Recently, pictures and ads began popping up around the Internet and on TV featuring basketball superstar LeBron James behind the wheel of a white luxury sedan. It wasn’t a Benz, nor was it a Bentley. It was a Kia — A Kia K900 to be exact. That’s right, a four-time NBA MVP, a future hall of famer, and a pop culture icon who is expected to earn more than a billion dollars over his career is endorsing a $US66,000 luxury limo from a Korean brand known mostly for its affordable economy cars and the hipster hamsters that star in its commercials.
To some that’s just down right odd. But is it really that outlandish? Could Kia successfully pull off a high-end luxury car worthy of the man known as King James? When Kia delivered a brand new 2015 K900 test car to Business Insider, I made it my mission to find out.
A big, soft, V8-powered, rear-wheel-drive luxury sedan, the Kia K900 is quite unlike any car the company has ever produced. And to be honest, it's a breed of car we don't encounter in America very often anymore.
In the four days I spent behind the wheel of the K900, I realised that it was a very different animal from its far more expensive and established competitors, such as ...
In fact, the big Kia feels much more like a spiritual descendant of great American luxury cars of the past, such as ...
This isn't as preposterous as it may sound. These days, there aren't really any large American, soft-riding, V8, rear-wheel-drive luxo barges left.
Modern luxury cars from Detroit's Big 3 -- such as the Cadillac CTS -- have moved away from traditional notions of American cushiness and instead embraced the Germanic-sports sedan ideal
This enables the 4,500 pound Kia to sprint to 60 mph in just 5.5 seconds and hit a top speed of 149 mph. But don't let the impressive performance numbers fool you. This isn't a sports sedan -- not even remotely close.
The K900's steering is vague and, its 8-speed transmission is oftentimes slow to react when you need it to order up a burst of torque for passing. But then again, performance isn't the K900's mission.
The Kia's strength is providing its occupants with a pampering experience. I'm not saying it's Rolls-Royce or Bentley-like, but it's certainly on par with rivals.
At the heart of the front dash is Kia's UVO infotainment system. Although the display quality was quite good, the user interface was -- frankly -- awful.
Using Kia's rotary controller and a set of command buttons, it took two journalists and a lawyer 10 minutes to figure out how to 'cancel a route' on the GPS system.
I'm sure somewhere in South Korea there's a flowchart that says the confusing array of menus make sense. But it didn't come with the car.
Over all, the Kia K900 is a remarkable achievement for a car maker taking its first stab at luxury. Although it's not perfect, the big Kia offers a throwback American luxury experience with some modern technological features at a very reasonable price.
Although Kia and LeBron have a multimillion dollar endorsement deal, word on street is that he actually really likes the K900.
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