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[Behind the Wheel] Kia’s K8 sporty sedan to challenge Grandeur

Larger than bestselling Grandeur, cheaper than K9, Kia’s all-new K8 provides new product tier for sedan drivers

Kia’s all-new K8 (Kia)
Kia’s all-new K8 (Kia)
Kia’s all-new K8 (Kia)
Kia’s all-new K8 (Kia)

In South Korea’s premium luxury sedan market, there is one landmark model that for years has maintained an unrivaled lead -- Hyundai Motor’s Grandeur, which saw 145,000 units sold last year.

In a move to grow out of the rivalry frame with the all-time bestseller, Hyundai Motor’s sister brand Kia Corp. has adopted a new strategy, which is to discontinue its semi-large sedan K7 and introduce the K8 as a new, upgraded version to fill in the tier.

The all-new K8 also marks the first product launch since the carmaker changed its name and corporate identity earlier this year, from Kia Motors to Kia Corp., signaling its expansion from conventional automaker to innovative mobility platform operator.

The Korea Herald took Kia’s K8 3.5 gasoline signature model on the road for a test drive, running some 80 kilometers round trip from Grand Walkerhill Seoul to Namyangju in Gyeonggi Provice.

The model’s full length is 5,015 millimeters, which is slightly longer than the Grandeur’s 4,990 millimeters. The wheelbase also came to a relatively large 2,895 millimeters, giving room to an expansive interior space that is almost equivalent to that of a large-sized sedan.

The majestic figure was paired with design details such as the patterned grille on the front and the angular taillights, as well as the new logo displayed in conspicuous block letters on the hood and trunk.

Adding a dynamic touch was the coupe-type backside design, which differentiates the K8 from the Grandeur-like silhouette.

The interior space is marked by the 12.3-inch-wide dashboard juxtaposed with an equal-size panoramic curbed display -- the first-ever for a sedan.

For music lovers, the main charm is the Meridian sound system, co-developed by Hyundai Mobis and the British audio developer Meridian Audio, that adds clarity to high-pitched sounds.

The 14 Natec speakers that are embedded within the vehicle are operated by the Intelli Q system, which automatically adjusts the sound volume and quality according to the driving speed.

Amid the wood surface-trimmed cabin and diamond-stitched Napa leather seats is the center console featuring an easily controllable shift-by-wire transmission dial.

As a front-wheel drive model, the 3.5 gasoline engine-powered signature model of the K8 offers a maximum output of 300 horsepower and maximum torque of 36.6 kilograms-force per meter.

Despite some low-pitched engine sounds when driving at a low speed, the vehicle has a soft acceleration and saw a more stable drive after reaching high speeds.

Due to its relatively low body compared to peer models, the K8 displayed balanced cornering and soft, shock-absorbing suspension when passing over speed bumps and other road obstacles.

Like most of other models recently launched by Hyundai Motor and Genesis, Kia’s K8 is fully equipped with driver assistance technologies, including the navigation-based smart cruise mode and lane keeping assistance.

The most useful function was the blind-spot collision-avoidance assist, which alerts the driver in lane change or turn situations by sending sound alarms and vibration signals through the wheel. The dashboard will also display a blind-spot view monitor, showing the rear camera views, when the turn signal is on.

Prices for the new K8 start at 32.79 million won ($29,077) for the 2.5 gasoline model, while the 3.5 gasoline signature model is priced at 41.77 million won. As a follow-up, the automaker will be unveiling the details of a 1.6 gasoline turbo hybrid version next month.

By Bae Hyun-jung (