Don’t be fooled by the badge. Kia’s posh, comfy luxo-barge rivals Germany’s best, at fraction of the cost

By John LeBlanc

It’s been decades since American luxury brands led the way in the flagship sedan classes. Think Cadillac DeVille, Chrysler Imperial or Lincoln Continental. All replaced by sportier-to-drive German luxobarges like the Mercedes-Benz S-Class and BMW 7 Series in the 1980s, followed by even more impressive Japanese luxury sedans like the Lexus LS and Infiniti Q45 in the 1990s. And now Korea’s Kia, with its new 2015 K900, is looking to sway buyers who prefer their sedans big, comfortable and luxurious.

Launched as Kia’s first rear-wheel-drive sedan in South Korea in 2012, the five-passenger, four-door K900 sports Kia’s typically aggressive exterior styling. Yet the full-size sedan shares most of its nuts and bolts with its Hyundai Equus platform-mate. But does the K900 have the chops to be considered alongside other so-called “flagship” sedans?

As buyers have come to expect, “value” is a big part of the K900’s appeal. The base K900 V6 starts at $51,480 (all prices include freight and pre-delivery inspection fees). My tester was the top-line, all-inclusive $71,480 K900 V8 Elite.

While that may sound like a lot of  money for a “Kia”, you don’t need to hold an economics degree to know that the K900 can be had for tens of thousands of dollars less than comparably equipped German and Japanese rivals. Unlike, say, a BMW 7 Series, the K900’s price doesn’t explode when you start adding what most luxury buyers would consider basic features.

For example, the V6 K900 comes standard with a power trunk lid, heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear outboard seats, a power rear sunshade, a 17-speaker Lexicon surround-sound audio system – and more. Opt for the V8 K900, and you’ll find such niceties added as a panoramic sunroof, blind-spot monitoring system, rear cross-traffic alert system, lane departure warning system, heated steering wheel, upgraded leather upholstery — well, you get the idea.

Slipping between the slightly larger Equus and the last-generation Hyundai Genesis, the K900 is very close to the $86,645 Lexus LS 460 in size. Not surprisingly, this allows for suite-like accommodations for anyone boarding the big Kia.

More than just roomy, the K900 is also a very nice place to be — whether you are the chauffeur or a lucky passenger. Overall, the use of black-piano finishes, real wood and quality leather is tastefully and extremely well fitted together in the Kia’s cabin. The front seats — if lacking the sort of support some of the optional “sport” seats the German brands offer — are easy to get comfortable in and offer an array of adjustability.

Perhaps, however, the best seats in the K900 are the thrones in the back. Not only is there plenty of legroom for full-sized adults, the seats recline and adjust — just the thing for naps after a long day at the office while James drives you home.

With only 311 horsepower and 293 pound-feet of torque needing to pull around 2,000 kilograms of Kia luxobarge, the base 3.8-litre six-cylinder gas engine seems, well, inappropriate. But the willing 5.0L eight-cylinder certainly feels more like a proper flagship sedan powerplant.

Making 420 hp and 376 lb.-ft., and mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission, the K900 V8 smoothly swooshes the from zero to 100 kilometres per hour in just 5.7 seconds. If that reads quick, that’s because it is: Not only is the K900 V8 the quickest Kia ever, it’s also over a half-second quicker than the $86,645 Lexis LS 460.