2015 Kia K900 V8 Elite Road Test Review

By : Trevor Hofmann
  Kia has upset the premium apple cart with its Audi A8, BMW 7 Series and Mercedes-Benz S-Class fighting K900 luxury sedan. This full-size, rear-drive, optionally V8-powered flagship four-door delivers premium-level fit, finish and features that should shame many so-called luxury brands that don’t even offer anything in the large luxury sedan segment. Read Trevor Hofmann’s detailed review and enjoy Karen Tuggay’s massive photo gallery now….......
                   
                   
                   
                   
                   
                   
                   
                   
                   
                   
                 
 
What's the world coming to? It's like asking the girl taking orders at the McD's drive-through to biggie size your '57 Dom Pérignon
2015 Kia K900 V8 Elite
Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
and by all means don't forget to add extra truffles to your foie gras burger. A Kia designed to compete with a BMW 7 Series? Ridiculous!

Think for a moment that legendary luxury brands such as Cadillac and Lincoln don't even offer a full-size rear-drive premium sedan within their current lineups, let alone relative newcomers like Acura and Infiniti, while budget-minded Kia and its South Korean parent company's namesake value-brand Hyundai do. Yes, we certainly live in strange times. Then again, how wonderful life has become for those with a few extra thousand available in their annual automotive budgets.

No matter the angle, the Kia K900 is a beautiful luxury car. Its overall shape is long,
2015 Kia K900 V8 Elite
Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
lean and athletic, sporty looking for its size yet as elegantly penned as anything in the full-size luxury sedan segment. Put it next to the aforementioned 7 Series or Mercedes' S-Class, let alone Audi's A8, Jaguar's XJ, or Lexus' LS and the K900 measures up from nose to tail in beauty points, while some of its details make these longstanding premium contenders look downright pedestrian.

I'm talking specifically about the K900's fabulous full-LED adaptive headlights, not part of the base package but available on my top-line Elite trimmed tester. Whoa! With dual quad clusters of LEDs hovering over a row of LED DRLs and frosted LED positioning lights, reflective brightwork wrapping around their backsides and additional
2015 Kia K900 V8 Elite
Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
detailing that make these headlamps leagues above and beyond anything ever offered by a mainstream volume automaker, while at the very least measuring up to the best European and Japanese luxury brands have to offer. A curved row of nine LEDs make up the distinctive fogs that highlight the outer extremities of the K900's lower front valance, finishing off a wide-open engine vent that resides below an imposing chrome-clad version of Kia's now trademark grille, this version not only surrounded by chrome trim but filled with a sporty chrome mesh insert.

There's surprisingly little additional chrome up front, only a tiny strip above each cluster of LED fogs, although Kia makes up for this down each side with thick brightwork
2015 Kia K900 V8 Elite
Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
surrounding the greenhouse and an even bolder flash of buffed metal protectively finishing off the bottom of each door. An unusually styled engine vent on each front fender mimics the grille opening, trendy for sure but possibly not the cleanest addition to the design's overall aesthetic, while an equally unusual albeit wonderfully provocative set of semi-ovoid LED turn signal repeaters completely take over the side mirror caps. The rooftop of my white tester was blackened completely from a sizable glass panel that provides daylight to occupants within and yet more style points from observers passing by, the glass top melding almost seamlessly into the rear window that's so steeply raked it almost has the K900 qualifying for four-door coupe status instead of luxury sedan. The LED lightbar taillights are simple and elegant, as is the thin strip of brightwork that bridges the two,
2015 Kia K900 V8 Elite
Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
whereas the rear bumper gets downright sporty black diffuser-like trim integrated within, bookended by two muscly chromed tailpipes.

My tester came fitted with the Elite's chromed 15-spoke 19-inch alloy wheels, replacing the base 18s, a classy set of rims perfectly suited to the big cars rakish lines. The 245/45R19 front and 275/40R19 rear Hankook Optimo grand touring all-seasons look fittingly low in profile and are appropriately South Korean sourced, but then again I wouldn't have been put off if Kia had wrapped these rims in Pirelli Cinturato P7 All Season Plus rubber, although this has nothing to do with how the Italian tires look, but more so with how they grip wet pavement.

This is where I must make one thing crystal clear, while the K900 rides on the same
2015 Kia K900 V8 Elite
Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
basic platform architecture as the Hyundai Equus, which itself shares underpinnings with the Genesis sedan, neither the big "H" branded luxury car nor the K900 comes anywhere close to sport sedan status. The Hankook Optimos I just mentioned probably don't help matters (they're not rated all that well when it comes to performance in the wet), but it's more about how Kia has chosen to set its flagship sedan up, biasing it clearly towards comfort without paying much heed at all to cornering prowess. While it looks as if it'll make short work of the big 7, S, A8, XJ, or LS through the curves, in reality it flips, flops and flounders around tight high-speed turns like a trawler yacht in rough seas. It didn't actually flip, fortunately, but you get the gist, my notes actually stating, "It's large, comfortable and fully capable of floating down the highway at high speeds, but bend it into a fast-paced corner and it leans uncomfortably, sloshing around terribly through transitional curves, while the brakes
2015 Kia K900 V8 Elite
Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
can't handle repeated stomps during high-speed mountain running." And yes, that's even with the Advanced Drive Mode Select system set to Sport mode (it gets Normal, ECO and Snow modes too), the four-corner multi-link suspension and standard dynamic dampers fully engaged, as was the electric-hydraulic power steering, electronic stability control, Vehicle Stability Management (VSM), not to mention the four-wheel discs (the V8's slightly larger up front) with ABS, electronic brake-force distribution and emergency brake assist. At such speeds the K900 V8 Elite's 2,106 kilos (4,643 lbs) of mass was just too much to handle.

In this respect I don't mean to criticize, as Kia isn't even touting the K900 as a luxury-sport sedan. Rather, it's an exemplary full-size rear-drive luxury sedan along
2015 Kia K900 V8 Elite
Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
the same vein as the old Lincoln Town Car, although a much more obvious attempt at targeting European flagships than the glorified airport shuttle that did a much better job of carting around intoxicated high school grads than it ever did karting around a racetrack, let alone impressing with the K900's high level of style, refinement and features. And as long as you go into the relationship with the understanding that the big Kia doesn't do fast anywhere but in a straight line, but actually manages corners very well at more reasonable speeds, you'll be totally content throughout the marriage.

The powertrain is a dream. The 5.0-litre direct-injection V8 sounds fabulous at full throttle and delivers lots of forward thrust off the line and throughout its rev range thanks to 420 horsepower and 376 lb-ft of torque, while a state-of-the-art ZF-sourced eight-speed automatic transmission delivers wonderfully smooth yet prompt,
2015 Kia K900 V8 Elite
Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
precise shifts, and even a modicum of efficiency for the class resulting in a 15.7 L/100km city and 10.3 highway rating; its standard 75-litre gas tank making sure you don't have to stop all the time to refuel.

Highway in mind, the K900 V8 Elite is capable of cruising at a fast clip all day long in absolute control with all occupants cossetted in total comfort. My Elite-trimmed tester spared no expense when it came to laying out the luxuries, even wrapping the entire dash, door uppers, armrests, lower console edging and steering wheel hub in French-stitched leather, while the ultra-comfortable 12-way powered front seats featuring powered front headrests and a power-extendable lower cushion on the driver's side received the perforated treatment on supple Nappa leather in order to emit forced ventilation. The hardwood trim is traditionally glossed and mixed
2015 Kia K900 V8 Elite
Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
with high-gloss piano black lacquered surfaces, while plenty of chrome and aluminum accents add richness to the cabin. Digital interfaces include a customizable 12.3-inch TFT LCD Supervision primary gauge cluster with a multi-information display at centre, plus a large full-colour infotainment screen at the top of the centre stack with an integrated 360-degree four-camera surround monitoring system and navigation, controlled via a big iDrive-style rotating knob surrounded by direct-access buttons on the lower console.

Seat-shaped power seat controls with driver and passenger memory up on the door panels made finding the ideal driving position possible, while heatable and cooling seat switches were situated directly beside and the auto power-folding mirror buttons could be found nestled into the high-quality power window switchgear.
2015 Kia K900 V8 Elite
Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
The aluminum mesh speaker grilles display the audio system's impressive Lexicon branding, subtly inferring auditory delight that's backed up by one of the better stereos in the mainstream sector let alone the premium class, its various functions available from the infotainment screen, a separate interface on the centre stack or via steering wheel-mounted controls, the latter of which also incorporate buttons for answering the phone, or setting and modulating the active cruise control system. Triple-zone automatic climate control can be adjusted via the infotainment system or from a panel just above the audio interface on the centre stack, rear seat occupants getting their own adjusters integrated into the fold-down centre armrest.

That armrest gets additional switchgear for heating and cooling both outboard seats,
2015 Kia K900 V8 Elite
Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
as well as moving them back and forth, reclining the backrests (duplicated with seat-shaped controls on the doors), adding or subtracting air from the lumbar support, or alternatively powering the rear window shade up or down, while a USB charging port lets you connect your devices. The window shades for the side windows, including little sliders for the quarter windows, are manually operable, as are the aviation-style rear butterfly headrests.

One last exclusive Elite V8 feature that I haven't yet mentioned is a set of self-sealing power pull-in doors that effectively lock out exterior noise, with many of the previous mentioned features available on the base V6-powered K900 via a Premium upgrade package. This list includes the premium Nappa leather upholstery, real wood trim, wood and leather-wrapped heatable steering wheel, adaptive cruise control, adaptive headlights, albeit for a set of more conventional automatic
2015 Kia K900 V8 Elite
Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
Xenon HID auto-leveling lenses, the panoramic sunroof, power extendable driver's seat cushion, rear seat 'air' lumbar support, advanced heads-up display system, blind-spot detection with rear cross traffic alert, advanced lane departure warning (with an incessant beeping that so annoying I had to turn it off), and Kia's Advanced Vehicle Safety Management.

As mentioned dynamic dampers are standard, but I'd rather talk more about pampering than performance, wouldn't you? To that end the K900 gets solar glass all-round, a rain-sensing windshield, hydrophobic windshield and front door glass, soundproof side glass front and rear to keep things ultra quiet inside, while a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob deliver a premium feel to primary touch points. Also impressive, the leather-wrapped dash, heated and cooled front memory system effecting the driver's seat, sideview mirror and steering wheel, auto-dimming
2015 Kia K900 V8 Elite
Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
heatable power-folding side mirrors with puddle lamps and integrated LED turn signals, tri-zone HVAC system with auto-defog and rear climate controls, UVO infotainment system with navigation and UVO eServices telematics, and 17-speaker, 900-watt AM/FM/CD/AUX/USB/satellite Lexicon audio system all come standard on the base car. Even the powered rear window curtain comes standard, as does a Supervision primary gauge cluster, power tilt and telescopic steering, auto-dimming rearview mirror, electric parking brake, handy sunglass holder in the overhead console, LED interior mood lighting, front and rear parking cameras and sensors, heated rear seats, illuminated aluminum doorsill scuff plates, powered trunk lid, and proximity sensing remote access with pushbutton ignition, which incidentally gave me trouble during my test.

It almost never locked the doors (it worked only twice during at least 20 separate drives
2015 Kia K900 V8 Elite
Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
and who knows how many attempts), whereas the trunk never worked once via the proximity fob. Being that I've never experienced such difficulty using a proximity system before and usually find Kia's systems faultless, I'm going to mark this down as a one-time incident that you'll likely never experience, not to mention one that might have more to do with an accident this particular K900 example experienced, notably evident by the front seat anti-whiplash head restraints that were awkwardly deployed throughout my test week.

On that note the K900 comes well fitted with safety gear, those items not already mentioned including a tire pressure monitoring system, Hill Assist Control (HAC), and eight airbags including two side-impact bags for the rear occupants.

As
2015 Kia K900 V8 Elite
Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
you have no doubt ascertained Kia understands a thing or two about luxury, the K900 truly one of the most impressive premium-level sedans I've had the pleasure of driving, even if I would have rather taken the back seat and been driven instead. The biggest difference between the K900 and its comparative rivals comes down to price, the well-equipped base model available for a shockingly low $49,995 plus $1,485 for freight and pre-delivery prep. Even the impressively outfitted V6 Premium doesn't come close to full-size luxury territory at $60,995 plus freight, while my top-line K900 V8 Elite didn't even break the $70k threshold before adding on the freight charges, with an MSRP of just $69,995, the new luxury model continuing to drive home the point that value remains Kia's core value.

With a total of 23 sold through the latter half of 2014, five off the showroom floor in
2015 Kia K900 V8 Elite
Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
January, zero in February and two in March, making the K900 on target for 28 total deliveries in 2015, it's obvious that the world's fastest growing automotive brand isn't relying on the K900 to cushion its bottom line here in Canada or in the U.S. where it did much better per capita with 1,330 sales last year and so far 269 for 2015. Rather, the Kia's highly successful lineup of subcompact, compact and midsize cars and crossovers do that very effectively already, allowing a halo car like the K900 to exist at all.

Therefore we shouldn't complain that the car isn't offered with any available exterior colours, but rather just three shades including Aurora Black (an odd name considering aurora borealis can be plenty colourful as can dawn, the word's other meaning),
2015 Kia K900 V8 Elite
Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
Sterling Metallic (silver) and my tester's Snow White Pearl (white effectively embodies every colour so we can give them some colour credits for that).

Truth told, despite the K900's limited colour palate, annoying lane departure warning system and less than stellar high-speed handling it's a fabulous luxury car that deserves to do a lot better on the sales charts, but in the end it does a very good job of elevating the Kia brand above many so-called luxury marques that don't even offer a full-size flagship sedan. All Kia needs to do now is add a rear seat cooler to chill that bottle of Dom and, oh yes, I'll take mine with a chauffeur, thank you.

©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)
 
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