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by Tim Beissmann

Kia has officially launched its first rear-wheel-drive luxury sedan in more than a decade – the Kia K9 – bringing new levels of performance, design and prestige to the South Korean’s global line-up.

The all-new flagship model has been introduced initially in its domestic market before exports to key overseas markets follow – albeit with a new, less doggish model name – in the final quarter of 2012.

Despite Australia’s history with rear-wheel-drive large cars, you won’t find the K9 in local showrooms – at least in the short term – with Kia confirming there are no plans to launch the car down under at this stage.

Designed as a lower-cost rival to cars like the Audi A6, BMW 5-Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class, Kia says the K9 is built on an all-new platform and incorporates levels of comfort, engaging driving dynamics and high-tech features never before seen from the brand.

At 5090mm long, 1900mm wide, 1490mm tall and riding on a 3045mm wheelbase, the K9 is 163mm longer, 26mm wider and 25mm taller than the Audi A6, and has a 133mm longer wheelbase.

The K9 is currently available with a 213kW 3.8-litre V6 petrol engine, and a 245kW direct-injection version will join the global powertrain line-up in 2013. All engines will be teamed with Kia’s new eight-speed automatic transmission.

Four driving modes – Eco, Normal, Sport and Snow – allow the driver to select between pre-programed set-ups that alter the electronically controlled air suspension, steering, engine and transmission to suit road and weather conditions and driving style.

A long list of advanced safety features will be offered, including fully adaptive LED headlamps, lane departure warning, blind spot detection and around-view monitor with four cameras.

The premium interior, seen here in a striking black and white combination, incorporates a 12.3-inch LCD screen in the centre console and two 9.2-inch monitors in the rear, 17-speaker Lexicon audio system, head-up display for the driver and adaptive cruise control.

A ‘VIP’ package offers customers the option of fitting two heated and cooled rear seats with reclining backrests, sliding cushions and lower-leg support for the passenger-side seat, as well as a front passenger seat that slides forwards when unoccupied.

Kia director of overseas marketing Soon-Nam Lee said the K9 would “entice an entirely new customer group of progressive, forward-looking consumers to Kia for the first time”.

“K9 is our first rear-wheel-drive large sedan for more than a decade and sets new standards for advanced design, new technologies and driving performance, representing the ‘best of the best’ of Kia,” Lee said.




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