AUTO REVIEW: Kia Cruises Into US Luxury Market With the K900

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Kia’s entry into the full-size luxury sedan market here shouldn’t come as too big of a surprise to folks around the globe. Kia’s been building giant sedans for years — they just haven’t been shipping them to the U.S. market.

These are dangerous waters here, what with the Mercedes S550, Lexus LS460, Audi A8 and the BMW 7-Series well-entrenched in the U.S., enjoying great sales and great reputations for performance and luxury.

But the 2015 Kia K900 comes ready to take on those big players: It’s a good-looking, smooth-driving sedan that can hold its own in the luxury market yet stay true to its economy heritage. For starters, it costs thousands, even tens of them, less than much of its competition.

The five-passenger K900 is Kia’s largest sedan yet with interior and trunk space comparable to the other guys. Plenty of headroom, shoulder and legroom here. And cargo capacity is 15.9 cubic feet, offering room to spare for the groceries or golf clubs.

Fit and finish inside is impressive, and touch surfaces are soft and supple. But there is a plethora of switches and knobs in the K900, and many of those have a low-cost feel in this luxurious interior.

There’s no shortage of the latest electronics, starting with a large, 9.2-inch multifunction display in the middle of the dash. However, the system is rather complicated and not the most intuitive.

Seats are ultra-comfortable even for the long hauls. Accent piping brings a touch of style to the seats and doors.

Opt for a VIP package and get 12-way power driver seat and headrest adjustment, ventilated and reclining rear seats with lumbar, soft-close doors, virtual instrument panel that includes driver head-up display and safety features like frontal-collision warning system and adaptive cruise control.

Visibility is generally acceptable, but the C-pillar is wide and at times hampers the rear view. Fortunately, there are parking sensors galore: a 360-degree top-down camera system, as well as front and rear cameras.

On the road, you’ll find that the big, rear-wheel-drive K900 is most at home on the open highway. After all, this is a cruiser. It’s not floaty, however, and holds the road well. And Kia accentuated the luxury factor by making it as quiet as a city library, void of virtually any road or wind noise.

But hugging corners was more of a challenge than with the German brands, as one might expect. The suspension is soft, so it feels heavy on the corners. Switching from comfort to sport mode did little to improve the experience, nor did it seem to add any extra punch.

There is no option for adaptive suspension, but the ride quality overall is smooth and comfy, and it easily absorbs the bumps and dips along most roads.

Kia powered up the K900 with a 5.0-liter engine that puts out 420 horsepower and 376 pound-feet of torque. Acceleration from a stoplight does not give you a jolt but across the band is strong and managed smoothly via an 8-speed automatic transmission. Zero-to-60 happens in 5.5 seconds, and it gets up to 100 in 13 seconds.

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates 15 mpg city, 23 highway.

Also available is a 3.8-liter direct-injected V-6 that gets 311 horsepower and 293 pound-feet of torque. Of course, this powerplant is more mileage-friendly, at 18 mpg city, 27 highway.

Standard safety features include Uvo eServices: If your teenager wants to borrow the K900 late one night, Uvo has monitoring features such as curfew alert and speed checks plus emergency assistance.

Also standard are blind-spot monitoring, lane-departure warning system and rear cross-traffic alert when backing out of the driveway.

The K900 comes in only two trim levels: the V-8 and V-6. All V-8s get 19-inch wheels, upgraded leather, LED headlights, a panoramic sunroof to let in the sun and a power rear shade to keep it off the backs of passengers. Music is provided by a 17-speaker Lexicon audio system that is so crisp you’ll want to hear the end of that song before shutting down in the driveway.

U.S. motorists should welcome the long-awaited arrival of a large-luxe sedan from Kia. It does not match its rivals yet in every category, like road performance and brand reputation. But the K900 is a rightful player in the market. And Kia remains true to its roots in offering a ton of standard features and a price that will allow more folks into the luxury arena.

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2015 Kia K900 base price: $59,500

As tested: $66,400 (w/ VIP Package)