Rare Rides Icons: The History of Kia’s Larger and Full-size Sedans (Part XIII)
Last time in our Kia large car saga, we learned much about the second-generation K9. Kia’s large, rear-drive luxury sedan wore K900 badging most places (including North America) but was also called Quoris on occasion. After a first generation that failed to capture the interest of global consumers, Kia went bigger and better for its second attempt.
The larger, more luxurious, and more refined K900 debuted in 2018 for the 2019 model year. It was as good a car as Kia could offer, a statement that was printed with an asterisk: From inception, any Kia flagship had to be lesser than its Genesis (nee Hyundai) sibling. Not as large, not as luxurious, not as showy, not as expensive, and without a long-wheelbase limousine. Let’s find out how it fared.
Kia launched the K900 in New York in March 2018, during that year’s edition of the New York International Auto Show. Journalists gathered around between bouts of shrimp gorging to eye the biggest new Kia. They checked its leather-lined interior, eyed the subdued referential styling, and waited to get their hands on a press loaner.
Though it first appeared in New York, the K900 went on sale in all markets at the same time. For American purposes, the new K900 was offered in a more limited trim configuration: All examples were powered by the 3.3-liter twin-turbo V6. The slow-selling V8 version was off-limits. Additionally, while other markets received rear- and all-wheel drive versions, only all-wheel drive was offered in North America. Probably a smart choice given the take rate on V8 and rear-drive sedans over the past couple of decades.
In its single trim, the K900 asked $59,900 ($70,504 adj.) and offered a few options packages that upgraded particulars like rear seat accommodation and the size of the touchscreen. Test cars for the press were commonly equipped with both the VIP rear seat package and larger screen, which put the K900 at $64,895 ($76,384 adj.)
The pricing made the K900 a relative bargain in the large luxury sedan class. It offered more equipment for less money than the German and Japanese competition and was essentially priced down a size class (eg. Audi A6 money for A8 dimensions). It also carried Kia’s standard 10-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty, which was much more generous than any of its competition.
Reviews praised the value-laden Kia but were keen to mention a lack of general refinement versus its competition. And though it looked better than before, its derivative styling was a bit too bland and meant the K900 lacked any particular identity. Further, it was assured that a huge, expensive Kia would lack the upmarket brand prestige of even the similar Genesis G90.
All those factors pointed to a resale value that was among the worst of any passenger car of the time, which negated the initial value argument. Also worth noting, the large luxury sedan customer was not likely all that concerned with value for money. With its new K900, Kia fell into the exact same predicament as it had with both generations of Cadenza.
It was always going to be an uphill battle for Kia to sell its largest car in America, but sales figures in 2019 were worse than any company could have anticipated. In 2019 the best monthly K900 sales figure was April when 43 were sold across the nation. At the end of the year, 392 total 2019 K900s found homes. That was only slightly better than the outgoing 2018 model, which sold 354 copies in its final year.
In 2020, the K900 had its peak sales month in October, where an impressive 41 were sold. Total US K900 sales for the year sunk to a dismal 305. The K900 was officially on sale through January 2021 as a 2020 model, where it took dealers until October to sell off the remaining 85 cars.
There’s no mention of Canada in these figures because Kia decided not to sell the new K900 north of the border. Given the old model sold only four copies in 2018, the decision was a wise one. The slow sales make the second-gen K900 one of the rarest cars in the country. Buy a lottery ticket if you ever happen to see one on the road.
Sales in other markets were not impressive either. Shortly after the K900’s release, Kia was already in preparations for a substantial facelift. The rework was handled by a new face at Kia, Karim Habib. A native Canadian, Habib was appointed as senior VP and head of Kia design in September 2019. Peter Schreyer was replaced the previous November by Luc Donckerwolke, the new President of Design Management for Hyundai Group.
Habib refreshed the K900’s looks via new front and rear clips for the 2022 model year. The front end featured sharper headlamps that were wider and thinner than before and bore more than a passing resemblance to Volvo lamps. The grille was still a trapezoidal design but was sharper in implementation. It featured a chunkier geometric texture in the middle and went even further in phasing out the Tiger Nose front-end design.
A new set of wheels arrived with the refresh; they looked almost the same as before but had slightly fewer spokes. The side profile changed only via a trim applique to the front fender. It was long and thin and replaced the awkward-looking AWD badging that previously occupied the space.
At the rear, changes included an update to the new Kia badge (desperately needed) and a revision to the rear lamps and lower valance. The Bentley-like light clusters were updated slightly with a new inside edge, and a more modern and linear lens design. The new edge led to a thin red heckblende that spanned the car’s width and incorporated a new chrome trim strip.
There was a reshaping of the trunk lid, and its surface was smoothed as the license plate vacated the region and headed south. Beneath the bumper, the license plate appeared above a lightly edited exhaust area, where there were a couple of new red reflector strips. The single central reversing light of the original design was replaced by two smaller LEDs on either side. And unlike the original version, the refreshed K900 was available in this stunning emerald green color.
The refresh also included a slightly revised interior. The central touch screen was larger, and newly the same size as the one in the G90. There was also a new fingerprint authentication system, pulled again from Genesis. The interior looked more up-to-date than it did previously and seemed to offer some nicer quality materials, too.
Elsewhere the K900’s mechanicals changed little with the refresh, save for one major deletion. The 5.0-liter Hyundai Tau V8 was eliminated, which left only 3.3- and 3.8-liter K900s. The sedan is still in production today, and on sale in certain markets (mostly South Korea). There’s no word on how long the refresh delayed its inevitable execution.
And while one might think that concludes our Kia large sedan coverage, we’ve got one more to add to the portfolio. Another front-driver, it was the K7/Cadenza’s immediate replacement for places other than North America: the K8! Until next time.
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