Having covered the Copperstate 1000 vintage sports car road rally for the past 15 years, I know the Arizona landscape and that you can snow on the mountains and blistering temperatures on the floor of the desert, so I always make sure the car I drive is capable to handle the varied environments and weather.
I own a 1963 Alfa Romeo Giulia Spider (which did the Copperstate with its prior owner), and would love to drive on the rally, but… Alas! I can’t afford for a 52-year-old car to break down while I’m on assignment.
When I found out my vehicle for the 1,000-mile event would be a new and luxurious Kia K900, I thought, “Wow, a luxury automobile on a thousand-mile rally, that ought to be an experience, and unusual but very, very comfortable.
According to a Kia spokesman, “This 200.6-inch bruiser of a sedan is all about ‘at-ease luxury,’ which sits on a steel-chassised, 4,555-pound body.”
This luxury automobile is the company’s flagship model and the Korean brand’s first car in the U.S. with rear-wheel drive and a V8 engine (420 horsepower paired with an 8-speed automatic “shift by wire” transmission).
As you feast your eyes on this elegant automobile you can see beautifully balanced proportions, a sweeping shoulder line all blended giving the K900 an “athletic bearing and confident stance.”
We drove the K900 from California to Arizona, which served as a prelude to the trek that the car was in for through the outback of the Arizona landscape. The 400-mile cruise to Arizona on Interstate 10 was smooth sailing on the generous wheelbase of the K900, but I had to watch my speed with that 420 hp hauling this luxurious full-size 4-door sedan.
When we arrived at the Tempe Diablo Stadium (spring training home of the LA Angels baseball team) to pick up press credentials and have a preview look at all the superb vintage machinery that was readying for the 5-day sojourn, many of the participants walked over to get a first look at the K900, as you don’t see many on the road.
Copperstaters are seasoned, passionate car collectors and most said, “We’ve heard about this car but have never seen one.”
Remarks included, “Very attractive, bold lines, luxurious interior, strong stance and when the hood was opened, “Wow, a handsome 5.0-liter power plant… how fast is it?”
After a driver’s meeting about 90 fantastic vintage and classic automobiles blasted out of the stadium one by one in Mille Miglia-style to kick off what would be a 1.300-mile trek through pine forests, up snow-capped mountains and cruising the colorful desert with towering saguaro cactus standing tall like in formation.
We slid into our luxury coach and headed toward Flagstaff to “Head em’ off at the pass” for photo ops.
The K900, which is basically a sister to Hyundai’s Equus, is a luxury sedan that delivers a profusion of power due to its direct-injected 5.0-liter Tau V8’s 420 horsepower and 376 pound-feet of torque. No all-wheel drive system is offered, so the power is transferred to the rear wheels by way of a velvet-smooth eight-speed automatic-transmission which sometimes upshifts a little early.
In the posh cabin you are bathed in high-grade beige Nappa leather upholstery that is heated and ventilated (rear seats, too, with VIP package), panoramic sunroof, a power-operated trunk lid, a 17-speaker Lexican stereo, GPS navigation, auto-dimming mirrors, adaptive LED headlights, automatic rain-sensing wipers and six airbags (VIP package is $6,000 and includes doors that cinch themselves shut, active cruise control and a surround view monitor-gives a 360-degree view around the car), all for $50,000 less than an equivalently optioned Mercedes S-Class.
With a fully independent front and rear suspension, the K900 silences the rough road and when behind the wheel there is a heads-up display that show your speed in living color projected in the windshield.
The active cruise control monitors traffic ahead and slows down as warranted in addition to making a complete stop if necessary.
Our modern wagon train of vintage classics continued on a spectacular motoring adventure to Flagstaff at the base of the San Francisco Peaks and then climbing the Mogollon Rim to the Colorado Plateau. The route included St. George and the geologic wonders of Zion National Park in Utah, Glen Canyon, the majestic Grand Canyon, Tusayan, Jerome, Kirkland Junction, Hidden Springs Ranch and a two-day stay at the luxurious Enchantment Resort in the red rocks of Sedona.
Our luxury coach was smooth with a progressive acceleration that was quiet and powerful with very little road or wind noise. I was reminded of a Lincoln Town Car but the K900 is definitely its own luxury car and is ideal for cruising and is an excellent road trip car.
If Americans are willing to accept the Kia badge as an alternative to say a Lexus LS460, which is about $15,000 more than a K900 with the same options and $30,000 less than a similarly equipped BMW 750iL, then Kia will have a chance to break into the luxury market.
The V-8 K900 starts at $60,400 but our tester had the VIP package that put our vehicle’s price at $66,400. Later this year, Kia will release the K900 with a 311 hp V6 at about $50,000.
2015 Kia K900
Vehicle type: 5-passenger, 4-door sedan, rear-wheel drive
Base price: $55,400 Price as tested: $66,400
Engine: 5.0-liter V8, 420 horsepower @ 6,400 rpm, 376 pound-feet of torque @ 5,000rpm Transmission: 8-speed whatever
Wheelbase: 119.9 inches Overall length/width: 200.6 inches / 74.8 inches
Curb weight: 4,664 pounds
EPA mileage estimates: 15 city / 23 highway / 18 combined
Assembled in: Gwangmyeong, South Korea and Kaliningrad, Russia