LAS VEGAS – Kia’s ’23 EV6 GT battery-electric CUV loses a chunk of range but wins in 0-60 mph (97 km/h) time compared with its standard EV6 sibling – and nearly every other challenger, electric- or gasoline-powered. And that’s the point.
At a media drive here for the high-performance variant of Kia’s popular battery-electric CUV, the GT shows off its mad skills on the track and drag strip, after a day of relatively sane cruising on the surrounding desert highways.
Most dramatic are the drag strip runs, with 11.5-second trips at 117 mph (188 km/h) the norm as the 4-door BEV hustles silently to speed, eschewing the kind of internal-combustion roar usually associated with these kind of quarter-mile blasts.
The EV6 GT builds on the momentum of the standard EV6, which recently captured 2023 North American Utility of the Year honors. The EV6 GT boosts output over the standard all-wheel-drive model by 191 kW (256 hp) and 99 lb.-ft. (134 Nm) to a total of 430 kW (576 hp) and 545 lb.-ft. (739 Nm) of torque.
Kia engineers achieve the increase in power by shifting the standard EV6’s 160-kW (214-hp) rear motor to the front axle of the GT and upgrading the rear unit to a 270-kW (362-hp) motor. The synchronous permanent-magnet motors provide direct drive to the wheels via single-speed gearing, with an electronic limited-slip differential in the rear.
The GT gets enhanced oil cooling to manage temperatures generated by motors that peak at 21,000 rpm vs. 15,000 rpm in the regular EV6.
The gain in output, relying on the same 77.4-kWh lithium-ion battery pack, means the GT loses 46 miles (74 km) of range compared with its standard AWD counterpart as battery power is boosted to provide ample juice for the larger motors.
The net effect is boisterous, bordering on glorious. Whisper-quiet thrust launches the EV6 GT to 60 mph in 3.4 seconds, topping out at 161 mph (259 km/h). In our 117-mph runs we notice hardly any of the drama one might experience with ICE propulsion, allowing us to hear tire and wind noise that typically would be drowned out by a big V-8’s piston and valve rasp along with induction and exhaust din.
Track loops provide a chance to get a feel for the car’s excellent handling, with power balanced rearward to create an easy-to-manage level of oversteer that combines with the low-slung weight of the 1,073-lb. (488-kg) battery pack and electronically controlled suspension to give ample driver confidence when approaching corners at speed. A Drift Mode unleashes the full beast, sending 100% of the power to the rear wheels.
Out on the road, the GT settles down and drives with the silent composure we’ve come to appreciate in BEVs, regardless of maximum capabilities. Steering-wheel paddles provide multiple levels of regenerative feel, from zero to full one-pedal driving mode that amps up the maximum regen level to 0.6 g vs. 0.4 g in the standard EV6.
We note power usage of 3.2 mi./kWh (5.1 km) with climate control turned off, with that number dropping to 2.7 mi./kWh (4.3 km) with air-conditioning in use over a 107-mile (172-km) test drive. That’s a bit less than the 3.1 mi./kWh (5.0 km) we recorded in a standard AWD EV6 during testing for Wards 10 Best Engines & Propulsion Systems in 2022.
But overall, similar to its lower-powered sibling, the GT loses exactly 1 mile (1.6 km) of range for every 1 mile traveled, a key factor for instilling confidence in the vehicle’s ability to achieve the 206 miles (332 km) of range estimated by the EPA.
Although shorter on range, drivers with access to DC fast charging needn’t despair: The GT’s 697V battery and 800V electrical architecture accepts 350-kW DC fast charging up to 240 kW, allowing the battery to recharge from 10% to 80% in 18 minutes. Lesser fast charging fills the “tank” in about 73 minutes while a 240V outlet does the job in about 7 hours.
Kia doesn’t plan to sell a lot of the $62,695 (including $1,295 destination and handling) GTs. Steve Center, Kia executive vice president and COO, estimates about 10% of EV6 buyers will opt for the GT, equating to 2,000-2,500 sales annually. But he assures that if interest spikes, the automaker can ramp up to meet increased demand.
For BEV buyers looking for maximum performance without paying top dollar for a Tesla or Lucid – let alone a gas-powered Ferrari or Lamborghini that the EV6 GT can best to 60 mph – the EV6 GT may be their e-ticket.