear whether we'll see ratings for the car, even in its second year on sale. Kia executives said they expected the car to do well in crash tests, but wouldn’t predict specific ratings.
Some of the K900's safety features are worthwhile, but not exactly what luxury buyers will expect. The camera-based lane-departure warning system, for example, doesn’t offer lane correction to steer the car back into its lane. That feature is now standard or optional on virtually every high-end luxury sedan, and it represents an odd omission by Kia.
On the other hand, the head-up display (HUD), which projects numeric speed, lane-departure graphics, and routing information in full color up to a point on the windshield just below the driver’s field of vision. It's a safety feature that, frankly, we'd like to see more often on every car. After a brief period of acclimatization, the HUD becomes a standard part of driving—and considerably reduces the time a driver has to spend looking down at the dash and refocusing eyes from 100 feet to 18 inches ahead and back.
2016 Kia K900
The 2016 Kia K900 is fully featured and competitive in the large premium segment, though none of its offerings stand out.
The 2016 Kia K900 comes in different trim levels, depending on which engine it's fitted with, but the company has expanded its standard and optional features for its second year on the market.
The 311-horsepower V-6 model comes in standard, Premium, and the Luxury trim levels, while the 420-hp V-8 is offered in Luxury-only trim with an available VIP Package that adds more goodies.
All models have a mix of luxury and technology standard features. The technology ranges from LED headlights with four LEDs per beam on each side to powered and heated rear-view mirrors with automatic dimming and the indicators for the car’s blind-spot monitors. One nice feature is a credit-card-size proximity key that can be kept in a wallet, considerably smaller than the usual bulky fob with multiple buttons on it. For 2016, the touchscreen has expanded to a 9.2-inch high-definition display.
All models have standard privacy shades on the door, rear-side, and rear windows, and a power trunklid. For 2016, a Smart Power Trunk will open the trunk automatically when it senses the key fob near the deck lid for more than 3 seconds. In the rear compartment—one of the K900’s strengths—both outboard seating positions have multi-stage heating built in, along with rear-compartment ventilation controls plus the ability to adjust the position of the front passenger’s seat.
The V-6 Premium and Luxury V-8 models have a 12-way power adjustable driver’s seat with power lumbar support; the V-6 Premium and both V-8 models feature a lane-departure warning system. A V-6 Technology Package includes some of the higher-trim features as well. Adaptive cruise control is offered within the V-6 Technology Package, and as part of the V-8 VIP package. All V-8 models have a full-length panoramic glass roof with a power retractable sunshade.
For 2016, the navigation system has been upgraded to a 9.2-inch high-definition touchscreen display. The system wraps in premium audio and a suite of functions known as UVO Luxury Services. Launching this year, they operate via direct communication to the K900 through an embedded modem. Features include remote climate control, remote starting and stopping, and remote lock/unlock via the UVO app. Included in the app is a full suite of My Car Zone features, which includes curfew, speed, and driver's scoring for worrisome parents or interesting valet trips.
Finally, the top-of-the-line Luxury on V-8 models with added VIP package includes a driver’s seat with 16-way power adjustment, a power adjustable headrest, and a lower cushion extender (it will also be part of the V-6 Technology Package). In the dash, a 12.3-inch thin-film touchscreen monitor replaces the standard display fitted to lesser K900 models. Individually reclining rear seats include multi-stage heating and cooling, power lumbar supports, and adjustable headrests.
2016 Kia K900
The 2016 Kia K900's fuel-economy ratings are about average for the segment, in both V-6 and V-8 versions.
The 2016 Kia K900 has fuel-economy numbers that are pretty much par for large four-door premium sedans. It has neither hybrid nor diesel models to provide an efficiency version, unlike Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz, each of which offers one or the other on its mid-size and large luxury sedans.
The more economical of the two versions is the one fitted with a 3.8-liter V-6 engine and an 8-speed automatic transmission. It is rated at 17 mpg city, 26 highway, 20 combined.
In its most luxurious form, the K900 with a 5.0-liter V-8 engine earns a combined rating of 15/23/18 mpg. It uses the same 8-speed automatic, but neither version has all-wheel drive available.