Kia introduced the K900 premium luxury car for the 2014 model year. Based on Hyundai/Kia’s rear wheel drive platform shared with the Hyundai Equus and loosely the Hyundai Genesis sedan, Kia’s entry into the luxury market is controversial. Internally and externally there were concerns that the brand was not ready to take the leap into the $60,000 price range. But as is often the case in the life of an import distributor, the parent company demands that you take the “gift” of a vehicle you might not think fits the lineup at the time.
KMA – AutoPacific Neighbors Full disclosure, Kia Motors America headquarters in Irvine are less than a mile from AutoPacific’s headquarters in Tustin, California. Every day our roads are filled with Kia Optima mid-size cars (to our eye, the best looking mid-size car presently on the market), Kia Soul hamster cars and Kia Forte compact cars. Given the population of cars within a mile radius, Kia is the best selling brand on the market. K900s are rarer, but does K900 hurt KMA’s position in the American market? We don’t think so.
Conservative Design Will Not Offend The exterior of the car is conservative and tasteful. There is little flamboyance with the exception of Kia’s outstanding white pearlescent paint (I don’t like white cars, but the white available on the Optima and K900 is a very rich looking color). The K900 is a large car with generous greenhouse that provides excellent visibility except rearward where the headrests get in the way.
Kia K900 Interior Outstanding The K900 interior is a work of art. The seats are nicely styled, supportive and infinitely adjustable with Mercedes-like seat controls on the door trim panels. The instrument panel is electronic wizardry with a very well designed programmable 12.3-inch instrument cluster and 9.2-inch center stack screen with Kia’s UVO eServices telematics system. Radio controls are actually easy to use with KNOBS (!) and source buttons. The rear seat is very spacious and comfortable. In the uplevel VIP executive package (a $6,000 option) designed for Korean CEOs to ride in the rear there are redundant controls in the center arm rest. In the particular example we have been driving for a week, the interior trim is a very light grey or off white which makes it seem open, airy and spacious. The contrasting grey environmental color gives a very upscale ambiance.
Lexus-Like Dynamics Dynamically, the K900 harkens back two generations to the Lexus LS430, before Lexus decided to try a more sporty route. The ride is very isolated, soft and cushion-like. The 5.0L gasoline direct injection V8 is powerful and smooth. Mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission we saw an average fuel economy of about 15mpg. While the fuel economy is not sterling, it is about what you’d expect in a car like this.
So, the Kia K900 is not a German luxury car and is not what the Lexus LS460 has evolved into. The Kia K900 is a very competitive, traditional luxury car that will be comfortable for the long haul and easy to live with.
Has the 2014 Auto Show Season been a bust so far? Well, with the exception of the all new Ford F-150, there has not been much to justify all the fabricated hoopla at either the North American International Auto Show in Detroit or the Chicago Auto Show. You can almost count the significant new news on one hand. In order of importance to the United States market and their manufacturers here are the most significant: Ford F-150, Chrysler 200, Honda Fit, Hyundai Genesis, Mercedes C-Class in Detroit and the Subaru Legacy in Chicago. OK, that is six significant entries. Others that might have made the list are the GMC Canyon mid-size pickup and the Lexus RC-F coupe. The Detroit Show ended up focusing on performance models or concepts like the production-ready Subaru WRX STI, Toyota FT-1 super car, Chevrolet Corvette ZO6 variant, BMW M3 sedan and M4 coupe, Cadillac ATS coupe. The only other vehicles of note at the Chicago Show were the 2015 Lincoln Navigator with new front and rear styling and the Mercedes GLA compact crossover SUV.
The Hyundai Genesis wins AutoPacific’s 2009 Ideal Vehicle Award in the Aspirational Luxury Car segment. In its first year on the market, the Hyundai Genesis swept AutoPacific’s owner awards. “The most recent win by Genesis is of AutoPacific’s Ideal Vehicle Award shows that Hyundai expertly targeted its owners when designing this luxury sedan,” said George Peterson, president of AutoPacific, Inc. “That Genesis won both Vehicle Satisfaction and Ideal Vehicle Awards is testament to the Hyundai product-development process and fine-tuning the marketing message to attract the right buyers to the car.” Categories in which the Genesis excel include:
* Passenger room
* Cargo space
* Power and acceleration
* Ease of getting in and out
Genesis won the 2009 North American Car of the Year Award, but the AutoPacific 2009 Vehicle Satisfaction Award is the first opportunity owners have had to weigh in on their satisfaction. After all, it is the people who choose the car for their driveway that count, right? With top ratings from where it counts, Genesis took home the win in the Aspirational Luxury Car segment. Owners thought about it, reported back and pushed their car beyond the competition.
• Genesis overachieves with affordable operating costs, good value for the money, and extraordinary warranty. All were rated as best in segment
• Quietness inside the Genesis along with controls that are easy to understand and use also beat out the competition
A New Coupe, A Year Away
Hyundai spent their New York auto show time introducing their new rear-drive sporty coupe, the Genesis Coupe. Related to the Genesis sedan on sale this summer, the coupe arrives in spring 2009.
Genesis sits on Hyundai’s first in-house rear-drive car platform. The stylish coupe tames down its looks from the concept introduced in Los Angeles in November 2007, but mostly in losing hood scoops and refining lights, front grille, and spoiler shapes. What Hyundai held back for introduction was that the powertrain lineup includes a turbocharged and intercooled 212HP 2.0L I4 as the base engine. The 3.8L V6 arrives as expected, but most figured the second powertrain would be the sedan’s V8.
The Hyundai Genesis is the new flagship for Hyundai Motor America. Slated for launch in Spring 2008 as a 2009 model, Hyundai will try to position the Genesis more as a luxury sport sedan than Korean land barge it really is. Let’s talk about that a moment. The Genesis – or BH – is designed as the Hyundai flagship in Korea. As such, it will usually be a chauffer-driven conveyance with the chairman or president regally reclined in the doily covered rear seat. Big, comfortable, quiet. That’s the ticket.
Mainstream Brand/Luxury Entry
Now, for a luxury car from an import-brand manufacturer to succeed, Americans expect the car to be more of a sport sedan. Like a Mercedes or BMW. Well, the Genesis largely delivers the specifications to be competitive, but it’s an image game. Of course, Honda, Toyota and Nissan sell luxury cars in the USA, but they sell them under luxury channel badges – Acura, Lexus and Infiniti. Hyundai is selling Genesis as a Hyundai – not a second channel – so Genesis carries the baggage of Hyundai’s market positioning.
Can Hyundai, a Korean manufacturer once known for building low quality econoboxes but now getting credit for making some of the highest quality vehicles in the market compete against luxury marques? Hyundai hopes it has the right product and can find the right way to position and communicate that product to make it a success in the market. Hyundai likes to compare its $30,000 – $40,000 Genesis to $60,000 – $70,000 competitors from Germany and japan.
I did see Hyundai’s Vice President of Product Planning, John Krafcik ogling the upcoming Pontiac G8 at the Los Angeles Auto Show. V8-powered (360HP), rear wheel drive, priced below $30,000, the G8 may steal some of Genesis’ thunder when they both hit the market at about the same time. John was kinda pale after looking over the Pontiac G8.
The Genesis is not a head-turner, but a relatively safe, contemporary design and will offend no one. It looks modern, but not risky. In many ways it will blend in with its competition so Hyundai will have to depend on Genesis succeeding based on price and specifications. On the specifications side, Genesis promises to be very competitive.
Top Notch Interior with all the Required Luxury Filips
The instrumentation uses Hyundai’s blue glow gauges and ergonomics appear to be pretty good. The double cockpit instrument panel is modern and reminiscent of the new Cadillac CTS and other contemporary luxury cars.
As expected in a luxury class car, there are high-tech features available such as aLexicon Logic 7 audio system with USB and iPod inputs, XM satellite radio (a standard HMA feature), HD radio, Bluetooth for hands-free cellphoning, and an optional navigation system with a huge, eight-inch screen.
RWD Platform with IRS. V8 Available
The Genesis is a front-engine, rear wheel drive 4-door sedan with independent rear suspension and an available V8 engine. Genesis has a larger interior than either the Mercedes E-Class or the BMW 5-Series.
There are three different powertrains, the base engine is a 3.3-liter, all-aluminum V6 with 264 horsepower and 233 pound-feet of torque. The first level engine option is a 3.8-liter version of the engine with 290 hp and 264 lb-ft. The V6s use an Aisin 6-speed automatic transmission.
The big news is the 4.6-liter V8, which is paired with a six-speed automatic with manual mode. The 4.6L V8 has 368 horsepower and 324 lb-ft of torque (on regular fuel; with premium, the numbers jump to 375 hp/333 lb-ft), it’s one of the most powerful engines in the segment, besting competitors like the Infiniti M45, Lexus GS460, BMW 7-Series.
Price has not yet been announced, but Hyundai has tipped the base price to be under $30,000 and it appears a fully equipped V8-powered Genesis should top out at over $40,000. After all, a fully optioned Hyundai Veracruz SUV can hit $40,000, so this is not completely uncharted waters for HMA. Remember our early comment about the Pontiac G8. It’ll be interesting to comparably equip G8 with the Genesis. Our guess is that they are pretty similar at the bottom end, but G8’s V8 entry will be substantially less expensive than V8 Genesis.
Will Hyundai Positioning Strategy Succeed Against Luxury “Brand” Vehicles?
With Genesis being part of the mainstream Hyundai lineup, it tests a positioning philosophy that no other mainstream brand has succeeded with. Sure we have big RWD V8 sedans at Dodge and Chrysler, Ford and Mercury and soon Pontiac. There are FWD V8s at Chevrolet and Buick. On the import side, VW tried it with a W8 Passat and the Passat bombed. The VW Phaeton – a much more expensive proposition than Genesis – bombed too. So, the jury is out. How will folks be attracted to a Hyundai “Luxury Sport Sedan” at an attractive price, with conservative styling, with a 100,000 mile warranty and powerful V8? Stay tuned.
Next, Hyundai Takes on Luxury Sport Sedans
As VehicleVoice reported earlier (click here), Hyundai revealed an upcoming rear-drive sedan as the Genesis concept at the New York Auto Show, and at what must have been one of the best-attended end-of-day press conferences ever. There was surprisingly little traffic around Genesis the next day during my walkaround. It was more difficult to get post-conference photos of the Infiniti EX or Ford Flex than the Hyundai, and we see the Genesis as one of the most significant introductions at this year’s show. (Click for our posting of Hyundai’s official Genesis photos.)
Genesis, known internally at Hyundai as “BH”, telegraphs Hyundai’s intention to seriously go after rear-drive sports sedans. The exterior design builds on styling credibility Hyundai has been developing, but the interior and the driving dynamics that will make or break this car are still under wraps. A miss on the exterior styling would keep people away, but even with strong styling the car will not make it all the way to consumer driveways if the interior is a disappointment.
Hyundai designers have created a smooth and elegant design, but Genesis does have one risk: It could blend in with the pack. Genesis takes styling cues from luxury brands all over the world (long, thin taillights much like the Lincoln Zephyr concept
, though the MKZ production
lights are taller; decklid bump from BMW
; narrow headlights similar to Acura
; lower LED fog lights along the lines of the Audi S6
) and shown off on a silver car, created a credible look for their upcoming sports sedan. The wheels are sharp, as is the subtle character line running from front fender, over the door handles, and into the taillights. Though the grille is among the elements that may be revised before production, it is clearly a Hyundai grille and shares some relationship to the Azera
Hyundai gave no hints as to the interior, but the exterior design is ready to play. There’s a fine, fine line between hitting the mark and going too far. Genesis won’t be accused of moving the needle and does not offer new design elements. But Hyundai is working its way into relatively conservative segments, and Genesis takes the safe route. Luxury sedan buyers look for elegance, simplicity, and style and don’t seem to adapt quickly to dramatic style shifts; witness the brouhaha that surrounded the latest 7-Series introduction. Hyundai is wise to start off with something elegant but that does not push the envelope just yet.
Hyundai Motor America teased us recently with renderings of the concept of its upcoming BH rear wheel drive luxury car. The car will be shown at the 2007 New York Auto Show and HMA has released the following photographs of the concept…
As expected, the photographs of the Genesis concept show a much less radical sedan than the artist’s renderings. Renderings, of course, are usually “cheated” to emphasize cues the stylist prefers. Gone is the radical CLS roofline. But other aspects of the concept – like the front end appearance, likely will be “adjusted” prior to introduction.
In profile, the Genesis looks very BMW-ish, yes?