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K900, Kia’s First Swim in Luxurious Waters.

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It always good to find humour about the automotive industry  remember it only after trial and error that the big name in the industry have mastered the art of bringing out the best. In aberration that is the Kia K900, we’re not going there. As an automaker, Kia may have been regarded as an easy joke at one time, but no one’s laughing now. And you know what they say about making the same mistake twice.

Unless you just pooped back to civilization you will be sure that K900 isn’t quite there yet. It’s merely an okay car playing in a field that’s full of far better alternatives wearing more prestigious badges. Kia’s entire history is one of introducing not-quite-there products at a bargain price, then incorporating the resulting feedback into improvements for each succeeding generation until, whoa, where did all those sales come from.

For now, let’s concentrate on the Kia’s first swim in luxurious waters. Its primary purpose here is to occupy a space in the showroom, telling those shopping that, when they’re ready for a leather-lined luxurious sedan, they can come back to Kia for that, too. And it’s doing a great job of sitting in those showrooms: Automotive News data shows that in any given month, Lexus usually sells roughly 4.5 times as many of its LS sedans and Cadillac about 14 times as many of its XTS sedans as Kia peddles K900s. The only reason you don’t read headlines about Kia failing to hit its K900 sales target is that the company wisely declined to share any such goals.

Following the usual response to slow sales, a price cut, took place late last year, corresponding to the addition of the new entry-level K900 tested here that drops the base price below $50,000. That’s for the base V6 Premium model, which still includes navigation, leather, and a panoramic sunroof but offers a V-6 in place of uplevel models’ 420-hp 5.0-liter V-8, which has served in the K900 since early 2014.

The VIP bundle packs in a heap of technology, including a head-up display, automatic emergency braking, blind-spot detection, lane-departure warning, rear cross-traffic alert, and adaptive cruise control. The package also brings a powered lower-cushion extender for the driver’s seat, powered front headrests, powered lumbar supports for front and rear passengers, reclining and ventilated rear seats, an upgraded headliner, and soft-close doors.

The V-6 gets this extra-large, 4455-pound machine up to 60 mph in 6.2 seconds, only 0.7 longer than it took with the V-8—being 209 pounds lighter no doubt helped. There’s only 0.5 second and 3 mph separating the two at the end of a quarter-mile, and, more to the point, we never really felt that it was underpowered in normal driving. It is not appreciably slower than the heavier, more powerful AWD version of the Lexus LS460 F Sport we’ve also tested.

All that said, we must have been tromping the gas pedal pretty hard, because we averaged only 18 mpg in mixed city and highway driving. That’s the same as we extracted from the V-8 in the aforementioned short-term test and 3-mpg worse than we recorded for our long-term, 40,000-mile V-8 test car, which did a lot more long-distance highway trips. In theory, the V-6 should be less thirsty, earning EPA ratings of 17 mpg city and 26 highway versus the V-8’s 15/23 scores. In reality, we ran the V-6 harder during our use. All this numbers make any car enthusiast crazy a fuel economy is a major factor to consider when buying a car.

Also, in theory, this Kia’s skidpad rating and 166-foot stopping distance from 70 mph suggest a car you could enjoy driving on an interesting country lane. Not so much, though. As with our long-termer, this test car lacked any sense for steady, straight-ahead travel, wanting constant small steering corrections even on flat, straight highways. That’s not hard, just tiresome. There’s lane-departure warning, but that just tells you the car has gone astray again it really wants lane, keeping assist, with automatic steering correction. This car sells better in markets where the owners mostly ride in back and pay someone else to wrestle with their K900’s laissez-faire directional stability. We came in from one drive through gusty crosswinds saying, “It’s the first car we ever wished would drive itself.”

Its suspension’s worst misbehaviors barely graze those that a body-on-frame, leaf-sprung, live-axle Detroit oxcart could exhibit back in the waning days of the previous century. The K900 also is built to a much higher quality standard on a sufficiently rigid and quiet structure. No rattles, no squeaks. It’s a modern car from its tire tread to its rooftop shark fin, just one that could use more refinement.

After Kia replaces this model with one based on the most recent Genesis, though, well, please remember that we didn’t laugh this time.

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