CHICAGO – If auto shows overall are becoming less about big product launches and a place for top industry executives to gather and meet, the 2024 Chicago Auto Show here remains a big event for the public, who will begin arriving this weekend to see both the newest hardware and software-defined vehicles.
Kia America arguably comes to Chicago with the most to talk about – updates and news on two vehicles and a preview of its Super Bowl ad for its newest BEV, the EV9 CUV.
The South Korean automaker will advertise its new battery-electric EV9 on the Super Bowl, the company’s 15th straight appearance on the telecast. “Sales were about 1,000 in December and 1,400 in January, but after this game, some 100 million people will know something about this vehicle and will hopefully be inspired to find out more,” says Kia’s chief marketing executive Russell Wager.
The ad tells the story of an adolescent girl who is competing at a figure skating meet. Her father is sitting in the stands with an empty chair next to him. The empty chair is not missing a mother, though. After the meet, the father drives his daughter into the snowy woods to a house where we find her wheelchair-bound grandfather. A makeshift ice rink is illuminated by the power from the EV9, and she performs the routine for her grandfather.
Wager says he feels Kia figured out some time ago what some automakers are just now realizing: that instead of going 100% BEV, customers should have options, “which is why we have hybrids, plug-in-hybrids and (B)EVs in our lineup.”
Kia also previews this week a Kia Carnival Hybrid minivan, which will hit dealerships this summer as a ’25 model. The kid-carrier is powered by a turbocharged 1.6L 4-cyl. mated to the same 72-hp electric motor also found in Kia Sportage and Sorento CUV hybrids.
The minivan makes 242 hp and 271 lb.-ft. (367 Nm) of torque from the engine-motor combination. The only transmission is a 6-speed automatic. The Carnival hybrid is expected to get 32 mpg (7.3 L/100 km) combined, versus 22 mpg (10.7 L/100 km) for the non-hybrid ’24 model and receives the electric-motor assist to help hold its own against the hybrid-only Toyota Sienna and Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid.
The automaker also previews an updated ’25 K5. The midsize sedan gets design and engineering tweaks: a new naturally aspirated engine that delivers more horsepower, and a longer list of standard and optional active driving safety options.
Both the Carnival and K5 get some common updates, including a 12.3-in. (31-cm) infotainment touchscreen, with some variants getting a curved display that combines the touchscreen and a 12-in. (30-cm) digital instrument cluster. The Kia models can now receive over-the-air updates and offer wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto across the range.
Kia replaces the outgoing K5’s turbocharged, 1.6L 4-cyl. with a turbocharged 2.5L 4-cyl. It's rated at 191 hp and 181 lb.-ft. (245 Nm) of torque, compared with 180 hp and 185 lb.-ft. (251 Nm), respectively, for the turbo-4 it replaces. Front-wheel drive and an 8-speed automatic transmission are standard, and all-wheel drive is an option on the GT-Line trim.
The K5 GT continues with a 2.5L 4-cyl. that's turbocharged to 290 hp and 311 lb.-ft. (422 Nm) of torque.
Kia’s 2023 U.S. sales rose 13% to a record 782,000-plus, per Wards Intelligence, capping its strongest year in company history.