2015 Kia K900: Swinging for the automotive luxury fence

12 Nov 2014 | 741 views | No Comment
By Don Hammonds More's the better for automakers when it comes to deciding whether to introduce their brand to a new market niche. It seems these days whenever one brand goes after a new set of buyers,  here come all the others to hopefully get their share of the market pie, too.      So it is that Kia.  Better known as a maker of dependable, economical, sporty, good looking compacts and one  stunning family car, the Optima, it was only a matter of time before Kia  put down wheel tracks in the luxury market.     That car is the 2015 Kia K900, a large, gracefully done super luxury car that is totally unlike anything you've ever seen from this car maker. It is designed to compete with the upper echelons of the luxury car market, meaning products like BMW's 5 and Six Series, Mercedes E Class, Audi A6 and similar models.   Let's take a look. Our test model was a Mineral Silver Kia K900 with a base price of $59,500. that price included quite a bit of content, such chrome alloy wheels, an eight speed automatic transmission with Shift-By-Wire, a three zone automatic climate control system, UVO, satellite radio, a panoramic two section sunroof that stretches all the was back from the front to the rear,, genuine wood trim,power shades for the sunroof, rear cross traffic alert, blind sport detection system, front and rear , lane departure warning system, push button start, power closing trunk, antilock brakes, traction control, tilt and telescoping steering column, hydrophobic front door windows, automatic rain sensing windshield  washers and front and rear camera display, among other things. The main option was a VIP package with advanced smart cruise control, advanced vehicle safety management, power door latches, 12.3 inch full LCD TFT instrument cluster drivers seat cushion extension, front set power headrests, power reclining rear seats, ventilated rear outboard seats, lateral adjusting rear headrests and rear seat lumber support. That package along with inland freight and handling brought the bottom line to $66,400. Therein lies one of Kia's  biggest challenges.  To Kia's advantage, many car buyers these days are not loyal to any particular badge, and are generally ready to try just about any car as long as it meets their personal requirements.  But, once they do start shopping, they head straight for the  brands which they are familiar with, and they comparison shop like crazy. In other words, they are thinking, "Let's see how much car we can get for our $70,000." A tidy sum like almost $70,000 covers a lot of territory and you can get  some really sweet sets of wheels out there from more storied brands like BMW, Mercedes Benz, and even an entry level Jaguar or two.  Will car buyers be willing to buy a Kia, and at that, a luxury level Kia instead of one of those other well-known, history steeped brands? We'll see.      In addition,  the luxury car experience is heavily dependent on a number of intangibles that you can't buy in an option package. Heritage, cachet, visual clout and tradition are all elements that you can't purchase or build into a relatively new brand like Kia. And of course, there's the "experience," as the auto industry likes to call it--the exclusive clubs, bringing the car to the door of sales prospects, offering a line of clothing, toyso and accessories with the brand name, and increasingly, a concierge to street you to exactly what you need. In our view, it won't be enough for Kia to match the other brands in offering the "experience." Kia will have to offer far more and then some in order to entice buyers to not pay attention to the badge on the hood as much as most luxury car buyers do.accent      One thing for sure, Kia's giving it all a darn good try in the K900.  It has a strong, elegant and muscular sense of presence; you simply cannot ignore it even if you tried. It is robust and athletic looking with an imposing grille, gorgeous profile that brings to mind some Jaguars and Aston Martins, and even stylish, curved, and  lighted signature lines on the door mirrors. In a world of look alikes in the luxury kingdom, you will not be mistaking this car for anything other than it is : A K900.  In addition, this is one very powerful car with that 5 liter, 420 horsepower V-8. You will reach 60 quicker than you ever thought possible in a car this large--and you will do so in barely a whisper, just as you would expect in any true luxury car.  Kudos, Kia!     Inside, the accommodations are positively sybaritic.  Luscious leather, stretch out room everywhere, and if you get the VIP package, you'll get reclining rear seats and your very own temperature controls.  Stylish cooling elements are built right into the sides of the seats.  The dashboard and the steering wheel are laden with controls, buttons and tabs, so it is likely that you will have to take your time to get used to what everything does.      The K900 is unearthly quiet, but there is a nice little authoritative tone that can be heard from the 5.0 liter V-8.  By the way, though the gas mileage rating is 15 city, 23 highway and 18 overall, we usually got no more than 12 or 13 miles per gallon in city driving. Fuel economy is  not a strong point for this car, though we keep hearing that Kia will bring out a V-6 that gets much better mileage for the K900.     You are going to likely spend $4,750 more in premium gasoline, not regular, over five years, in the K900,compared to the average new vehicle,  and the annual cost of gasoline is $3,150 a year based on 15,000 miles of driving annually and gasoline selling at $3.50 a gallon.      As we said, this car is extraordinarily comfortable, and can bet it will be a terrific long distance vacation  prospect.     But in addition to market challenges, there are other issues that will have to be worked out with the passage of time if the car is to compete effectively,     One of those issues is handling.   The K900 badly needs some firming up in the suspensions because the ride and handling right now border on wallowing and considerable lean.  A lot of buyers today want firmness in handling; and a feeling of stability without all of the light to moderate tossing that goes around in the K900.That's why they are buying BMW, Mercedes, Audi and Cadillac.  If Kia intends to be serious competition for these brands, it had better do something about the sloppiness of handling, and do it fast.        There are a few other things as well. Like garish red color of the ambient lighting found in the door handle spaces and elsewhere.  And the switchgear needs to be classed up a bit, too. And the same goes for the leather.  It isn't up to the grade of leathers I've seen in other luxury cars.       The K900 is a more than fine start in the luxury market for Kia. But coming to the full party of widely accepted luxury brands will require offering more refinement and excellence for the K900.

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