After Stinger GT success, Kia teases 2019 K900 luxury

Kia gave its automotive reputation an octane boost last year with the well-esteemed Stinger GT sports sedan, and now it's trying to do the same for its luxury cars. The company has previewed the interior of the all-new 2019 Kia K900 flagship, expected to arrive on dealership forecourts from Q2 this year.

While the South Korean automaker is not quite ready to show us the exterior of the new K900 yet, we do get to see what's arguably more important: where the interior is going. A new design sketch has been released, showing the front part of the cabin and the dashboard, and it's welcome change over the outgoing car. Indeed, we suspect it's enough to give some of the more established players in the segment pause.

It's the handiwork of both Kia's global design headquarters, in Naming, Korea, and its US design studio outpost, in Irvine, California. The goal, the automaker says, was for a "peaceful retreat in which to spend time" that gives the impression that the driver is "cocooned from the outside world." More specifically, it means fewer physical controls and a more calming layout.

So, there's now an uninterrupted sweeping console that runs the whole width of the cabin, rather than the protruding center stack of the old K900. It's topped with what Kia says will be a 12.3-inch infotainment display, significantly larger than the 9.2-inch display in the 2018 K900. What controls there are have been linked to proximity sensors: when they spot a hand approaching, only then do they illuminate.

There'll also be a new mood lighting system, Kia says, which will offer 64 different color options. It'll be driver-customizable, too, with seven different themes preloaded for the indecisive. Those lights will share dash-space with wood and metal veneers, along with real leather and a greater percentage of soft-touch surfaces.

It's fair to say that the K900 is the most niche model in Kia's line-up right now. Sales of the current car only reached a mere 455 units in the whole of 2017, almost half what the automaker sold in the prior year. Demand in 2018 has been even slower, with current K900 sales down 17-percent this year so far, compared to 2017.

That, arguably, gives Kia nowhere to go but up with the new K900, and it has been quietly building the team to do just that. Albert Biermann, formerly chief of BMW's M performance car division, joined Kia as its Executive Vice President in April 2015, and has been credited by the automaker for giving new cars like the Stinger GT some legitimate sports credibility. In September last year, meanwhile, another BMW alum, designer Pierre Leclercq, joined Kia as its head of styling.

The result is expected to be a new breed of Kia cars that no longer compete with rivals solely on aggressive pricing, but with genuine performance and style. We won't have long to wait until we see the 2019 K900 to see how that Stinger magic has translated to the larger luxury car.