If idle hands are the devil's playground, so too is a minivan in a track paddock. Our team spent a week at NCM Motorsports Park in Bowling Green, Kentucky last fall, and while the stars of the shoot were pro driver Andy Pilgrim and some sports cars you'll get to check out in the coming weeks, we couldn't resist having a little fun with our long-term 2022 Kia Carnival.
Before I get to the track antics, I owe our Carnival massive kudos. For the purposes of schlepping five people, their belongings and a ton of video equipment on a 1,000-mile round trip, plus being put into service as a camera car, mobile office and a place to warm up and eat snacks, I'm not sure there's a more adept vehicle than the Kia Carnival. I maintain that for the purposes of hauling people and things, minivans are way better than most SUVs. And with its great on-road comfort, luxurious interior and list of amenities, vans don't get much nicer than this Kia.
Now, about that hot lap. We had a little time to kill on our last day of filming, so naturally we started joking about what else we could put on the track, since it was ours for the day. The little Honda Ruckus the NCM team uses to run errands? The very tired and extremely smelly Mitsubishi Outlander plug-in hybrid rental I picked up at the airport? Both good ideas. But not as good as the Carnival.
Andy Pilgrim isn't just a highly skilled pro driver, he's the track's instructor in residence, so he knows the circuit extremely well. He's also a super nice guy, so I knew the Carnival would be in good hands. Our producers hooked up the necessary video and Vbox testing equipment and Andy headed out of the paddock, while the rest of us hurried to the observation deck to watch the magic (or mayhem) unfold. What happened next all plays out in the video you see above. Body roll, screaming tires, a shockingly pleasant V6 growl and, from Andy, major respect for this minivan's handling chops.
Our long-term Kia Carnival ran the course in 2 minutes and 45.69 seconds, which means it now holds the minivan lap record at NCM Motorsports Park. (Never mind that it's the only minivan Pilgrim's tested out here.) To put that in perspective, the Carnival was 20 seconds slower than the 2022 Subaru BRZ we tested that week, which is a big chunk of time -- but remember, the Kia is also 1,600 pounds heavier, was running on basic all-season tires and was never, ever, ever designed or intended for track use.
This hot lap was all in good fun, of course, and Andy was genuinely impressed by how this Kia did around the track. Still, what we like best about the Carnival is that, following our track time, we could load it full of people and things and enjoy a nice, serene drive from Kentucky to Michigan. Once back on home turf, we treated the Kia to a spa day at the dealership. Oh, and a fresh set of tires. For obvious reasons.