EV9 Takes Kia to Next Level

In what might seem out of character for the mass-market Kia brand, the South Korean automaker takes on luxury marques with the battery-electric EV9 large CUV. Anyone who has watched Kia’s upmarket moves in the past few years shouldn’t be surprised.

Bob Gritzinger, Editor-in-Chief

February 6, 2024

5 Min Read
EV9 remakes Kia’s popular Telluride CUV with electric propulsion.

NAPA, CA – Less than 20 years ago, driving a vehicle built by South Korean automaker Kia seemed like a risky proposition.

Back then, Kia models came with flimsy door panels, cheap interiors, questionable suspensions and weak powertrains – not the best vehicles for anything more than grocery getting, let alone ferrying your children safely to school or taking on a long drive.

But forget the past and welcome the future: The flagship ’24 Kia EV9, a 3-row, battery-electric utility vehicle that any parent would love to own, not only for the short jaunts to the store but as a road-trip haven for themselves and their broods.

Once we locate the “EV” ignition button, integrated into the stubby, steering-column-mounted shifter (pictured, below) tucked behind the squared-circle (semi-squircle?) steering wheel of our Ocean Blue GT-Line test car, the EV9 projects pure confidence and the quietness of a premium vehicle.EV9 startandshifter stalk

The EV9’s twin-motor, all-wheel-drive system produces 379 hp and 516 lb.-ft. (700 Nm) of torque, pushing the 5,886-lb. (2,670-kg) vehicle to 60 mph (97 km/h) in a mere 4.5 seconds, courtesy of a “boost” software upgrade that’s standard on GT-Line (and a $900 option on other AWD models).

The propulsion system in this model is exceptionally responsive, with little perceptible lag from launch or at speed. Five regenerative braking settings allow everything from zero action to full i-Pedal Max. In addition, the EV9 offers four drive modes: Eco, Normal, Sport and the personalized My Drive setting. While the regen modes add miles, clicking from Eco to Normal cuts range 5-6 miles (8-10 km); Sport knocks 10-12 miles (16-19 km) off the estimated range.

Overall, we note efficiency at 3.1 miles/kWh, with a range of 2.6-3.4 miles/kWh, giving the EV9 surprising propulsion system efficiency for its size and weight. Kia engineers aid that efficiency through use of technology such as a heat pump to assist in interior heating and a low 0.28 drag coefficient.

Power for the permanent-magnet-synchronous motors driving the wheels comes from a 99.8-kWh lithium-ion battery pack, capable of propelling the EV9 an EPA-rated 270 miles (435 km) between charges. The 800V architecture allows DC fast charging in just 24 minutes. A Level 2 240V outlet replenishes the battery in 8 hours and 45 minutes, while household current requires an 84-hour stop. You’ll want to find your local fast charger, or plan to install a Level 2 outlet at your residence.

During our drive over a variety of road surfaces here, including long stretches of choppy pavement, the EV9’s sound-insulating materials, laminated windshield and side glass and low-noise tires keep the cabin exceedingly quiet. Powertrain whine is inaudible, except when deliberately punching up Active Sound Design artificial motor sound. Surprisingly, the EV9 does not need to employ more expensive active noise cancellation via the audio system to achieve its low interior noise levels.Kia EV9 cockpit and interior

Inside, the EV9 is loaded with premium content, with leather-like synthetic upholstery and soft-touch materials throughout. We found ourselves regularly marveling at the plush headliner and A-pillar fabric alone.

The EV9’s huge, brightly illuminated color instrument cluster and companion 12.3-in. (31-cm) horizontal center screen are loaded with information, some of which also is projected on the color head-up display. Until called upon by touch, the haptic buttons for primary functions such as Map and Media remain hidden along the dashboard below the main screen, with physical HVAC switches below that.Kia EV9 touchscreen

Kia executives emphasize the EV9 is the first mass-market BEV to offer 3-row utility, either as a 6-seater in our tester or a 7-seater with a second-row bench in Light and Wind trims. Yes, there’s a third row, and while it offers amenities such as power ports, cupholders and premium upholstery, it’s still a pretty tight space with second-row seatbacks crowding our legroom (pictured, below).

Kia EV9 3rd row legroom

BEV competitors with three rows of seating include the Tesla Model X and the Mercedes-Benz EQS CUV. With its premium intentions, the EV9 looks to take share away from the high end of the market, while maintaining its assault on mass-market competitors such as the Chevrolet Blazer EV, the coming Toyota bZ7X 3-row BEV and the Ioniq 7 from sister brand Hyundai.

“We want to continue to be a mass-market brand, but we are growing at the top,” says Steve Center, Kia America chief operating officer.

The EV9 is on sale now as an import from South Korea, priced at $78,430 for our maxed-out GT-Line tester ($73,900 base, plus $1,495 destination), but is available for $20,000 less in a rear-drive Light trim with a smaller, 76.1-kWh battery good for 230 miles (370 km) of range. All other trims – Light Long Range (RWD), Wind, Land and GT-Line – employ the longer-range battery as standard equipment.

Kia plans to launch production of the EV9 at its plant in West Point, GA, this year, helping the vehicle qualify for U.S.-specific tax credits.

Kia’s internal-combustion-powered Telluride posted 110,000 sales in 2023, topped only by the Chevrolet Traverse and Toyota Highlander in the Wards Intelligence Large CUV segment. Look for the Telluride’s electric stablemate to supercharge those sales to the next level – in luxury style.
Kia EV9

About the Author(s)

Bob Gritzinger

Editor-in-Chief, WardsAuto

Bob Gritzinger is Editor-in-Chief of WardsAuto and also covers Advanced Propulsion & Technology for Wards Intelligence.

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