Kia branches out to luxury with K900

My plan was to post a preview on March 23 of the 2015 K900, a brand new car from Kia. But on the morning of March 22, the unthinkable happened: a mile-wide, mile-long mudslide near Oso, wiping out homes, killing people, making international news.

I got no work done on the K900 preview, not just because of being fixated on news coverage of the mudslide. Every time I sat down at the computer to get started, writing about a car seemed utterly ridiculous, even blasphemous, in the shadow of such terrible suffering going on so close to home.

Some would say writing about cars is always ridiculous, but we all have cars, and if not, we ride in someone else’s. Cars are a necessity for the kind of lives most of us are living. That makes them important. And, though writing about cars isn’t the most noble work in the world, it’s what I do, so now I’m back at it.

From here, there’s no wonderful way to segue into the K900 preview, so I’ll just say here goes.

The rear-wheel-drive K900 is Kia’s first full-size luxury sedan and it shares some mechanicals with its cousin, the Hyundai Equus, but there’s no family resemblance between their exterior designs. Equus looks calm and dignified. K900 looks ready to party.

There’s a choice between two engines: a 420-horsepower V8 or a 311-horsepower V6. Models equipped with the V8 are available now at local dealerships. Look for V6 versions at a later date, with pricing expected to start around $50,000.

Fuel economy ratings are 18 mpg city and 27 mpg highway for the V6, and 15/23 for the V8. Both engines come paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission. This is the first V8 sedan and eight-speed gearbox in Kia’s history.

Just like Equus, the K900’s features-per-dollar quotient is impressive. Potential buyers in the premium sedan market doing triage with Audi, BMW, Jaguar and Mercedes-Benz can add Kia to the list, and take note of all the standard features K900 includes with a base price of $60,400 (including destination charge) for the V8 — a significantly lower amount than the other brands expect to get for their equivalent models.

A partial recital of K900’s standard equipment includes four drive modes (Normal, Comfort, Sport, Snow); heated and ventilated front seats; heated rear outboard seats; HID (V6) or LED (V8) headlights with adaptive lighting system; panoramic sunroof (optional on V6); rain-sensing windshield wipers; heated steering wheel (optional on V6); Bluetooth wireless technology; 900-watt Lexicon Logic7 audio system with 17 speakers; SiriusXM satellite radio; navigation system with 9.2-inch display screen; front and rear camera display; front and rear parking sensors with Park Guide system (optional on V8); three-zone temperature control; blind spot detection system (optional on V6); and rear cross traffic alert (optional on V6).

The name K900 is derived from the car’s counterpart in South Korea, and was chosen for the U.S. market where consumers associate luxury vehicles with alpha-numeric names. Unfortunately, when spoken it can sound like “Canine Hundred.”

Why would Kia, a highly successful brand whose stock-in-trade has always been popular economy cars, come out with a full-size luxury sedan? Good question. Michael Sprague, executive vice president of sales and marketing for Kia Motors America, can answer.

At a media introduction for the K900, Sprague said it used to be that if Kia got award recognition, it was for being “the cheapest car under $12,000.” Now, he pointed out, Kia is being awarded for such things as quality, customer satisfaction and environmental responsibility. “We see opportunity; the time is right,” he said. He admitted that Kia doesn’t expect high volume sales for the K900, but said it will “raise the brand’s portfolio.”

IMMBPO (In My Modest But Professional Opinion), Sprague’s best explanation came when he said, “Luxury brands have been moving down into our space. Why can’t we move up into their space?”

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