2024 Kia EV9 SUV is a family-size commitment to EVs

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by Kivi

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09.17.2023


Where are all the mass-market, family-size electric SUVs?

They’re not here yet. Instead we have a bunch of not-quite-family-size electric crossovers with racy rooflines, and a growing cohort of truly spacious electric SUVs with luxury price tags. 

It’s shaping up to be a big opportunity for Kia, as the 2024 EV9 SUV will be here very soon. And, as Green Car Reports experienced last month in a closed-course preview, it’s exactly what’s needed for this untapped market. 

At Hyundai and Kia’s California proving grounds I was allowed a first chance to get up close with the EV9 outside of an auto-show floor. I drove it, too. For these vehicles—described by Kia as production-level, global-spec prototypes—taking them out on public roads wasn’t yet permitted. 

Overall, it offers families a combination that will be hard to resist: three useful rows of seating, an estimated EPA range well over 250 miles for much of the lineup, an OEM-supported bidirectional charging toolset yet unmatched by any other EV, and a quiet and relatively soft ride that felt refreshing versus the market’s plethora of crossover EVs strutting the performance side. 

2024 Kia EV9

2024 Kia EV9

2024 Kia EV9

2024 Kia EV9

2024 Kia EV9

2024 Kia EV9

EV9 design: Telluride, Soul, and sci-fi

Don’t let the seemingly science-fiction-inspired design details lead you astray, after a few minutes of climbing around this vehicle, it’s not something you’ll dwell on. While up on a stand or a tight showroom floor the EV9 can feel imposing, upright, and edgy-futuristic, stepping up to it parked in a vast stretch of tarmac helped spin those proportions differently. Stepping back at a distance, the EV9 looks a lot more like a scaled-up Kia Soul—not a bad thing whatsoever.

Going by the overall size, and the profile, the EV9 can be summed up as an electric counterpart to the highly popular Telluride SUV. 

The Kia EV9 measures 197.2 inches long, while it’s 78 inches wide and 70 inches tall overall. That makes it somewhat larger overall than the Audi Q8 E-Tron, BMW iX, or Cadillac Lyriq, all of which have just two rows of seating. On the other hand, it’s somewhat smaller than the Mercedes-Benz EQS, Volvo EX90, or Tesla Model X, all of which can be three-row vehicles. 

That pegs it within a fraction of an inch of the Telluride in nearly all those key dimensions, although its 122-inch wheelbase is about 7 inches longer than that of the Telluride. 

Despite SUV poses, the chunky look defies aerodynamics, to some level. Considering all the frontal area, it makes good with a 0.28 coefficient of drag for the top GT-Line. 

2024 Kia EV9

2024 Kia EV9

300 miles of range on less than 100 kwh

That leads to an important point: Despite its boxy shape and three rows, the EV9 will go up to 300 EPA miles on less than 100 kwh of battery, Kia says. 

Most of the models in the EV9 lineup will come with a 99.8-kwh battery pack. They include Light, Wind, Land, and GT-Line trim levels. The base Light rear-wheel-drive version with this battery will make 201 hp and 258 lb-ft and hit that 300 miles, while the rest of the dual-motor lineup will make 379 hp and up to 516 lb-ft of torque, earning estimated EPA ratings of 270-285 miles of range.

A price-leading Light trim level (also single-motor-only) will include a smaller 76.1-kwh battery pack and make 215 hp and 258 lb-ft, while earning an estimated 225 miles of range. 

A heat pump will be optional on Light models with the larger pack and standard on all others with that pack.

2024 Kia EV9

2024 Kia EV9

Kia EV9 driving impressions—closed-course edition

All of the vehicles I drove at the event were top-of-the-line GT-Line all-wheel-drive versions—good for a 0-60 mph time of 4.5 seconds. 

On a large, smooth skidpad area I was welcomed first to test acceleration, on a stretch that added up to almost a quarter-mile. Foot-to-the-floor sprints, followed by some dynamic skidpad handling time, demonstrated the difference between the EV9’s drive modes—and that the top-trim model launches authoritatively. Through that I found that Normal and Sport modes deliver the same ultimate power (and acceleration times), as I hit about 97 mph, but Sport gives you a perkier impression as you tip onto the accelerator. Eco mode both softens the accelerator calibration and dials back power; Kia didn’t have specs on exactly how much, but it knocked about 10 mph off those acceleration runs. 

2024 Kia EV9 prototype drive

2024 Kia EV9 prototype drive

2024 Kia EV9 prototype drive

2024 Kia EV9 prototype drive

Beware that Kia pegs the range leader of the lineup, the single-motor Light model with the 99.8-kwh battery, at 8.8 seconds to 60 mph, so it will not feel nearly as quick.

Slower might not always be slower. Kia is boasting that with the EV9 it will be for the first time offering over-the-air upgrades to vehicle attributes, at extra cost. It will, for instance, allow owners of the middle-trim models, otherwise rated at 443 lb-ft of torque, to tap into the full 516 lb-ft of the GT Line. 

2024 Kia EV9 prototype drive

2024 Kia EV9 prototype drive

On a high-speed closed circuit I was also allowed to bring the EV9 up to—and well beyond—freeway speeds, with time to test the EV9’s active lane control system and its much-improved lane following, set to be part of the optional Advanced Driving Assist (AHDA) system that will include Lidar in the EV9. The following is now smooth at U.S. freeway speeds and doesn’t lose its calm up to about 80 mph, though we could feel some digital bobbling back and forth above that. 

In all, I got the chance to push the EV9 past 105 mph, and I can attest that in addition to it feeling stable there, it’s astonishingly quiet. Kia points to low-noise tires and insulated window glass as measures that give the EV9 more of a premium feel than some shoppers might expect. It points out that the EV9 is as quiet inside at 55 mph as a Range Rover, while still offering more skidpad grip (0.84g) than a Range Rover or the Mercedes-Benz EQS SUV (4Matic). It also claims better braking performance than both of those models. 

2024 Kia EV9

2024 Kia EV9

EV9 ride, handling, and dynamics

On a skidpad, among cones, I got the chance to push the envelope dynamically, and found that the EV9 corners predictably. Just don’t expect the EV6’s handling-focused power delivery to carry over to the EV9. Overall, propulsion and traction systems are tuned much more conservatively. Throw the EV9 quickly into a tight corner and you can quickly find the traction limits of the Hankook tires, along with modest body roll. Overall though, having the hefty battery pack down below helps keep it a lesser version of what you’ll find if you did the same in some gasoline-powered three-row SUVs. 

The EV9 weighs nearly 5,900 pounds in the fully loaded GT-Line version I drove, and considering that and the soft tuning, this big electric SUV feels surprisingly nimble. The team behind the EV9 points to the five-link suspension—in a somewhat different arrangement than used in other E-GMP models so far—as helping quell some of those body motions despite the soft tuning. It certainly helps minimize nosedive on hard braking and squat-and-lift during quick takeoffs. 

2024 Kia EV9 prototype drive

2024 Kia EV9 prototype drive

Kia’s drive opportunity probably put the EV9’s suspension through the paces much more than any public-road drive route would have—with one exception. There wasn’t a situation that would allow me to corner exuberantly on an imperfect road surface, to test out how that suspension allows the weight to shift around. 

One thing the drive system in the EV9 simply does not permit is shifting more power to the rear wheels with a prod of the accelerator. While you can “get the tail out” in some situations in the EV6, with exuberant driving and the right mode, under no situation does the EV9 permit such a thing. It’s a family vehicle, right?

2024 Kia EV9

2024 Kia EV9

Kia EV9 off-roading and towing

This closed-course preview drive of the EV9 also included some mild off-roading. The EV9 has a 4WD Lock that electronically synchronizes the motors, splitting power evenly between front and rear to help make this powerful SUV more delicately surefooted on the trail. It worked its charm on a dusty trail that was a mix of fine-grit gravel and rutted dirt. It disengages when you accelerate past 31 mph—or, I was told, as soon as the system can tell you’re driving on pavement. 

While the EV9’s ground clearance is a measly 7.8 inches, its water-fording depth is 19.5 inches and its very short overhangs help it do well with approach and departure angles—if not breakover, so watch that pack in the middle. On a steep, dusty 22-degree descent and ascent the EV9’s hill-descent and traction systems performed without a hitch. 

Towing capacity will be 5,000 pounds, and software will identify load and adjust range accordingly. 

2024 Kia EV9

2024 Kia EV9

2024 Kia EV9

2024 Kia EV9

2024 Kia EV9

2024 Kia EV9

An electric Telluride? No, better than that inside. 

The more I sat in the driver’s seat, crawled around the interior, and then drove this electric SUV, the less it felt like an electric Telluride. Adjusting the seat to my liking—I’m a long-legged 6-foot-6—I cranked the lower cushion downward and the seatback more upright and found a better driving position than I can achieve in the EV6 or in the Telluride, with a clear view outward and around, and several inches of headroom yet above. 

As much as automakers extol the space-maximizing packaging advantages of EVs and skateboard platforms, the results don’t always maximize space in ways that makes a difference in seating—the Kia EV6, for instance, which is built on the same platform as the EV9 but comes up oddly short in headroom and floor space. With the EV9, on the other hand, Kia has managed to package a no-compromises upright crossover body over the relatively thick battery pack. Here, the roofline is much flatter and extends back without much of a bow until around the third row. 

Going by cabin alone, the gloriously well-packaged Ford Flex came to mind. Getting in and out is easy; door cuts are generous; and second-row seats are adjustable in ways that help with third-row access. I could get into the third row quite easily, although with the second row back in position, it was indeed small for legroom—but not headroom. 

2024 Kia EV9 prototype drive

2024 Kia EV9 prototype drive

The spatial bullseye may have a simple explanation: It’s one of the few three-row vehicles I can think of that doesn’t push the hip point of the third-row seats significantly higher than the other rows

Further, second and third rows include cupholders and USB-C ports. A dual-level “floating” center console extends from between those in front to just ahead of the second row, where those in that row can also take advantage of its sliding storage, and a drawer that pulls back. 

2024 Kia EV9

2024 Kia EV9

2024 Kia EV9 prototype drive

2024 Kia EV9 prototype drive

2024 Kia EV9 prototype drive

2024 Kia EV9 prototype drive

With all three rows in place for passengers, there’s a bit over 20 cubic feet of cargo space; but when you fold both rows forward that expands the cargo area to nearly 82 cubic feet. There’s a small frunk, also—just large enough for a mobile charging cable and a handbag or laptop case.

It wasn’t all honeymoon inside. The interface felt a slight step backward, as it does away with the wonderful and simplified dual-purpose strip of buttons, as used in the EV6, and instead brings more of these items up to the screen. A 12.3-inch gauge cluster and climate control display now flows nearly under the same casing to a 12.3-inch touchscreen for infotainment, settings, navigation, and information. Impressions may change once we’ve had more time with this system 

Wallbox Quasar 2 with Kia EV9

Wallbox Quasar 2 with Kia EV9

Leading-edge bidirectional charging comes standard

As Kia points out, when the EV9 arrives late this year it will be the only electric three-row SUV to offer 800-volt charging. That allows the base model with the smaller battery to charge at up to 236 kw and from 10-80% in 20 minutes, while the larger battery will charge at up to 215 kw and manage that charge in 24 minutes. Home Level 2 charging with a 48-amp charger (requiring a 60-amp circuit), for a full charge, takes 6.75 hours and 8.75 hours, respectively with the two packs. 

As Kia has underscored, the EVs will be the first U.S. EV with an automaker-approved bidirectional charging solution (with the Wallbox Quasar 2) that applies to both home backup and vehicle-to-grid functionality—meaning that owners will not only be able to power the house during a storm or brownout, but they’ll also be able to use their vehicle to help the grid, or potentially act as buffer with home solar and energy storage. That’s functionality not offered by Tesla or anyone else right now, and it will become available in the first half of 2024. 

Wallbox Quasar 2 with Kia EV9

Wallbox Quasar 2 with Kia EV9

Kia and its closely related Hyundai and Genesis brands haven’t yet committed to the Tesla NACS. But it does point out that it’s one of the seven major automakers uniting to install at least 30,000 high-power fast-chargers nationwide, as part of a yet-unnamed new network. 

With the exception of bidirectional charging details, most of these details surrounding the EV9 were released months ago, and the key value factor here—the sticker price—remains weeks away. 

2024 Kia EV9

2024 Kia EV9

Kia EV9 price and value—still TBA

Bringing it back around to what ultimately matters to many families—price—it’s eye-opening how alone in the market the EV9 will be at arrival. Set your filters to three rows of seating and something with enough space to fit, say, a grandparent in at the same time as two parents and two kids in child seats, and your fully electric field becomes very, very narrow. 

For anything this size, nearly every automaker has focused EV efforts on essentially the same class of vehicle. Read: upmarket. 

The Mercedes EQS SUV starts in six-digit territory, and the Rivian R1S will start at $79,800, for a 260-mile Standard Pack version that hasn’t yet been delivered. In the Tesla Model X, you deal with gimmicky falcon-wing doors, a potential steering yoke, and mostly, a design that was first delivered eight years ago. The Volvo EX90 won’t be here until later in 2024, and will also carry a price tag near $80,000. The Audi Q8 E-Tron, BMW iX, and Cadillac Lyriq only offer two rows of seating. Perhaps the most direct rival to the EV9 will be its corporate cousin, the Hyundai Ioniq 7, a model that will have a somewhat swoopier roofline that might affect its big-family prowess. 

Kia right now is taking 40 global-spec EV9s—like the ones we were in—on a national tour of more than 220 dealerships to give customers a hands-on experience. In early October it plans to start accepting $1,000 reservation fees for those who want to be first in line—with potential bonus gifts to be included. Deliveries are due to start around December. 

2024 Kia EV9 prototype drive

2024 Kia EV9 prototype drive

Based on earlier hints from executives, Green Car Reports estimates the base price to be below $60,000 for the Light model with the smaller pack, up to around $80,000 or more for the top GT-Line driven here. Executives hint that they’ve been following Tesla price cuts, and next year as production shifts to the U.S. the EV9 will likely be eligible for some of the EV tax credit

The EV9 will be made at the same site as the Telluride some shoppers may liken it to. While the first EV9 deliveries will be coming from South Korea, the U.S.-market EV9 will be made in Georgia starting in 2024, making it the first Kia EV to be U.S.-assembled. That Georgia plant already makes the Telluride, plus the Sorento, Sportage, and K5.

In keeping with this trajectory, of ever-higher-volume EVs, Kia EV production is also set to start in 2025 at the $5.5 billion Hyundai-Kia “Metaplant” near Savannah, Georgia. That plant is initially set to make 300,000 EVs of the combined brands annually, with a potential expansion later to 500,000 annually.

Each of Kia’s electric steps in the U.S. have led away from niche models and toward making EVs mainstream. The EV9 lays that out clearly and commits to go big. Now, what’s next?



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