Since coming to American shores two decades ago, Kia Motor America has done much to raise the profile of its brand. However, the K900 is particularly significant in that it symbolizes a coming-out party for the Korean automaker, forging higher into luxury territory and further raising the bar for itself. When seeing the vehicle in person, one would be hard-pressed to find anything non-premium and taking a seat inside conjures a sense of comfort typically reserved for social elites. What makes the K900 special, however, is that it is representative of the type of people who come from humble beginnings to make names for themselves without forgetting their roots, just like Kia is doing.

Sale of the K900 in America recently began in the western and southern states, but the model originally came out three years ago in the Korean market with the belief that the automaker would wait until the vehicle’s mid-cycle refresh to introduce it overseas. In South Korea, the Kia sedan is commonly used as a means of chauffeuring company executives and high-ranked officials, which is indicative of the level of refinement and sophistication that is expected of, and exhibited by, the Korean luxury car in its home country.

To cater to American tastes, the company enriched the driving experience to ensure power and performance would be more in line with large European and Japanese luxury sedans. Equipped with a 420 horsepower, 5.0L V8 engine and an 8-speed automatic transmission, the K900 is a more than capable rear-wheel drive car; but above all else, the vehicle’s main focus is providing an intriguing value proposition for those seeking the utmost in vehicle design, style and luxury amenities – and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Kia is positioning its flagship sedan in the space between the luxury mid-size and luxury large car segments, and at just over $66,000 fully-loaded, the K900 is truly a bargain. The car offers high quality materials such as Nappa leather and real wood trim and technologies including a color head-up display, heated, cooled and reclining rear seats and adaptive LED headlights. Kia’s standard-bearer carries features that you’d expect to find a $90,000 luxury full-size sedan, yet the model is priced much closer to a BMW 5-Series or Mercedes-Benz E-Class. What remains to be seen is how much weight prospective buyers will place on brand image and how willing they’ll be to forego the K900’s superior size, power and features – characteristics generally reserved for larger luxury cars – to acquire the cachet or prestige of an established luxury brand.

Ultimately, the brand’s objective is for buyers to experience a paradigm shift where they perceive “luxury” in a way they have never before, which was the message presented in their K900 Super Bowl ad starring Lawrence Fishburne as Morpheus from “The Matrix” movies. However, it was only five or 10 years ago when Kia was a relative unknown as a company in the United States, let alone a manufacturer of luxury automobiles. Although I am of Korean descent, like most Americans I paid little attention to Kia before the automaker began its recent transformation starting with the funky Kia Soul in 2009 and the successful third-generation Kia Optima in 2011. Thus, I am quite aware of how much the perception of the company has changed over the past 20 years in the minds of Americans, but I believe that even amongst Koreans, who naturally support Korean-made products, the take on the quality of Korean cars has also improved tremendously.


Last week, I had the privilege of attending the Washington Automotive Press Association (WAPA) drive event in Potomac, Maryland, where I got to experience Kia’s new flagship sedan for the first time. Like much of Kia’s product lineup, the K900 is quite attractive both inside and out. Considering I had never driven a Kia before, or any Korean car for that matter, I was unsure of how satisfying the driving experience would be. Once I got in the luxury sedan though, I was impressed by how comfortable and spacious the interior was in the front seats as well as the back, and there was more than ample legroom for my 6-foot 3-inch frame. Of particular surprise, however, was how planted the car was during acceleration and sharp cornering, which inspired confidence when behind the wheel of such a large vehicle. My main takeaway was that while the K900 may not be the fastest or most luxurious sedan in the market, it doesn’t have to be because it’s by far the best value you can buy for no more than about $66,000.

As a younger driver who likes fast cars but appreciates luxury amenities, there is much to like about the K900 and future buyers should feel no shame in driving it; the car is that good. It is not yet known, however, if consumers will be able to look past the Kia badge to see the luxury sedan for the incredible value that it is. Working in Kia’s favor, though, is people’s aversion to frivolous spending after the Great Recession, as Americans are now more concerned with perceived value than in years past.

While many of us innately have an affinity for nice things, there are plenty of those who are willing to go against the grain and purchase a luxury upstart like the K900. Just as some prefer to not pay a premium for a Starbucks coffee yet still obtain a delicious cup elsewhere, there should be consumers who wish to drive a luxury sedan without having to pay extra just for the badge on a car. Unquestionably, Kia has come a long way as both a mainstream brand and now a luxury automaker in just two short decades, but the K900’s success will be predicated by its ability to shed consumers’ perception of the company and be viewed as the remarkable value that it is.