Kia K900 Review: A Luxury Surprise in a Beautiful Package

Kia K900
It's OK if the Kia K900 is your only luxury bargain; it's in good company with the Louis Vuitton rolling bag ($3550) Longchamp's LaFoulonne weekend bag ($780) and Rebecca Minkoff's Love crossbody bag ($198)

Can I tell you how much I love a bargain? Not just any bargain either –  a luxury bargain.

Because a real bargain is smart. Like a sumptuous Rebecca Minkoff bag at Saks Off Fifth for $100 less than the same bag at Nordstrom. Or Marcona almonds from Trader Joe’s that are $8 less per pound than at Whole Foods. Or the Krups espresso maker that makes superior espresso for about 20 cents per latte (versus $4 at Starbucks).

That’s how I felt the week I drove the Kia K900 luxury sedan: pampered, privileged, smart.

Kia K900

The 2016 Kia K900. Photo: Scotty Reiss

While driving any Kia model will make you feel like you got a smart bargain, the K900 takes this to a whole other level: premium luxury. And I do mean premium.

Who this car is for:

  • Drivers who love a luxury bargain. I won’t make you wait: the price of this car is $60,850
  • Single drivers, couples or small families
  • Drivers who love luxury features including technology, leather and pampering touches at a great price
  • Drivers who love a panoramic sun roof; not all luxury sedans have this, and the Kia’s is one of the best
  • Back seat passengers who need lots of leg room
  • Back seat passengers who like to be pampered with heated and cooled reclining seats and charge ports in the center arm rest
  • Buyers who value design and luxuries more than the cache of a designer label
  • Buyers who don’t want or need early-adopter bells and whistles (like a key fob that is smarter than you are)
Kia K900

The 2016 Kia K900 from the other side. Photo: Scotty Reiss

What you should consider:

Kia K900

Maybe the K900’s best feature – the very awesome heads up display projected on the windshield in front of you.  It shows navigation, speed, speed limit, cruise control, radio station, and when they need to alert you, blind spot monitors. Photo: Estee Reiss (from the back seat!)

  • This is a big car: 200 inches end to end, about the same size as the Lexus LS; compare it to the BMW 5 series, Mercedes-Benz E class and Lexus GS, which are all about 192 inches long
  • Fuel efficiency is ‘luxury’ too: we averaged 19 MPG
  • Luxury in this car is standard but not ground breaking
  • Some luxury features (auto start, for instance) can be operated with a phone app
  • Smart traction systems are not a replacement for all wheel drive
  • The gear shifter’s push button modes can take getting used to
  • Seat configuration controls are on the door (and configured like a seat!); heated and cooled seat controls are here too, which makes setting the seat temp for your companion a hard thing to do

Kia enters the luxury world, and that’s a good thing. Here’s why:

Kia K900

The K900’s door panels also have a premium feel with electric seat controls in a door configuration, heated seat controls and window controls – all surrounded by leather and wood. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Korean car makers Kia and Hyundai are on the path to establishing luxury lines, the way that Nissan built Infiniti and Toyota built Lexus in the 1980’s. You’ll start to see more of these models on the road and more of your friends buying them, and while these brands are being established, they are a bargain. Once they are fully competitive with other luxury brands, it’s not so likely. So get in while you can.

It’s also important that Kia and Hyundai are developing luxury cars because it’s a product development pipeline for mainstream cars: The systems, functions and engineering that is developed for luxury cars eventually make its way into all cars. So those blind spot monitors and parking sensors that keep your bumpers dent free? Thank a luxury car for that.

But I digress. Let’s talk about the Kia K900 and what you get for $60,000

Kia K900

The Kia K900’s rear view. Photo: Scotty Reiss

The answer is…a lot. Launched in 2012, the K900 has pretty much anything you could possibly think of: top of the line luxury features (keep reading!) a V6 engine that has a bit of a growl and is fun to drive, three drive modes (normal, sport and eco), paddle shifters so you can feel the road, and luxury for everyone – not just front seat passengers.

I loved the design of the car, which has a very premium feel.  Kia’s design is directed by former Audi designer Peter Schreyer, so it looks familiar and luxurious.  A price of $60,000 for all this is a great deal. Compare the K900 to similarly configured BMW 535 (about $75,000) and the Mercedes-Benz E400, (about $77,000) though it’s really intended to compete with the BMW 7 Series ($95,000+), the Mercedes Benz S Class ($95,000+) and the Lexus LS ($75,000+).

Kia K900

The awesome Lexicon premium speakers filled the car with rich, rocking sound. Photo: Scotty Reiss

The K900 we test drove was the middle of the series, the Luxury V6. It came with everything except the larger V8 engine, which was fine. When I hit the gas to get up to speed on the highway, the engine gave a nice low growl and ample power; otherwise, most of the time the engine’s sound was not noticeable. At both low and high speeds we could feel the K900’s ‘soft’ suspension; it’s not the highly tuned, feel-every-bump-in-the-road suspension that some luxury cars have. While I never felt it was hard to control, it also never gave that ‘performance car’ feeling, even when using the paddle shifters.

What made us feel so special? All the attention to detail

Kia K900

The K900 has paddle shifters and automatic wipers; just set them and when there’s water on the windshield they just flick it away. Photo: Scotty Reiss

The Kia K900 is classified as a premium luxury car because of the space, quiet ride, interior appointments and legroom, which makes it both a delight to drive and a delight to have someone drive you. This is why it’s popular with sports stars who are tall and like to drive and be driven; LeBron James is the Kia K900 ambassador.

Kia K900

Maybe the Kia K900’s best feature is the huge back seat; more leg room than a first class airline seat and the pull down arm rest has climate controls, heated and cooled seat buttons. You can recline your seat and there are a charge and USB port tucked inside. Photo: Scotty Reiss

The luxury features that we really enjoyed included the automatic opening trunk that opens when you stand behind it with the key in your pocket or purse; the amazing legroom in the back seat and back seats that recline, making you feel more like you’re in the first class cabin of an airline rather than in a car; buttons on the sides of the front seats so back seat passengers can move them forward if they need to; the heads up display that lets you see practically everything right in your field of vision.

And then, there were the details that truly gave the K900 a premium feel

Kia K900

The K900 driver’s controls: buttons on the steering wheel control radio, set adaptive cruise control and let you choose what goes into the driver information cluster. Photo: Scotty Reiss

There were seat controls are on the door, including heated and cooled seat controls (not so great for setting seat temp for other passengers); the dashboard covered in leather; the heated steering wheel that was partially wood and partially leather covered; the suede headliner (or ceiling cover) so you’re surrounded in cushy softness; the panoramic sun roof, which is bigger and more expansive than many other cars in the luxury category; a great sound system that was really lush and full; and the white leather interior in the model we test drove. I LOVED this. A white interior just makes you happy.

One caveat: The gear shift can take getting use to

Kia K900

The Kia K900’s gear shifter has a distinctly premium feel- it’s similar to those found in more expensive cars. However, you have to get used to it; it requires you push the top button to park and a side button to shift to drive or reverse. Photo: Scotty Reiss

It’s a premium feature we’ve seen in BMW, Mercedes Benz and Jaguar: The re-thought gear shift. The K 900 shifter’s push button modes choose park, drive and reverse but can be confusing: to put it in park you must push button on the gear shift (or the car will roll forward). To put it in drive or reverse, push a button on the side and push the shifter forward for reverse and pull it toward you for drive; this is confusing at first – and a bit counter-intuitive since you usually pull the shifter toward you for reverse.  I had to think clearly each time I put the car in gear.

What we loved:

Kia K900

My crew; don’t they look great with all that light from the panoramic sun roof? Photo: Scotty Reiss

  • The panoramic sun roof
  • The suede ‘headliner,’ or ceiling cover
  • The backseat has more legroom than first class airline seat
  • Rear seat arm rest has controls for climate, heated and cooled seats, and the seats recline
  • USB and 12 V charge port in the rear center arm rest
  • Heads up display that shows you speed, speed limit of the road you’re on, blind spot monitors, navigation directions, radio station you have on, lane departure warning
  • Rotary dial to control functions on the touch screen
  • Auto wipers
  • Adaptive cruise
  • Safety features like lane departure warning, adaptive cruise and blind spot monitors
  • Premium feel of the interior finishes
  • Auto open trunk and push button close

What you need to know:

Kia K900

The ample trunk, made more functional with a cargo net that keeps things from rolling around in the Kia K900. Photo: Scotty Reiss

  • Gets 17 MPG city/26 MPG highway; we averaged about 19
  • Premium fuel recommended
  • Seats 5, but with 3 in the back seat, controls in the arm rest are not accessible
  • Starting price of the K900: $49,000; price of the V6 Luxury model we tested: $60,850
  • 10 year power train warranty
  • 5 year/60,000 mile bumper to bumper warranty
  • 5 year/60,000 mile roadside assistance included
  • SiriusXM 3 month trial included
Kia K900

These buttons! They let you move the front seats from the back seat because, you know, you have a chauffeur. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Disclosure: Kia loaned me the K900 for our test drive; opinions here are all my own.

Journalist, entrepreneur and mom. Expertise includes new cars, family cars, 3-row SUVs, child passenger car seats and automotive careers... More about Scotty Reiss