A Short Term Test of Kia’s New, Ultra-Rare Flagship Sedan, 2019 Kia K900.
I had the opportunity to spend a week living with the brand new 2019 Kia K900 and I was truly disappointed to give it back. Although Kia’s very limited marketing of the K900 would have you believe the car competes with mid-size luxury sedans like the Mercedes E Class and BMW 5 Series, the truth is that this car compares in both size and luxury with full-size rivals like the Lexus LS500, the Audi A8, and the Mercedes S Class.
One thing it doesn’t share with other flagship luxury sedans is the brand prestige normally required by buyers in this segment. But if you can look past the Kia badge, this may just be the best all-around luxury car you can buy today. Read on to find out what you’ll get when you opt for this $60,000 Kia.
Exclusive Luxury Amenities
Upon entering the K900, the first things you notice are the restrained, yet modern, interior design, the gorgeous and supple nappa leather, the solid, dry-look real wood trim, and the flawless aluminum switchgear everywhere you look. Kia really took the time to make interior quality and comfort a priority, to the point where your drive will become a retreat from your hectic work schedule, even if you have to brave LA traffic like I do.
The car I was driving had the Sienna Brown nappa leather interior, which is probably the best version of this interior we get in the United States. It also came with the VIP package, which is only $4,000 more and the sole option you can get in the K900. That VIP package provides a 20-way power driver’s seat including a thigh cushion extender, a 16-way power passenger seat, a 14-way power reclining rear seat behind the passenger, and a 12-way power reclining rear seat behind the driver. All seats in the car besides the middle rear seat feature powered 4-directional headrests and 4-way power lumbar support.
The VIP package also adds three-stage air conditioned seats in the back (heated seats come standard, and air conditioned seats are standard in the front) an excellent premium microfiber headliner which continues onto the sunroof cover, and two extra rear climate vents in the B pillars of the car to give the rear passengers even more comfort.
What’s more, in the rear passenger seat, you can fully control the front passenger seat using the rear seat controls to give yourself even more room in the already spacious rear cabin.
Rear passengers will also find high quality aluminum coat hooks that are positioned far forward in the rear cabin so they can be used even when the rear seats are occupied. I don’t need to tell you that headroom and legroom are excellent all around. There are also controls on the left side of the passenger seat so the driver can control the passenger seat when chauffeuring a rear passenger.
I drove my coworker to lunch one day while I had the K900 and he took one look at the rear seat and said, “I know where I’m sitting!” Another coworker mentioned “I can’t believe this. It’s better than a Mercedes!”
It’s honestly a challenge in the K900 to find plastic surfaces. Almost everything is covered in high quality leather, wood, aluminum, premium carpeting, and in the storage bins, a velvet-like material. Kia also fitted extra-thick glass throughout the car, which combined with other sound-deadening materials, makes the K900 a very quiet place to be, even when there’s a lot of noise going on outside. For rear-seat passengers, there’s also a power-operated rear sunshade and manual side window sunshades that disappear into specially designed recesses in the doors. I dare anyone who goes for a ride in this car not to feel pampered.
An analog Maurice Lacroix clock comes standard and looks beautiful between the front climate vents. It’s controlled electronically through the infotainment system and there’s a redundant digital clock in the 12.3” touchscreen as well.
Despite the fact that there is no massaging rear seat option in the US-spec K900, the car meets or exceeds the rear seat luxury of all the more expensive competitors except maybe the new Audi A8. I would go as far as to say that this is a better execution of the concept than the Genesis G90 with which the K900 shares its platform, although that G90 gets a few extra goodies such as rear-seat entertainment screens that the K900 forgoes in the US market, probably so as not to upset its in-house rival. The G90 just feels a little more dated and old school than the new K900.
The 2019 Kia K900 also receives a host of technology features that you might expect from a flagship luxury sedan.
These include the incredible 900-watt, 17-speaker Lexicon surround sound system, which includes two software technologies, QuantumLogic and Clari-Fi, that can be tuned to provide unbelievable clarity, three-dimensional sound, and more natural voice. Even at lower volumes, the quality of the bass and the clarity of the mids is excellent and is one of the places the K900 punches well above its pay grade. You could close your eyes (not while you’re driving!) and imagine that the singer of your music is sitting there in the car with you. The aluminum speaker grilles in the K900 are large, gorgeous, and don’t feel as fragile as those found in some other luxury cars.
Ambient lighting is also featured throughout the car, and you can control the color of the lighting in the front and rear footwells, the lower door storage cubbies, the front and rear of the center console, underneath the wood and aluminum trim pieces on the rear seats, and surrounding the door speakers on all four doors. While only a handful of color options are presented, you can select “Custom Color” to select virtually any color you can think of to match your mood.
Safety and convenience features abound in the K900. A Smart Cruise Control system allows you to easily set a speed, and then watch the car accelerate, slow, stop, and start to match the flow of traffic while never exceeding the speed you set. An advanced Active Lane Keep Assist function then keeps the car centered in its lane, although warnings will blare at increasingly urgent volumes and larger sizes of red messages if you don’t keep your hands on the wheel. I assume the system will disengage if you don’t touch the wheel for long enough. When the car stops for more than a few seconds in traffic, it will require you to tap the “Resume” switch on the steering wheel to get going again. While the K900 doesn’t match Tesla’s ability to change lanes automatically, it comes close to the best semi-autonomous driving systems that exist today.
Other safety features include Safe Exit Assist, which alerts you if you are about to open your door when an obstacle such as a car or bicycle is in your blind spot, haptic feedback built into the steering wheel that vibrates when you are drifting out of your lane or when other threats are detected, and active assistants to avoid accidents when merging (the car will not allow you to merge if a car is in your blind spot), reversing (the car will not allow you to continue if you are backing out of a space and a car is coming), and driving forwards (autonomous emergency braking).
The 2019 Kia K900 also features a brilliant 360-degree camera system that features multiple configurable views. In the center of the screen you will note a high-resolution image of the K900 from above with your surroundings accurately displayed in a top-down manner, and depending on how you steer the front wheels, you’ll see guidelines for exactly where each wheel will go. Beyond helping you ensure your car is positioned correctly when parking, this helps you to line your car’s tires up with wheel ramps such as those in garages, car washes, car transporters, and more.
With the VIP package, you get another 12.3” LED screen in the gauge cluster with a trick camera system. When you signal right or left, part of the screen is replaced with the camera view of your right or left blind spot to aid you when turning, merging, or changing lane. Speaking of that LED gauge cluster, it has 4 configurable modes which change the style of the gauges in the cluster. There are futuristic, sporty, and classic modes to match your mood.
Above the gauge cluster sits the Heads Up Display, which is a large unit that displays current speed, speed limit, active lane keep assist information, cruise control data that includes an accurate picture of a K900 with the speed and distance you set in the cruise control settings clearly displayed, and navigation instructions. Unfortunately, while it’s crystal clear in most circumstances, this system is a little difficult to see if you are wearing polarized sunglasses.
One thing I absolutely love about the 2019 Kia K900 is its ability to configure everything to your heart’s desire. Using the controller in the center console, the touch screen, the steering wheel controls, or a mix of all of the above, you can easily navigate through the menus on the primary 12.3” infotainment screen to determine, for each system, whether you want to turn it off, or adjust the intensity of system.
For instance, you can turn on and off the smart Cruise Control, or determine how fast you want the system to react based on your comfort level. You can also determine exactly what information you want to show in the Heads Up Display. If you never want to see navigation instructions there, you can remove it. You can also control the rear seat climate controls from the front through the climate control menu if your rear seat passenger falls asleep.
There are similar configurable options for all the car’s systems.
The K900 also offers a unique smartphone application called UVO Luxe which allows you to lock and unlock the car, turn the car on and off, and adjust the climate controls from your phone. UVO also offers a special concierge service just for K900 owners.
Gone are the days when you had to sacrifice performance when buying a “luxury” car from Hyundai or Kia. Stinger’s excellent 3.3 liter twin-turbocharged V6 has been transplanted into the K900, along with that car’s 8-speed dual clutch automatic transmission and standard all-wheel-drive to keep you in control of the car at all times. Despite the much larger size and weight of the K900, it does not lose the feel of poise and power that we found in the Stinger, despite being a second slower to 60mph (it races to 60 in 5.5 seconds).
The 2019 Kia K900 suspension has been tuned to offer a tight and composed character, and like almost everything else in the car, it’s highly configurable. Body roll is above average for the car’s size and I never reached its limits, although the serene nature of the K900 doesn’t beg you to push it hard like the Stinger does.
One thing I really noticed about the K900 was the difference in character between the different drive modes. In most cars, I’m left guessing whether Eco mode really helps me get better gas mileage, and whether Sport mode really makes the car any faster, or whether these drive modes are just a placebo to make you feel like the car cares about your current mood. But in the K900, I felt it.
When you enter Sport mode, the side bolsters of the front seats come in and hug you just a little tighter to let you know the car is ready for some spirited driving. The throttle immediately becomes more lithe and responsive, and the gears hold to much higher RPMs, which encourages you to actually use the paddle shifters for what they were designed for. When slowing, the car noticeably engine brakes and lets you control the car to a much greater degree. In Sport mode, you hear a throaty roar from the V6 engine up front that fills the cabin. This noise comes not only from the engine itself, but also from the speakers. Unlike some other cars with this “feature,” in the K900 you can turn off the active engine sound, or adjust its volume to be more or less subdued.
Eco mode was perfect for driving in traffic with the smart Cruise Control. In this mode, the engine was calm and lethargic. I’m convinced using Eco mode is the reason I was able to get 18mpg in the car over the week I had it. My instant gas mileage was under 10MPG when I was pushing it hard in Sport mode. Big, powerful cars are thirsty, and this one is no exception. Despite the performance of the engine, you can theoretically use 87 octane gas in the K900, but a sticker in the gas door recommends you to use premium anyway.
Comfort mode softens everything about the car’s driving experience, making it clear that it’s the mode you should be in when you’re transporting Korean executives in the back of your K900. The car becomes quiet but retains enough power to get you out of any situation smoothly.
Custom mode allows you to personally configure the character of the engine, transmission, suspension, and the AWD system so you can create the perfect balance that you like for yourself.
While there’s no option of a more powerful engine like there is in more expensive competitors, the K900 provides enough performance to keep full-size luxury sport sedan buyers happy, and it definitely impressed everyone I drove in the car.
Modern, Conservative Exterior Styling
The 2019 Kia K900 is a conservative looking car from the outside, but it’s also a much more modern take on the full-size luxury sedan than its cousin, the Genesis G90. The large front grille offers hints of the athletic nature of the car, and features an intricate, unique flowing grille pattern that appears more detailed the closer you get to the car. The full LED headlights are beautifully executed, and the way the turn signals light up the lower LED strip amber while leaving the upper LED strip white is a great detail that feels very luxurious.
The details in the headlights are mirrored in the full LED taillights, which sit away from the trunklid surrounded with chrome, making the rear of the car that much more luxurious, befitting the large footprint of the car. The dual exhaust openings on the rear bumper again hint at the performance of the car, and the LED reverse lights place in the lower bumper also feel very premium.
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The bulge in the hood of the K900 is muscular and increases the presence you feel when driving it, and the slightly frosted appearance of all the chrome on the outside of the car makes it feel that much more modern than the glossy chrome of previous luxury attempts by Kia. When coming back to the K900 in parking lots with other luxury cars from Mercedes-Benz, Audi, Jaguar, and BMW, the big Kia fit in perfectly and even outshone those cars in terms of the presence of the car.
The 2019 Kia K900 is an unusually rare car. This new generation of the car went on sale in December 2018 and has so far (as of March 3, 2019) sold less than 100 units in the United States. If you choose to buy this car, you probably won’t run into any others on the road. Make your own decision whether this is an appealing prospect or not.
Despite this low take rate, the 2019 Kia K900 is a great way to spend $60,000, although I’d highly recommend you splurge the extra $4,000 for the VIP package. As long as you’re not a badge snob and you are okay with anonymity, you can get outstanding luxury, above average performance, and incredible value with the Kia K900.