Road Test: 2019 Kia K900

The redesigned 2019 Kia K900 establishes a new standard for luxury, driving dynamics and technology for Kia.  The second generation is so much better in every way possible that it almost deserves a new name.

The exterior is unique, elegant, stately, and sophisticated from every angle. The beautifully crafted cabin is swathed in premium materials everywhere the hand touches, looks cohesive and tasteful. But don’t think this is another floaty boat flagship; the K900 handles and accelerates like a German performance vehicle, at half the price.

Conceived and created in Kia’s design studio in Korea with collaboration from the Irvine, California studio, the K900 is like many vehicles these days: they all have common design characteristics.

Sophisticated and stately, the 2019 K900 brings a new definition of premium luxury to the Kia portfolio.  Although slightly longer and wider than the outgoing model, this K900 actually looks tighter thanks to its reimagined proportions, especially with respect to its profile.  Combining a beautifully balanced design with flowing lines and geometric details, the K900 has a modern air of elegance.  

The ‘Quadric pattern’ grille is the focal point of the K900 with 176 jewel-like ‘cells’ within the grille, suggestive of released energy accelerating away from its center in the way ripples in water move away from the impact of a splash.  Natural flowing lines emanate from this area, rise over the hood, sweep through the flanks and culminate at the rear.

The design of the duplex headlamps provides the K900 is both futuristic and functional, because nighttime illumination is one of the best of any vehicle we’ve driven.

In the rear, the lights echo the design language of the headlights and the integrated exhaust housings are finished off with chrome.

Inside, the new K900 provides drivers and passengers with a peaceful retreat that is simple, modern and comfortable.  The cabin wraps around, enhancing the sense of being cocooned from the outside world.  A tight and virtually uninterrupted line between the doors and the instrument panel creates a sense of continuity.  

Flowing from the center of the dash and outward to the doors, surfaces are trimmed in a sophisticated combination of materials, with metal veneers and open pore matte wood. Soft leather balances the harder natural surfaces.

Kia engineers and ergonomists did a superb job to reduce the number of buttons and switches without affecting infotainment and vehicle operation. The number of controls went from 91 on the outgoing model to 73 on the this K900. In cold weather, the two-level heated steering wheel is unexpected and the strongest we’ve ever evaluated.

Kia says an extreme amount of testing and valuation went into the seat design and materials to ensure durability in environments of extreme UV, temperature, and humidity. All we can find after a week in the K900 is that the seats are incredibly comfortable yet perfectly supportive during spirited driving, thanks to dynamic “air cell” side bolsters that adjust in response to steering input and speed.

Rear occupants also ride in extreme comfort thanks to 12-way and 14-way adjusters, respectively, as well as reclining capability, height-adjustable headrests and forward/aft, tilt up/down cushions.  Rear seat heaters are standard, and our vehicle even came with the ventilation option and HVAC controls.

Kia’s designers wanted the K900 to add a level of ambiance reserved for high-end luxury brands through a new mood lighting system developed in conjunction with the world-renowned Pantone Institute. Of the 64 total colors available, Pantone created seven specific color settings, each with its own message and meaning inspired by oceans, forests, skies, the Aurora Borealis, and other aspects of nature. 

The lighting elements are located in the overhead console, door panels and front/rear footwells. It really takes the K900 to the next level in terms of luxury.

Something that really impressed us was the Intelligent Lighting Control system that uses proximity sensors to brighten the dashboard buttons and knobs by 20 percent when the driver’s hand is sensed reaching for to the dashboard.

It’s impossible to not see the elegant analog Maurice Lacroix clock in the center of the dash, perfectly illuminated at night.

Now for the tech side of the Kia K900 that really impressed us. As expected, it’s equipped with a wide array of advanced technology, connectivity and infotainment features. The most obvious is the 12.3-inch touchscreen that displays everything, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which we found to work beautifully on the large, fast system.

A new advanced telematics systems also gives the K900 owner control over nearly everything in the car from a smartphone or computer, from starting, to setting the temperature, to tracking using GPS. Kia tells us K900 owners are also provided with a dedicated service representative reachable through a VIP phone line.

One of our favorite features is the high-def 12.3-inch display in the instrument cluster with graphics differentiated by the selected drive mode – Comfort, Eco, Sport or Custom.  This display comes in handy for a brilliant feature we’ll mention shortly.

Beyond the gauges, there’s a 9.7-inch Head Up Display (HUD), teeming with content related to speed, navigation, audio, and driver assistance systems that allows the driver to focus on the road.

As part of Kia’s Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS), the K900’s Surround View Monitor (SVM) utilizes four cameras providing a 360-degree perspective with stitched images that provide a seamless view. The cameras are extremely high resolution and provide a beautifully stitched together picture on the large 12.3 center display.

Now to the feature that excited us the most: Blind Spot View Monitor (BVM). It provides the driver with a live video feed of adjacent lanes in the aforementioned 12.3″ instrument cluster and is activated via the turn signal. Unlike systems from other brands, it’s the display in front of the driver that shows the live feed not the center display, it doesn’t affect the design of the side view mirrors, they remain quite clean because of where they’re positioned, and they’re offered in conjunction with Blind Spot Monitoring for those who want the benefits of both systems.

Utilizing the blind spot sensors, the K900 also enhances visual awareness by offering a haptic steering wheel that can help alert the driver by way of vibration in the event of a potentially unsafe lane change if the vehicle senses the presence of another vehicle or object. Those radar modules and ultrasonic sensors are used for Rear Cross Traffic Alert and Avoidance Assist, which can prevent apply the brakes automatically.

Additionally, on the ADAS technologies front, the K900 offers Lane Keep Assist System (LKAS), Forward Collision Avoidance Assist (FCA) and Driver Attention Warning (DAW), which is designed to advise the driver to stop the vehicle and get rest if it detects drowsiness or fatigue while monitoring driving behavior and patterns. 

We commend Kia’s engineers for the work on Lane Follow Assist (LFA), which provided a degree of automatic steering control in certain circumstances during Advanced Smart Cruise Control (ASCC) operation. Commuting to work and trips became a breeze thanks to this technology.

Safe Exit Assist is another brilliant innovation which notifies the driver or passengers when it detects potential hazards, including passing cars, bicyclists or pedestrians, when opening any door to get out of the vehicle.

Back on the luxury front, the K900 delivers premium sound through a 900-watt 17-speaker Lexicon system, Kia’s most powerful audio system ever, featuring QuantumLogic Surround Sound technology and Clari-Fi technology. QuantumLogic extracts signals from the original recording and redistributes them into an authentic, multidimensional soundstage for playback that is clear, refined and full of detail. Clari–Fi works in real-time to rebuild audio details lost in digitally compressed music. We can verify all of this and more, everything sounds incredible!

Under the hood, the K900 has evolved into a truly sophisticated driving machine powered by a 3.3-liter twin turbo V6. In this application, it produces 365 horsepower and 376 pound-feet of torque. The twin  Honeywell turbos are integrated into the exhaust manifold for enhanced durability and quicker response. Power delivery is instant, linear, and sounds beautiful.

Since turbo engines generate more heat than non-turbo engines, Kia’s development team exceeded internal targets and over-engineered a system that utilizes a wider radiator for more efficient cooling and airflow, and installed a high-capacity 600-watt brushless electric fan motor. 

The engine pairs with a second-gen in-house engineered and built 8-speed automatic transmission to manage its power in a smooth and seamless manner.  The Shift-by-Wire gear selector is standard and with no required scheduled maintenance under normal conditions, the transmission is excellent for everyday driving.  At the same time, this gearbox allows quick and confident shifts during more spirited driving.

K900 is equipped with a standard full-time Dynamic Torque Vectoring Control all-wheel drive system that is rear biased and electronically controlled based on road conditions. Designed to improve performance in a variety of environments, it freely distributes torque between the front and rear wheels and also can send power from side to side, depending on conditions. Up to 50 percent of torque can be distributed to the front wheels, and in Sport mode, up to 80 percent of the power can be routed to the rear wheels.

K900 is built in South Korea at Kia’s Sohari premium manufacturing facility, alongside the Stinger.

Summary Scorecard (1-10)
Ride and Handling10
Braking10
Powertrain and Fuel Economy9
Noise10
Headlights10
Interior Fit and Finish10
Seating10
Visibility9
Gauges and Controls10
Infotainment10
Crash-Avoidance10
Total Score98


Make: Kia
Model: K900
Trim Level: Luxury V6
Engine: 3.3L V6
Transmission: 8-Speed Automatic
Options: VIP Package

Base Price: $60,895
As-Tested Price: $64,895

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