We’re climbing up the Coquihalla connector, just outside of Peachland, BC, on our way to Merritt. This is one of the steepest parts of the highway and more than one overworked family sedan has met its end before reaching the summit, as the assorted patches of blackened asphalt at the side of the road attest. If you want to keep up here, you’ve got to give it some welly.
Yet, here we are, cruising comfortably at 160 km/h….well over the limit, and the rev counter is barely touching 2500 rpm. The car is hardly working and we’re traversing the highway pass in complete comfort and silence. I can’t recall a more effortless drive over the connector, and, quite frankly, our illegal speed came as a complete surprise….it just kind of sneaked up on me.
Even more surprising is the fact that I’m not behind the wheel of an uber-expensive BMW, Jaguar, or Mercedes, but a made-in-Korea Kia K900.
Available in two trim levels, the K900 is powered by either a 311-horsepower V6, or a 420-horse V8. Our tester, the Elite model, had the latter engine, and, in tandem with a silky-smooth eight-speed automatic transmission, you couldn’t ask for a more agreeable powertrain. Seemingly endless power reserve, silent in operation, smooth linear power delivery….what’s not to like? It even gets competitive (for this corner of the market) fuel economy: 10.3 L/100 km on the highway. Desperately thirsty in the city, however.
But there’s more to this one than a nice drivetrain. Stylistically, it gets my vote as one of the slickest looking upscale sedans on the market. Very much in keeping with contemporary styling trends, the K900 has what the company describes as a “graceful silhouette” and would be completely at home parked beside a BMW 7-series or Mercedes S-class. I could do without the unnecessary front fender chrome accents, and am still trying to make up my mind about the front grille, but these are observations, more than criticisms.
No qualms about the driving experience, however. As well as having a nicely-coordinated drivetrain, the K900 has an upscale interior that has all the modcons without being overly complicated. Leather upholstery is standard, as is a rear window sunshade, XM satellite radio, a hill-start assist, and all the usual comfort features we would expect from a luxury sedan. The Elite version also has heated/cooled seats front and back (with three settings!), blind spot detection, heads-up display (HUD), a huge sunroof, and GPS. This latter system is a little on the unusable side, but most are, as far as that goes. Loved the HUD, which allows you to keep track of your speed (ahem) much more efficiently than the usual analog dials. If I had my druthers, I’d iron out the fuel management system, which is a tad on the hyperactive side and has the transmission continuously “hunting” for optimum fuel economy, and the front seat could be positioned a little closer to the dash (why no electronically adjustable pedals, Kia?), but again, these are not deal-breakers.
Moving to the back seat, elbow room is cavernous….limousine proportions, with 3137 litres of overall interior space (that’s a lot). Trunk space is 450 litres, which is about in keeping with this type of vehicle, and about the same as that of, oh, a Honda Accord. And on the Elite model, rear seat passengers get their own heat/ventilation and seat controls. You’ll look long and hard to find more commodious rear passenger seating and riding in the back is definitely like being in the lap of luxury.
What’s interesting about the K900 is that companies like Kia and Hyundai have been building these kind of government/diplomatic/top executive saloons for years….Kia’s top-of-the-range Amanti was sold in Canada up until 2010, and the Hyundai Grandeur has been sold in Asia for years.
The K900 shares its platform with the Hyundai Genesis and Equus….no surprise there since Hyundai is the parent company, and the K900 kind of falls in the middle between the Genesis Technology model and the Equus. All three are equally luxurious.
Pricewise, the K900 Elite starts at just under seventy large. After various delivery charges and levies, you’re nudging $72,000. The V6 version is much less pricey, with a $51,600 starting price. Aside from assorted comfort features and goodies and a 110-odd horsepower difference, these two offer similar driving experiences.
But for high-speed highway driving comfort and performance, the Elite takes it, hands-down.
Is it worth that extra $20,000? It is if you can afford it.
AT A GLANCE
Engine: 5.0 litre V8
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic w. manual shift feature
Drive: Rear-wheel drive
Horsepower: 420 hp @ 6400 rpm
Torque: 376 ft. lb @ 5000 rpm
Base Price: $69,995; as tested: $71,780
Fuel Economy: 15.7 litres per 100 kilometres, city / 10.3 highway. Regular fuel.
Alternatives: Hyundai Equus, Hyundai Genesis Technology, BMW 7-series, Mercedes S-class, Jaguar XF, Lexus GS, Infiniti Q50.