S-Class From Seoul: The 2019 Kia K900

Front 3/4 view of 2019 Kia K900
The 2019 Kia K900.
Once upon a time, not that long ago if you're of a certain age, the Mercedes-Benz S-Class was considered the finest sedan in the world.  Best-engineered, best-equipped, best-built.  Then everyone got in the act---everyone largely being Lexus---and the big Benzes were built to a price point, and not an engineering standard.

These days, it's really more features and brand preference that will steer you in your decision to buy a Mercedes S Class, a BMW 7 series, an Audi A8, a Tesla Model S or a Lexus LS.  So why not break free of the caste system and save a few tens of thousands in the process?  

Yes, we're suggesting you consider taking a pass on the big five of luxury sedans and buy a Kia.

Rear 3/4 view of 2019 Kia K900
2019 Kia K900.
The new K900 certainly looks the part, in ways the first-gen model we drove four years ago just couldn't quite emulate.  The new K-900 has the styling, the materials and the fit and finish to play in the big leagues.

$59,900 is the price of entry into the K-900 Luxury trim, which buys a size XL sedan powered by a 3.3-liter twin turbo V6 with all-wheel drive.  365 horsepower.  376 pounds per foot of torque. That's mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission and dynamic torque vectoring is part of the deal.  The EPA says 18 city/25 highway, which squares with our experience.

Map of route from Folsom to Long Beach and Orange County and back
Folsom to Long Beach and Orange County---and back (Courtesy: Google Maps).
Oh, yes---our experience.  As we did last Thanksgiving, Mrs. TireKicker and I headed south for a long weekend.  Los Angeles and environs are largely (or comparatively, at least) deserted during the holidays, as a huge chunk of the population flies back to the family home.  

For the uninitiated, while Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Monterey, the Central Coast and the Sierra are wonderlands, Interstate 5 through the Central Valley is less so.  I respect its place as the nation's number one food producer, but it's a long, straight slog from Stockton to L.A. and a great road car makes all the difference in the world.

We stayed in Long Beach, toured Orange County and then (as we tend to do) went home by a different way---up the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada, past Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the 48 contiguous states.  All told, figure about 1,200 miles.  And, at no time did I wish we were driving something else.

Interior view of 2019 Kia K900
2019 Kia K900 interior.
The 2019 Kia K900 pulls off the not-so-easy trick of being luxurious and sporting.  The seats are supportive over the long haul and the 17-speaker, 900 watt audio system is probably better than what's in your house. 

Rear seat of 2019 Kia K900
2019 Kia K900 rear seat.
It was just the two of us, but had we brought a couple of other people along, odds are they would have been every bit as happy.  The rear seats are luxurious, comfy, ventilated, power adjustable and boast some limo-like legroom.

The power adjustability out back comes courtesy of the $4,000 optional VIP package, which also includes a Chamude premium headliner, additional rear ventilation, a wireless phone charger for the rear, a front-seat passenger chauffeur switch (to get the chair as far forward as possible with just one touch, allowing the right rear passenger a positively obscene amount of legroom) and this:

2019 Kia K900 full LCD meter display
2019 Kia K900 full LCD meter display.
That is a full LCD meter display that replaces the standard gauges.  It's configurable among different views, but the cool thing, shown here, is that when your left turn signal is on, the speedometer is replaced by a camera view showing what's in your left-hand blind spot (your speed continues to be shown, digitally, at the top of the image).  Turn on your right turn signal, and it's the same thing on that side of the car, shown where the tachometer usually is.  An addition to the usual lights and beeps blind spot warning system, this actually was enormously useful...especially on L.A. freeways with lane-splitting motorcyclists.

With $995 destination and handling charges, the total price for the Kia K900 we drove was $64,895---which the big Benz, Bimmer, Audi, Tesla and Lexus can't even get close to, much less beat.  The only thing the K900 doesn't have is the snob appeal of those badges.  And it's worth remembering that 25 years ago, Lexus didn't.  And ten years ago, neither did Tesla.