SAN DIEGO ( MainStreet) — The surprises began the minute I slid into the driver's seat.

Sitting in Kia's K900, a luxury sedan that will soon be released to the American market, is like sitting in an ultra luxurious cockpit.

You're surrounded by leather upholstery, real wood and aluminum accents and all sorts of unexpected and fun technology. It's all topped off by a panoramic sunroof that runs the full length of the car and opens up the cabin, making it feel light and airy – great for a sunny, Southern California day.

So, yes, I had to keep reminding myself that the car I was sitting in was ... a Kia, a car offered up by a manufacturer long known for budget vehicles.

But as Kia's executive vice president for sales and marketing, Michael Sprague, points out during our interview, the Kia Motors' brand slogan is "The power to surprise." I for one am truly surprised by the K900.

"It's fascinating to hear people question us, 'Why are you doing this?'" Sprague says. "No one asked Mercedes why they were moving down in the market, so why are you questioning us about moving up?"

"We saw a consumer mindset shift," Sprague says. "Consumers are looking for new definitions of luxury not defined by tradition and heritage. Mercedes, BMW, Jaguar, Audi, have been around for 100 years, or in some cases a little less. A lot of consumers are saying 'I don't want tradition and heritage, I want something new.' Particularly among the tech obsessed consumers. We call them confident individualists."

I've always considered myself a confident individualist, so Sprague was speaking to his target audience in many ways. So on with the test drive.

The first thing I noticed once I got the car onto the highway is that the K900 is a very solid, heavy car. Driving it did not necessarily make me feel sporty (although it does have a sport driving mode); instead I felt the weight of a very substantial vehicle.

I had fun with the car's many features, particularly the safety features. The K900 includes such things as rear cross-traffic alerts, blind-spot monitoring and lane departure warning systems. Many of the safety and navigation features show up on a "head up" display projected on the windshield — one of the coolest features. While driving the K900 you can see the speed you're driving on the windshield, as well as the cars on your left or right when you try to change lanes.

Some of the other standard features this car is packed with include a heated leather and wood steering wheel, rain-sensing wipers, keyless entry and start, heated power-folding side mirrors, a power-closing trunk, power rear sunshade (very cool) and heated and ventilated 12-way power front seats.