11.09.2014

The Start Of Something Big, Part II: The 2015 Kia K900

Front 3/4 view of the 2015 Kia K900
The 2015 Kia K900.
A couple of months ago, we reviewed the 2015 Hyundai Genesis 5.0 and suggested that it should be regarded as a serious competitor to Lexus' flagship LS460, at a significantly reduced price. Now, from Hyundai's corporate cousin Kia comes the K900.  And it is every bit as impressive, if not more so.




Rear 3/4 view of 2015 Kia K900
2015 Kia K900.
$8,000 more expensive than the Genesis 5.0 (base price $59,500 to the Hyundai's $51,500), the K900 is powered by the same 420-horsepower 5-liter V8, but it's mated to an eight-speed shift-by-wire automatic transmission rather than the Genesis' six-speed unit. It's 4.3 inches longer (all of it in the wheelbase, meaning a big jump in rear-seat legroom over the Genesis), just under half an inch wider and half an inch taller. The EPA fuel economy estimates are identical at 15 city/23 highway.

The K900 rides on 19-inch chrome wheels and justifies the remainder of the price increase on standard techno-goodies that are either extra-cost options or unobtainable on the Genesis (three-zone climate control, a Lexicon Logic 7 surround sound audio system, Nappa leather seat and interior trim, hydrophobic front door windows).

Interior view of 2015 Kia K900
2015 Kia K900 interior.
Stock, it is the most luxurious car ever from South Korea.  But wait! There's more! Or at least there was on our tester, which threw in the VIP Package.  That's advanced smart cruise control, advanced vehicle safety management, power door latches, a 12.3-inch full LCD instrument cluster, a head-up display, surround view monitor, driver's seat cushion extension (great for those long of leg), front seat power headrests, power reclining rear seats, ventilated rear outboard seats, lateral adjusting rear headrests and a rear seat lumbar support. Package cost: $6,000.

With $900 inland freight and handling, the bottom line rings in at $66,400.  That's $10,700 more than the Genesis 5.0 we tested.

The best way to put it in perspective:  If the Genesis 5.0 is a competitor to the LS460 for 17 grand less, this is a competitor to a car Lexus doesn't build...a gasoline-powered long-wheelbase model.  The only way to get the stretch Lexus is to get the LS600h L hybrid, which starts at $120,440.  Before you say..."Ah, but wait!  You can't compare a gasoline-powered model to a hybrid!"...consider this:  The hybrid Lexus gets an EPA-estimated 19 city/23 highway.  The K900 is 15 city/23 highway. For $54,040 less.  Which buys a lot of gas. A K900 Hybrid would almost certainly blow the big Lexus hybrid's EPA numbers into the weeds.

Make no mistake: Both Hyundai and Kia have a long way to go in establishing a reputation before they start stealing meaningful numbers of customers from Lexus.  But the game plan is the same that allowed the then-unknown Lexus of 25 years ago to start eating Mercedes-Benz' lunch: Build a competitive vehicle, and price it significantly lower. Given the steep curve the South Koreans have climbed in terms of quality and now luxury, I wouldn't bet against them.

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