2016 Kia K900 V-6 Luxury VIP road trip review: It’s very nice…but how thrifty the six?

Loaded and ready to roll at sunrise, the 2016 Kia K900 V-6 Luxury VIP

Loaded and ready to roll at sunrise, the 2016 Kia K900 V-6 Luxury VIP

Last year, when Kia introduced the K900, it was with a V-8 engine only. Kia wanted to make the proper first impression, and a V-6 wouldn’t have done that, at least not by counting cylinders. And we’ll have to admit, our first take on V-8-powered K900 was surprise, not just from the significant jump in size but also the audacity in challenging the BMW 7-Series, the benchmark Kia had set for itself in developing the K900.

This is 2016, however, and the V-6 has arrived. Instead of the five-liter V-8, the standard engine for the 2016 Kia K900 is a 3.8-liter V-6. It’s a step back in power, of course. The V-8 is rated at 420 horsepower while the V-6 comes in at 311 hp. On the other hand, there’s an improvement in fuel economy, at 17/26/20 mpg city/highway/combined for the six (premium fuel recommended for best performance), compared to the V-8’s 15/23/18 mpg respectively.

Illinois from I-80

Mile after mile on I-80, corn, corn and more corn.It’s a Midwestern thing. (click to enlarge)

The new V-6 model is also less expensive. Kia dropped content from the “V-8 Luxury” trim level to create a “V-6 Premium” model, while also making a “V-6 Luxury” version for those who want all the fun stuff but with the lower power and better fuel economy than the eight. The Kia K900 V-6 Premium starts at $49,000, while the V-6 Luxury is priced at $54,900 before options. The V-8 Luxury (there is no decontented Premium version of the eight cylinder) has a starting price of $61,900.

We tested the 2015 Kia K900 V-8 VIP with a one week residence and predominantly local driving (in addition to our first drive). It was impressive, enough so that when we planned an epic two-week vacation road trip to see whether North Dakota really exists (well, do you know anyone who’s been there?), a K900 seemed like a good candidate for long days in the saddle. In other words, yes, this is a test, but we really don’t want to suffer, either. And we knew the K900 would treat us well.

Kia K900 navigation system

The Hyundai/Kia navigation system is among the best, with clear instructions for upcoming moves. (click to enlarge)

We wanted to learn out just how much.

The 2016 Kia K900 with the V-6 engine was a bonus. Not only would we experience the performance of the V-6—how well do 311 horses accelerate 4,376 pounds of luxury sedan—but also how much fuel does a Kia K900 use over two weeks of highway and sightseeing use.

Of course, our rationale in choosing a road trip vehicle included luggage capacity. The K900 complied at 15.9 cubic feet. It easily accommodated one large suitcase and two carryon roller bags, plus another smaller suitcase, a briefcase, camera case, golf umbrella, a 12-pack of caffeine-free Diet Coke (soda is expensive in hotels, and they never have what we really want), a flowrider boogie board, plus several other items around the edges. In other words, easily enough volume for two weeks of summer clothes for two people who don’t want to spend time at a laundromat.

The horizon of the Missouri River bottom

The horizon of the Missouri River bottom was laid out with a carpenter’s level. (click to enlarge)

We’ve talked before about the Kia K900’s roomy back seat. That was about people. This time it’s about the mid-size cooler and water jug that fit easily on the floor behind the driver’s seat. Because our test K900 V-6 included the VIP package, it had the power reclining rear seat and power adjustable rear lumbar support. The jackets, road food and accumulating stuff didn’t notice, nor did it get much use from the fold down armrest with controls (standard on all trim levels) for ventilation and power rear window shade. The rear controls can also be operated from the front, in case there are kids in the back, which in our case there wasn’t.

Kia K900 V-6 Luxury VIP

Kia K900 V-6 Luxury VIP (click to enlarge)

We kept the rear shade up whenever the sun was out—which was most of the time—to reduce solar gain, which may or may not have helped. We did the same with the manual rear side window shades).

The heated front and rear seats, not to mention the heated steering wheel, were not called into action for our mid-July travels, but in the summer heat, the ventilated front seats were welcome and effective in cooling sun-heated perforated Nappa leather.

The choice of the 2016 Kia K900 V-6 proved wise from the moment we drove up Exit 299 and hit Pennsylvania I-80 West. The six-cylinder engine’s 311 horses are teamed with 293 pound-feet of torque. The latter doesn’t peak until 5000 rpm, but the numbers belie the performance. And Kia seems to have taken our criticism of the over-muted V-8. Although the V-6 is silent at cruise, and so quiet at idle that we “restarted” it more than once when the engine was already running—which of course required pushing the start/stop button once again to restart it for real—lusty V-6 engine sounds are transmitted into the passenger compartment when the gas pedal is to the floor. Note to product planners: It makes a car feel faster than it already is if you can hear the engine while accelerating.