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First Drive – Kia K900 V8 Elite 2015

Kia enters the premium sedan arena

NEWPORT BEACH, CA: “I defy you,” the Kia Canada product guy said, “to ride in the back of this car blindfolded and tell me it’s not a Mercedes.”

He was talking about the 2015 Kia K900, the Korean brand’s first foray into the premium luxury sedan segment.

Frankly, such a car would have been unthinkable just a decade ago.

But that was then and this is now and the K900 is ready, willing and able to change minds and perceptions.

And that’s the challenge – taking the Canadian mindset and getting it to bridge the gap between reality and how they view Kia.

That will start with 34 Kia dealers across Canada which will be branded Kia Premium outlets with enhanced levels of customer service to set them apart.

The K900 is the first Kia ever

to be powered by a V8 engine, in this case, the 5.0-litre, quadcam “Tau” used in some Hyundai models, notably the Equus fullsize luxury sedan.

With direct fuel injection, it produces 420 hp and 376 lb/ft

of torque on premium gasoline mated to Kia’s in-house eightspeed automatic transmission powering the rear wheels. Allwheel-drive is not available – yet.

The transmission can be optimized by the driver with four modes – Eco, Normal, Snow and Sport.

The standard engine is the 3.8-litre V6 found in a number of Kia and Hyundai vehicles. It produces 311 hp and 293 lb/ft or torque, and like the V8, with the same eight-speed automatic transmission with four shift modes.

The K900 will come in three trim levels – the K900 V6 ($49,995), the V6 Premium ($60,995) and the V8 Elite ($69,995).

At the press introduction south of LA, we only had V8 Elite models to drive, so I will concentrate on it and follow up later in the year with the V6s.

When it comes to premium luxury sedans, the Elite has full nappa leather and the front seats are heated and cooled. It gets better in the back with standard multi-stage heating for the outboard seats.

By opening a panel inside the centre armrest, rear-seat passengers can control the vehicle’s ventilation system as well as fold the back cushion of the front passenger seat forward with the touch of a button.

Rear passengers have standard power rear window sunshades while retractable rear side window sunshades are standard across all models.

The Elite takes rear seat comfort to another level. Both seats offer multi-stage heating and cooling and have the ability to independently recline and incorporate power lumbar support with lateral headrest adjustability.

An interesting touch is power pull-in doors. Get in, give the door a tug and the door closes itself.

To get the best combination of sporting ride but comfortable handling, Kia opted for a five- link independent suspension front and rear, both of which are mounted on sub-frames.

The K900 introduces Kia’s first Advanced Vehicle Safety Man- agement (AVSM) that integrates a number of safety systems includ- ing Electronic Stability Control (ESC), seatbelt mechanisms and multiple warning systems.

Working together, AVSM can alert the driver to an imminent collision and pre-pressurize the braking system and activate the Pre-Safe Belt (PSB) system based on the anticipated severity of a crash.

The heads-up display is the most instructive I’ve seen show- ing current speed, local speed limits, navigation turn direc- tions, blind spot warning and active cruise and in different co- lours to cut down on confusion.

Lane departure warning with radar-activated Advanced Smart Cruise Control (ASCC) is also included. Not only does the ASCC bring the K900 to a full stop if necessary, but it also automati- cally accelerates if the traffic in front is clear.

Front/rear park assist is stan- dard. It gives an auditory tone when an object is too close and, on the parking display, shows the distance in green, yellow and red.

The V8 comes standard with Kia’s first Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA) system, which provides an audible warning to the driver if oncoming cross traffic is de- tected from the rear, while the K900 is in Reverse. Working in conjunction with RCTA is Blind Spot Detection (BSD).

The Elite has a new Surround View Monitor system with four discreetly placed wide-angle mini-cameras at the front and rear and within the outside rear view mirrors. The cameras pro- vide a crystal-clear view of any- thing within several feet of the K900, providing potential safety benefits as well as easier maneu- vering in tight spaces.

High intensity headlights are found on both V6 models but the V8 is equipped with LED lights, eight to a side, that have a wide spread of light for urban areas or tight beam for highways. They also move up or down based on the pitch angle of the K900. Not only do they articulate but sen- sor controlled wattage regulates intensity.

The ride, primarily on Califor- nia freeways, was extremely qui- et. The V8 was very, very quick and nimble on lane changes de- spite being a large car.

I spent some time in the back seat reclining the seat, trying the hot and cool ventilation and really digging the 17-speaker audio system.
The navi system was good and bad. Somehow it had my co-driver and I going around in circles trying to find a driver change point. The rest of the time it worked just fine.

On the other hand, when stopped at a traffic light waiting to make a left turn, the navi said our turn was 10 feet ahead – now that is accurate.

Kia likes to compare the K900 to competitors such as Cadillac XTS and Acura RLK. But with its level of technical sophistication, my driving partner and I both agreed, it is comparable to the Mercedes-Benz E-Class and approaches the S-Class.

Forget the cheap and cheerful Kias of 10 years ago.

The K900 truly embodies the brand’s slogan “The Power To Surprise” - again.

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