It’s curious that KIA still keeps its posh K900 in the lineup. It’s not as if the customer base and prospects are beating dealer’s doors down to snap up the big, well-equipped sedans that are a measurable luxury sedan value. But despite offering more car than any rival for an MSRP of just over $60-grand, KIA has simply proven that it’s not a luxury franchise. I could have told them that.
Brands vs. Models
It’s not impossible to sell expensive vehicles under a volume brand, Chevy sells six-figure Corvettes and Ford moves Shelby snake-striped Mustangs at luxury price points. But those models, along with Suburban have their own brand power. KIA’s K900 and the very competent Stinger sports sedan haven’t attained iconic stature and it’s doubtful if the company will be patient enough to nurture these cars for decades. The good news is that KIA’s new Telluride SUV is a solid hit and has plenty of upmarket, brand-building potential.
For those few, about 400 buyers a year, who’ve secured a K900, there’s a lot to be happy about. They own a big, well-equipped sedan that if the brand name was changed, would cost far more. That owner must smile every time he or she encounters a 7-Series or S-Class. Of course the downside for K900 owners that have risen above brand snobbery is resale value since nice, three-year-old K900s with low mileage are available for $25-grand or less.
Behind the K900’s wheel, you forget every stereotype about the KIA label. The confident luxury is world class, from performance and handling to a cabin furnished in soft Nappa leather and tasteful wood veneer. A multi-channel Lexicon surround audio system is standard, along with a host of luxury gear that is commonly optional with luxury rivals.
The K900 is powered by a 365-HP twin-turbo V6 connected to an eight-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel-drive with dynamic torque vectoring. You can choose four drive modes; Comfort, Sport, Smart and Eco or program your own settings with the Custom selection. It’s a bit too big to be a sports sedan, but with Sport selected and paddle shifters employed, the K900 has nice reflexes. Most owners will simply select Comfort and cruise in relative silence.
If the K900 seems to look and drive a lot like a flagship German luxury sedan, that’s not coincidental. The car’s styling was created by Hyundai Motor Group design chief Peter Schreyer, who worked his magic at Audi, revamping the brand. And the on-road performance can be attributed to Albert Biermann, recruited from BMW where he had risen to leadership at the automaker’s M Automobiles.
The only option available on our otherwise lavishly equipped K900 was a VIP Package that included power adjustable rear seats and three-zone climate control with vents in the rear pillars for those who wish to spoil added passengers. And why not? This big, competent sedan is a steal either way.
THE FINE PRINT
2020 KIA K900
TYPE: Front-engine, all-wheel-drive
ENGINE: 3.3-liter Twin Turbo V6
HORSEPOWER: 365 @ 6,000 RPM
TORQUE: 376 lb.ft. @ 1,300-4,500 RPM
BASE PRICE: $58,900
AS TESTED: $64,895
FUEL CONSUMPTION: 18-city, 25-highway, 21-combined