2015 Kia K900: Riding Low to Oregon
January 15, 2015
We heard it more than once during our Oregon holiday trip. "This thing's a low rider." The thing in question was our 2015 Kia K900 sedan, and they were right.
But there were just four of us on board: me driving plus my wife in the shotgun seat and our two daughters in back. Each of them weighs no more than 115 pounds apiece, well below the mythical SAE passenger allowance of 68 kilograms/150 pounds. And we had an open seat in back, too.
Sure, we had suitcases and plenty of presents in the trunk. But we packed relatively light using duffle bags. And most of our wrapped presents were comprised of air and tissue wrap. No one was getting a bowling ball or a full set of encyclopedias from Santa. We had less than 100 pounds back there.
Northern California and Oregon highways are generally smooth asphalt ribbons in reasonably good condition. Much of Highway 101 north of Ukiah is gracefully sinuous with sweeping 55 to 60 mph corners. But this is earthquake country, and the rain-soaked land beneath tends to slump and sag here and there. Cars with overly soft suspensions and/or short suspension travel do not excel in these parts.
And so it was with the soft and low-riding K900, which made frequent contact with its rear bump stops throughout the trip. The feeling was more restrained and progressive than the sharp thumps we experienced on the same route in the 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited last year, but that didn't make it much easier to ignore.
Bumps in corners were the worst, forcing the big Kia into a weird diagonal lurch as the outside ran out of travel and forced the compression to be absorbed by the inside suspension until it, too, maxed out.
The K900 seems to employ a classic approach to ride comfort: soft, soft, soft. That can work, but there doesn't seem to be enough suspension travel to pull it off gracefully in this environment. The end result is a superficial feeling of comfort that doesn't hold up.
This state of affairs is especially confusing in the K900. In its home market the driver is an underling or a paid chauffeur. The owner is the one making use of the VIP package in the back seat. Why else would the rear seatbacks recline and provide controls to move the front seats forward and make the front seatbacks stand bolt-upright?
What I'm saying is this car should excel when adults are sitting in back. And I daresay The Chairman eats more heartily than either of my young daughters.
The K900 would seem to be a great long-distance road trip car. It is eerily quiet, amazingly well-equipped and offers space enough for NBA players, especially in the backseat.
But on this trip the ride tended toward comically soft and it quickly ran out of composure with a modest amount of weight added. To me it seems the K900 needs a rear load-leveling system or rear air suspension, or maybe just a slightly stouter rear suspension calibration and a smidge more ride height. Something.
Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 7,771 miles