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Kia moves up-market with new flagship sedan

Rear-wheel drive luxury car, called K9 in Korea, will be renamed in other markets

Published: May 3, 2012, 3:00 PM
Updated: April 29, 2018, 2:11 PM

Kia K9 - front

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Like Hyundai before it, Kia is expanding its product range upward into the luxury realm. Unlike its sister company, it is not moving up the ladder one rung at a time but jumping a couple steps at once.

Kia has begun sale of a big, rear-wheel-drive sedan, called the K9, in Korea and plans to launch it in "a number of key overseas markets" starting in the fourth quarter of 2012.

Whether or not those key markets will include Canada and the U.S. has not been announced, but it's a safe bet that they will.

It's also a safe bet that it won't be called K9 in English-speaking countries, for obvious linguistic reasons – a point Kia has already confirmed. 

"The K9 is a clear signal of our intention and determination to compete head-to-head with the European luxury brands," says Kia’s Chief Design Officer, Peter Schreyer.

It's based on the same platform as the Hyundai Equus but it is pure Kia in appearance, the product of Schreyer's leadership, which has vaulted Kia into the upper echelons of the design game.

“K9 is all about elegant simplicity, balanced proportions and simple surfaces,” says Schreyer. “The class-leading long wheelbase, the (long hood), large wheels, sharply upright short overhangs and a long sweeping shoulder line all work together in a harmony to give K9 a sporty, athletic proportion and a confident stance quintessential to a premium large rear-wheel drive vehicle.”

All of which is designer-speak that states the obvious – it's a very attractive car.
  V-6 engines
Unlike the Equus, the K9 will be offered outside Korea only with V-6 engines, no V-8 – at least initially. It will come to market with a 3.8-litre Lambda V-6 rated at about 290 hp, with a gasoline-direct-injection (GDI ) version of the same displacement, making about 334 hp, joining the line-up next year.
Both engines will mate to a wide-ratio, eight-speed automatic transmission with shift-by-wire (SBW) technology and a joystick controller.

Four driving modes (Eco, Normal, Sport and Snow) enable the driver to choose a preferred set-up of not just the suspension but steering, engine and transmission to adapt to various road conditions or driving styles.

“With K9 we have achieved a near-perfect front/rear weight distribution, which has created a strong foundation for excellent balance and steering response, and a sophisticated blend of ride and handling qualities,” says Chang-Ky Kang, Senior Vice President of Kia's Namyang R&D Chassis Technology Centre.

An ultra-stiff body shell, made with 74.3% high-strength steel and  electronically-controlled air suspension with five-link front and rear suspension geometry combine to give the new flagship sedan first-class ride and handling characteristics, Kia says.

Luxury features
When it goes on sale in overseas markets, the K9 will offer a range of advanced luxury features and technologies that include, depending on model: fully adaptive all-LED headlamps; Lane Departure Warning System (LDWS); radar-based Blind-Spot Detection (BSD); and an Around-View Monitor (AVM) with four cameras.

Premium comfort features include a 12.3-inch full size Thin Film Transistor (TFT) LCD cluster, a HUD (head-up display), twin 9.2-inch monitors to entertain rear seat occupants, a 17-channel, 17-speaker Lexicon (by Harman) sound system and Smart Cruise Control (SCC) which adjusts the vehicle’s speed to maintain the distance from the vehicle ahead.

 A special ‘VIP’ option will offer twin heated and ventilated rear seats with a reclining backrest, sliding cushion and lower leg support for the ‘nearside’ seat, together with a front passenger seat that slides forwards when unoccupied.