KIA K9 / K900 / Quoris

Debut: 2012
Maker: KIA
Predecessor: No

 Published on 28 Jan 2014
All rights reserved. 

Hyundai-Kia wants to sell higher value cars. The reasons are obvious – rising costs, rising exchange rate and simply the desire to earn thicker profit margin. This explains why it pushes harder on upper class cars recently. After Genesis and Equus, the group introduced another luxury car, K9. This car is also called K900 (in USA in particular) or Quoris (in Russia and Middle East). It sits at the top of Kia's model tree, some way above the K7 (Cadenza).

The K9 is a 5.1-meter-long luxury limousine in the same breath as Hyundai Equus. In fact, they share the same underpinnings, including the same (very generous) 3095 mm wheelbase, the same suspensions and powertrains. However, Peter Schreyer's design team managed to give it a very different look. Where the Equus is conservative, the K9 is sporty and far more stylish. From its tiger nose grille, triangulated C-pillars, the short trunk and the stronger waistline you can see a much sportier interpretation, one that nearly matches a Jaguar XJ. Moreover, there are many stylish touches, such as the Maserati-style side vents, the sophisticated lamp graphics (LED headlights are used on upper model) and the slim and well integrated exhausts. It looks fresh yet without the controversy of Lexus. That's exactly what every luxury car maker wants.

The prices also look right. As expected, Kia is charging 550i money for the ingredients of 750i. You get vast of space inside the cabin, especially rear legroom. You also get many high-end equipment should you opted for the VIP pack, such as heated and vented reclining rear seat, a rear passenger control center incorporated with the armrest, soft-closing doors, power trunk lid, head-up display, a 9.2-inch infotainment screen with Audi-MMI-style control knob, and the instrument reading is displayed on a 12.3-inch TFT screen. Safety equipment are not neglected either. There are lane departure warning, smart cruise control, blind spot detection, cross-traffic alert, pre-brake, pre-safe seatbelt etc.

Having said that, it can't quite match the German cars in terms of materials and build quality. It is well assembled but doesn't feel very classy. It lacks expensive polished woods and fine metal decors. The switches and buttons lack the tactile feel of its rivals. The interior design is also quite ordinary compared with the exterior. German car makers need not to be worried yet.

In Korea, the K9 is offered with a pair of Lambda V6s, i.e. 300 hp 3.3 GDI and 334 hp 3.8 GDI, both come with twin-VVT, variable intake manifolds and direct injection. However, when exported to America the 3.8 GDI has to be re-rated to 311 hp because it simply doesn't feel like good for 334 hp. Even though it works with an 8-speed automatic transmission, it feels rather sluggish. Why? One reason is the engine's lack of bottom-end torque compared with, say, the 3-liter supercharged V6s of Audi and Jaguar, or the turbocharged straight-six of BMW. As for the cases of any naturally aspirated V6s, it needs a lot of rev to realize the promised numbers. Another reason is the immense weight of 1910 kg, some 155 kg heavier than a Jaguar XJ 3.0 supercharged. While most rivals use aluminum extensively in chassis construction and/or body panels, the Korean car still make use of an all-steel body on the ground of cost.

For the US market, it is offered with the Genesis and Equus' 5.0-liter GDI Tau V8. 420 horsepower propels the 2065 kg model from 0-60 in around 5.5 seconds, again a disappointment compared with the sub-5-seconds of its European rivals. For most luxury car drivers, its performance is probably sufficient, but the relatively lack of low-end torque means its performance feels less effortless to achieve. The 8-speed gearbox, designed by ZF but built by Hyundai, also lacks the quick response of the formal ZF-built units that its rivals employed. That said, the Tau V8 does run smoothly, and the cabin is so well insulated such that little intrusive noise can enter. From comfort point of view, it does the job very well.

Just don't ask it to engage its driver. Don't be fooled by its sporty look, when it comes to driver appeal the big Kia is closer to traditional American limousines. Even with the Equus' adaptive air suspension equipped, its setting is still strongly biased to the comfort side. This means it rolls a lot and feels rather clumsy to handle on narrow roads. The light and slow steering does its best to isolate the driver's hands from any road intrusions but also all kinds of feel. US version has the air suspension ditched in favour of the cheaper, simpler Sachs amplitude selective dampers. Its ride quality is softer still, unable to control vertical movement satisfactorily over large bumps and undulations. In short, together with Equus it ranks near the bottom of the class in terms of handling and driving thrills.

Just as you might have observed, Kia is still better at making small cars. Generally speaking, the smaller the better – Picanto, Soul and Cee'd are good in their classes, less so K5 (Optima) and K7 (Cadenza), and the flagship K9 is worse still. Perhaps it is a battle line stretched too far. Sales in its home market might be guaranteed by patriotic company buyers, but I don't see the possibility for big export numbers, even with that competitive pricing and head-turning good looks.

Length / width / height
Valve gears
Other engine features
Max power
Max torque
Suspension layout
Suspension features

Kerb weight
Top speed
0-60 mph (sec)
0-100 mph (sec)
K9 (K900) 3.8GDI
2012 (2014)
Front-engined, RWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
5095 / 1900 / 1490 mm
3045 mm
V6, 60-degree
3778 cc
DOHC 24 valves, DVVT
334 hp (311 hp SAE)
291 lbft (293 lbft SAE)
8-speed automatic
All: multi-link
Adaptive air spring + damping

1910 kg (1940 kg)
149 mph (c)
6.9 (c) / 6.2*
K900 5.0 V8
Front-engined, RWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
5095 / 1900 / 1490 mm
3045 mm
V8, 90-degree
5038 cc
DOHC 32 valves, DVVT
420 hp (SAE)
376 lbft (SAE)
8-speed automatic
All: multi-link
Mechanical adaptive damping
F: 245/45R19
R: 275/40R19
2065 kg
155 mph (limited)
5.5* / 5.5**
13.9* / 13.0**

Performance tested by: *C&D, **MT

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