2015 Kia K900: Ready to challenge the world

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The all-new, full-size 2015 Kia K900 sedan is long and sleek, like a Jaguar. It has a big mesh grill, like a Jaguar. It has a 5.0-liter V8, like a Jaguar. It has a leather interior and other luxury features, like a Jaguar. But it starts at around $59,500, thousands less than a similarly-equipped equipped Jaguar. Or Audi. Or BMW. Or Mercedes.

Get it? Kia’s approach to its first full-size sedan is anything but subtle. The K900 offers many of the features found in European luxury sedans for a whole lot less. And much of the K900 delivers on that promise. It looks sharp, it drives great, it’s comfortable, and it has enough luxury features to satisfy many if not most drivers.

Of course, despite all of that, the Kia cannot completely match cars that cost so much more. The K900 lacks their level of ultimate refinement and sophistication, and is not available with such options as all-wheel-drive and supercharged or turbocharged engines.

But the message is clear. The South Korean manufacturer has already shown it can produce competitive subcompact, compact and midsize cars and crossovers. It has even produced a knockout niche winner with the quirky Soul. And now it has set its sight on bigger game.

In doing so, Kia has actually produced a car that more directly challenges those from other companies striving to be taken as seriously as the biggest European manufactures, such as Acura, Infinity, Lexus and, increasing, Buick. This is still a huge leap from a company that, not too long ago, was producing little more than lackluster economy cars. Kia’s transformation into a world class manufacturer in just a few short years has been remarkable. It now offers a complete line of vehicles that are legitimate alternatives to more expensive models, such as the midsize Optima, which can be outfitted with a gas direct injection four-cylinder engine, a turbocharged four-cylinder engine, or a hybrid powerplant.

The K900 shares some of the Optima’s acclaimed styling cues, such as crisp exterior lines and a well-designed interior. But the K900 is bigger and boxier than the Optima, giving it a more imposing presence. There’s also more interior room, of course, especially in the rear seat area. The result is a car that seems more grown up without being stodgy.

Engine choices include a 3.8-liter V6 and the 5.0-liter V8 that came in our test vehicle. The V8 produces 420 horsepower and 367 foot pounds of torque, enough for impressive acceleration, especially when set in the Sport driving mode that increases throttle and steering response. The standard eight-speed transmission makes it easy to drive at slow speeds through congested downtowns but is quick to downshift when merging into freeway traffic or passing large trucks.

The ride is on the firm side, much like a large European car. Although not a true sport sedan, the K900 is still capable of brisk speeds on twisty roads. The suspension also handles broken pavement well.

The dash is properly serious for Kia’s most expensive car to date. The digital gauges in our test vehicle changed from conventional speedometer and tachometer dials to big numbers in the Sport mode. Although not particularly engaging, the increasing and decreasing digits at least serve to remind drivers they can change back to Normal or especially Eco mode to save fuel.

The K900 comes standard with a long list of upscale features, including three-zone climate control with air filtration, a navigation system with a 9.2-inch display, a lane departure warning system, napa leather seats and much more. Our test vehicle included a $6,000 VIP Package that included the LCD instrument cluster, power reclining rear seats, and a surround view monitor that makes it seem as though the NSA is watching us from a spy satellite. The overhead view on the display screen was helpful for maneuvering in and out of tight spaces, however. It pushed the price to just over $66,000, which is still thousands less than similarly-equipped European sedans.

Kia’s slogan for the K900 is “Challenge the luxury you know.” Most prospective buyers will agree the challenge has been met.

2015 Kia K900

Base price: $59,500.

Price as tested: $66,400.

Type: 5-passenger full-size sedan.

Engines: 3.8-liter V6, 5.0-liter V8.

EPA estimated mileage: 15/23.

Overall length: 200.6 inches

Curb weight: 4,555 pounds

Final assembly: Sohari Manufacturing Plant, South Korea

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