2019 Kia K900 first drive review: Tighter and more European

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Stepping out of the Archer Hotel in Napa Valley’s morning light, it’s hard to remember the lineup of gleaming white and black cars aren’t German. They are South Korean Kias, and they are sharp.

The first-generation K900 was head-scratcher with a price starting in the $ 50,000 range and an available 5.0-liter V-8 it seemed out of place in the Kia showroom, but it introduced luxury features to the brand that have now moved to the rest of the lineup.

The second-generation 2019 K900 continues to introduce technology and features to the Korean automaker’s lineup that will trickle down over time, but it also injects a dose of sharp driving dynamics, courtesy of its little brother, the Stinger.

The 2019 K900 could easily be mistaken for European. The rear end recalls the Bentley Continental Flying Spur and the profile displays matte silver door trim that evokes the best cars from Germany. The front end isn’t quite as pretty; from the wrong angle, the new K900 has a fish face. Nobody’s perfect.

ALSO SEE: Living with the 2018 Kia Stinger GT: the good and the bad

2019 Kia K900

2019 Kia K900

Inside, the K900 could be mistaken for a BMW 5-Series. The available 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster, standard 12.3-inch tablet-like infotainment screen perched atop the dashboard, and substantial buttons and dials could all be backed by a Roundel instead of a red-and-black Kia badge. Those infotainment and climate controls are even easier to use than in most German luxury cars.

But it’s the details that are most impressive. The quilting on the nappa leather seats flares up as a nod to the outfits Korean monarchs wore. The dashboard seamlessly flows into the door panels—a hard feat to pull off no matter the price point—and all wood inside the cabin is real except for the piece on the steering wheel, as a Kia spokesman said was too hard to create a real piece with such intricate curves.

READ: 2019 Genesis G70 first drive review: getting the details right

2019 Kia K900

2019 Kia K900

Soft no more

The first-generation K900 was soft, wallowy, and sloppy as it rolled down the road. The 2019 K900 corrects those issues. The new K900 shares the Stinger’s architecture, but it’s been stretched like Gumby in the hands of a child to be wider and longer. The new structure has 33 percent more torsional stiffness than the previous generation thanks to four times more hot stamped parts, and 676 feet of structural adhesives—a 140-percent increase.

The 5.0-liter V-8 option that was offered in 2018 is gone as it put too much weight up front with too little power gain, according to Kia. For 2019, all K900s are powered by the Stinger’s twin-turbocharged 3.3-liter V-6. It sends 365 horsepower and 376 pound-feet of torque to all four wheels via an 8-speed automatic transmission. The setup is good for a 0 to 60 mph sprint of just 5.7 seconds, according to Kia. That’s a second slower than the smaller Stinger, but still quick, and my butt dyno says that number feels right. The new powertrain delivers EPA ratings of 18 mpg city, 25 mpg highway, and 21 mpg combined.

Gliding around town in Comfort mode, the K900 is Lexus quiet while the twin-turbo V-6 and 8-speed automatic provide progressive throttle response and more than enough power. Leisurely driving around town and in the Napa backcountry return 26.3 mpg, according to the trip computer.

It’s when the road gets twisty and my right foot gets antsy that things become interesting. Shift the drive mode selector to Sport and the K900 acts like it drank a Red Bull. The steering adds weight, the active suspension firms up, the throttle becomes jumpy, shift points and electronic stability control limits rise higher, and the digital gauge cluster drops the analog look for digital readouts. All the while the sporty side bolsters give front seat occupants a big hug.

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