Telling most folks your new Kia’s got a sticker upwards of 60 large will result in as big a head-scratch as announcing you paid $100 for a box of mac and cheese. True, the Korean automaker’s made tremendous improvements in quality over the last ten years, but people like me still remember 2002, when my face was pressed up against the plastic vent in my test Optima during a Brooklyn heat wave, the knob turned all the way up and the air conditioner blowing air like an asthmatic chipmunk. The expletives flew and I thought, “This brand is gonna follow Daewoo into the crapper.”
I’ve been happily proven wrong time and again as Kia continues its efforts at self-improvement, but public perception’s another matter. The K-900 is also far, far out ahead of its next lowest-priced car, the $35,000 Cadenza. For now, price aside, the K-900 delivers most of what you want in a luxe vehicle, such as a panoramic sunroof with power-operated shade, full leather interior, 3-zone climate control, nav system with a 9.2-inch display screen, automatic windshield wipers, power closing trunk, heated and cooled front seats, heated rear seats, power rear window sunshade, and real wood trim. It’s got a healthy 420-horsepower, direct-injection 5.0-liter V-8 engine that’s quiet-quiet and an 8-speed automatic transmission you’d never know actually exists – it’s that smooth. The drive is limo-like, if not especially ferocious. A “Sport” mode button sweetens the pot somewhat, but there isn’t any mistaking this ride for a sports sedan – it’s conservative on all sides. Mileage is a feeble 15 MPG in city driving, 23 on the highway.
So why this car, now? A few reasons. Kia wants us to think of it as an upscale brand, to jettison the stubborn “Made In Korea” stigma that plagues any car manufactured within view of the high-powered telescope of the Dear Leader next door. It is, also, a very well-made car, no question. Anthropologically speaking, it will be interesting to follow the K-900 saleswise over the next year and see if folks choose it over its German betters, as the company suggests you do, although its rivals realistically are American, specifically Lincoln and Cadillac. Will the Yanks snap it up? Only time will tell.