• All-new 2nd-generation model
  • Stronger Stinger-derived chassis is slightly larger, roomier
  • One engine: twin-turbocharged 3.3-liter V6
  • One transmission: 8-speed automatic with shift paddles
  • Dramatically improved driving characteristics
  • Standard all-wheel drive
  • Pricing starts at $60,895 (including $995 destination)

 

Kia’s K900 was introduced to the United States in 2012, about halfway through its lifecycle in Korea. While this large luxury sedan was brought to the U.S. to highlight the manufacturer’s global capabilities, the K900 was designed originally as an executive class sedan in South Korea, meaning it was used primarily to chauffeur executives around town. In other words, a comfortable cruiser. It sold well in the home market and China, but not the U.S.

The new car, the 2019 Kia K900, is dynamically much better -- a luxury sedan you’d rather drive yourself. The new chassis is closely related to that of the Kia Stinger sports sedan, while also embodying an emphasis on ageless design and top-quality craftsmanship. To that end, the South Korean manufacturer has built a luxury sedan that’s slightly smaller than its Genesis G90 cousin but a bit bigger than the outgoing K900.

Let’s take a look at this all-new K900, which has the long hood/short deck design that’s in vogue these days with luxury cars. Competitors include the Audi A6, BMW 5 Series, Lexus GS, and the Mercedes-Benz E-Class.

New platform

Kia says the new K900 is “a K900 in name only.” That’s another way of saying it’s a totally new car. Kia also calls it a “transformative vehicle” for the company, much like the Stinger. No surprise then, Kia uses a lengthened and widened version of the Stinger chassis to underpin the K900. This stronger unibody chassis, which benefits from extra high-strength steel and additional structural adhesives, provides a platform for a car that’s an inch longer and a bit wider than before, with a wheelbase that has grown by two inches. As a result, interior legroom, particularly in back, has grown Headroom front and rear also abounds.

The suspension -- a multilink front strut design complemented by a 5-link rear -- benefits from added lateral stiffness and electronically controlled Sachs dampers to deliver a ride that’s supple, but nicely controlled when the K900 is pushed hard on a twisty road. Former BMW chassis guru, Albert Biermann, the man who worked his magic with the Stinger (and a real stickler for proper suspension geometry) led the suspension development for the new K900.

What’s under the hood?

Although the previous K900 had an available 5.0-liter V8, the all-new 2019 model, which arrives in October, will be powered by one engine: a twin-turbocharged 3.3-liter V6 with 365 horsepower and 376 lb-ft of torque. Yes, this is the same aluminum-block powerplant from the Stinger, and yes, it even mates to that model’s 8-speed automatic transmission, although it’s a 2nd-generation gearbox that’s lighter, quicker-shifting and slightly more efficient. While the Stinger hits 60 mph in a claimed 4.7 seconds, the K900 does it in 5.7 seconds, quite a bit slower but nevertheless a respectable time for a big 4,560-pound sedan with all-wheel drive (AWD).

That’s right, the 2019 Kia K900 comes only in AWD, a new system featuring an electronically controlled center coupling that can transmit as much as 50 percent of the power to the front wheels if needed. The K900 drives and behaves like a dignified rear-drive sedan until some wheel slip is detected, at which point varying amounts of power are sent automatically to the front wheels for added vehicle stability. Also, traction control automatically applies the brakes to an individual spinning wheel, with power being sent to the wheel getting better traction.

Models and Features

Two versions of the new Kia K900 will be available, both equipped with the 3.3-liter twin-turbo V6 engine and 8-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters. They are:

2019 Kia K900 Luxury
Starting MSRP: $60,895 (including $995 destination)
Twin-turbo 3.3-liter V6, AWD
8-speed automatic transmission, paddle shifters
Electronically controlled suspension
19-inch alloy wheels
LED headlights
Head-up display
Nappa interior leather
Wood interior trim

2019 Kia K900 VIP Package
Starting MSRP: $64,895 (including $995 destination)
Twin-turbo 3.3-liter V6, AWD
8-speed automatic transmission, paddle shifters
Electronically controlled suspension
19-inch alloy wheels
LED headlights
Head-up display
Nappa interior leather
Wood interior trim
Rear-seat VIP package (heated and cooled power-adjustable rear seats, wireless phone charger, 3-zone automatic climate control)
Dynamic 12.3-inch color LCD instrument cluster
Premium headliner

The interior

Despite all the emphasis on improved driving dynamics, the rear of the new K900 still a great place to be. Space is generous in all directions, and the VIP model KBB drove comes equipped with a package that includes heated and cooled rear seats (12- and 14-way for the driver-side and passenger-side, respectively) plus a fold-down center armrest that features a wireless charger for smartphones (to complement the one already in front), individual controls for the automatic climate control, and a powerfully crisp 900-watt Harman Kardon stereo with 17 speakers, including a 10-inch subwoofer.

The look is just as elegant in front, where the dash gently wraps around into the door panels. Kia says the interior of the new K900 is minimalist, and although the super-quiet cabin is packed with amenities, the number of controls and switches has been reduced from 91 in the previous K900 to 73. We like that. We also like how the open-pore wood trim, in four matte-finish colors, is complemented by soft Nappa leather in Black, Beige or Sienna Brown. A thoughtful touch: The front seats have been designed in such a way as to prevent phones (or other small items such as earrings) from falling underneath and out of reach.

Heated and cooled, the leather-covered front seats offer good support and excellent all-day comfort. The driver’s seat offers 20-way (!) adjustability, while the passenger’s has “only” 16. Adding extra ambience is a new mood lighting system, designed to relax the driver with 64 total colors of interior lighting, of which seven are unique colors developed specifically by Pantone. Since we drove the new K900 only in daylight hours, we can’t report on the efficacy of this potentially soothing new system, but we’d like to see (and possibly feel) the effect at night. The specific colors, if you’re wondering, were inspired by oceans, forests, skies, the Aurora Borealis, and other aspects of nature. Colored light emanates from the overhead console, the door panels, and the front and rear footwells.

Although Kia positions the K900 as a “stealth wealth” type of sedan that’s not overtly luxurious, there’s one luxury concession set prominently in the center of the dash: a specially designed Maurice Lacroix watch. While the glitzy analog clock adds a level of sophistication to an already sophisticated and handsome interior, we like the K900’s configurable TFT instrument panel even more, especially when the driver turns on either turn signal. At that point, the respective rear three-quarter view appears clearly on the instrument panel, virtually eliminating any chance of the driver changing lanes into a car hanging out in the blind spot (admiring the clean and uncluttered exterior lines of your new K900, no doubt).

Which brings to mind the standard active safety suite on all 2019 Kia K900s. It’s extensive, and it includes smart cruise control (with stop and go), lane-keeping assist, forward-collision avoidance, high-beam assist, a head-up display, a driver-attention warning, and the aforementioned blind-spot monitor. Also included is lane-following assist, haptic steering feedback, rear cross-traffic alert, and safe-exit assist, a new technology that won’t let a rear passenger open a door if it senses a car approaching the K900 from behind.

What’s it like to drive?

We drove the 2019 Kia K900 VIP Package throughout the Napa Valley in Northern California, where the roads ranged from crowded city streets to curvy ribbons of asphalt wending their way through the 400-plus vineyards dotting the beautiful landscape. Although the temperature was approaching 100 degrees that day, the Kia climate control had no problem keeping us cool, even with the fan speed dropped to its lowest (and quietest) setting.

Pulling away from a light, the K900 moves forward with a dignified authority, the driver not having to wait for turbo boost to arrive. The turbos are small, so they produce boost quickly while endowing the engine with a smooth and reassuring ramp up of power. It feels like a strong naturally aspirated engine, which reminds us of the previous model’s V8, which was considerably heavier and thirstier than the twin-turbo V6. Also, the V8 K900 was only a tenth of a second quicker to 60 mph.

The 8-speed automatic is a model of smoothness, and when the K900 is driven aggressively, a paddle-induced downshift is accompanied by an automatic blip in engine revs that keeps the fore/aft balance in check to smoothing the entry into to the corner. Yes, this big and luxurious Kia sedan weighs 4,560 pounds, but it has 50/50 weight distribution and it masks its weight remarkably well on a twisty road, exhibiting an agility that’s nothing short of uncanny for a sedan of the size. Big all-season Michelins, size 275/40R-19, also help.

Are we feeling the Biermann magic? Perhaps, but what really matters is this: The 2019 Kia K900 now shares some of the Stinger’s sporting DNA, while also being a supremely comfortable and easy-to-drive luxury sedan whenever you want it to be, aided by variable ratio electric-assist steering and new electronically controlled suspension that features active dampers with five settings: Comfort, Eco, Sport, Custom and Sport. In addition to altering the suspension damping, the system tailors steering effort, throttle mapping, shift schedules and, in some instances, even seat bolstering. Also notable: In Sport mode, 80 percent of the power goes to the rear wheels.

Final thoughts

In 2018, Kia sold fewer than 500 K900s in the U.S., so it’s a small player here, which feeds well into this large sedan’s perceived role as a “stealth wealth” machine. What’s more, only 220 of Kia’s 776 U.S. dealers, all in metro areas, sell the big K900.

That stated, Kia has been doing well in the U.S., selling lots of vehicles and winning plenty of quality awards these last four years. While it’s understandable that the South Korean company wants to prove it’s a full-line manufacturer, the first K900, when it came to the U.S. in 2012, wasn’t quite ready for prime time. Now, though, with the debut of the 2019 K900, it’s clear that Kia’s big sedan has gone to finishing school. It’s not quite a big Stinger, as some might be tempted to say, but it has gained a welcome amount of athleticism to go along with its already proven opulence.

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