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The Kia EV9 Lives Up to the Hype

a blue car parked on grass
The Kia EV9 Lives Up to the HypeDEREK GIOVANNI

If you are to believe the hype, the all-new Kia EV9 electric SUV is going to be the first (second?) automobile to land on the moon. It can outplay Brock Purdy in the QB slot, and if the Dems or the GOP decide to play it safe, either could run the EV9 at the top of their ticket and win the White House in November.

Launched this model year, the EV9 is, apparently, the auto biz's next big thing, in more ways than one. So big! So praised! It has awards coming out of its tailpipe. Only it doesn't have a tailpipe. The electric EV9 won the Utility Vehicle of the Year award from the North American Car of the Year jury. Top Gear named it best family car. The Women's Worldwide Car of the Year council chose it for World's Best Car for 2024, out of 63 contenders. Popular Science called it one of the greatest 50 innovations of 2023. One of R&T's competitors recently barked that the EV9 was a "fabulous car" and "proof that Kia is killing it with EVs."

a blue car on a road
DEREK GIOVANNI

Conformist consumerism is part of human nature, especially in the social media era. Pontificators don't want to go out on a limb; they can play it safe by agreeing with their competitors. In the EV9's case, even the consumers are frothing. "The best car I have ever owned," said one writer recently about his new EV9 on a Kia EV forum.

Normally, seven-seat behemoths aren't R&T's bailiwick. But the EV9 can't be ignored. So we set out to debunk the myth—or join the crowd. The EV9 comes in a variety of price points and performance metrics: rear-wheel or AWD, standard or Long Range. We got hold of the loaded GT-Line AWD, the highest-priced and highest-performance iteration, and set out on our adventure wanting to despise this metallic monstrosity, out of spite.

the interior of a car
DEREK GIOVANNI

First of all, what is it? The EV9 is Kia's new-for-model-year-2024 all-electric three-row SUV. Price: $56,395 to start, optioned up to $78,430 in our test ride. Upon first glance, yeah, the thing is huge. It's slightly bigger than Kia's gas-powered Telluride, making it the biggest vehicle Kia sells. It can tow 5000 pounds. It measures about 16.5 feet long and 70.1 inches high. Good luck squeezing that in your garage. Curb weight is over 5800 pounds, a number that is making Colin Chapman roll over in his grave. The GT-Line boasts 21-inch wheels, and our tester came on Hankook iON evo AS 285/45 tires. (The base model gets 19-inchers.)

In form, the EV9 stands aggressively on rear haunches for a vehicle of its size and relatively boxy stature. You get the feeling that Kia turned on the financial faucet to bring in the best designers in order to make a seven-seat SUV appear thrilling to the eye. The Ocean Blue paint is a worthwhile option if you can spare the $695, especially when matched to black alloy wheels. The headlights are crafted out of 24 LED cubes that collectively look like eyeballs winking sardonically at oncoming traffic.

Out on the roller-coaster-like back roads of California's Sierra Foothills, the GT-Line EV9 took full advantage of its electric torque. The 0-to-60 sprint takes 4.5 seconds, according to Kia. That's ballsy fast for a vehicle that can fit the whole 49ers offensive line seatbelted in. Kia is happy to brag that the 60-mph time for the GT-Line is quicker than the 2023 Range Rover P400 three-row, and the 70-to-0 stop is quicker too. The electric motors deliver 189.5 hp at each axle for a total of 379. (The base model makes 215 horses.) Total torque measures 516 lb-ft, and max speed is 124 mph (118 mph for the base).

a car parked on grass
DEREK GIOVANNI

Our test-driving occurred just under the snow line of the Tahoe National Forest, where, a week earlier, a blizzard dropped literally 10 feet of powder. Our ride stood ready on snow-rated tires with all-wheel drive and 7.8 inches of ground clearance. On dirt roads the EV9 felt almost Jeep-like. The suspension (MacPherson strut and dual lower arm in front, multilink in the rear) was tuned to deliver just enough of a bumpy ride to make it feel visceral, to keep cornering agile and athletic, and yet, to keep the passengers in back happy while staring at their smartphones.

Thanks to camera and radar technology, it's never been easier to drive safely. The blind-spot assist in the EV9 is ingenious. Flick on a blinker and the digital dash offers you a camera view of your blind spot at a quick and easy glimpse. Cup holders, USB chargers, lounge seats worthy of a margarita and a movie screen, Meridian sound with noise-absorbing tires and insulated glass—comfort abounds. For a Kia, it is downright luxurious, and, as a family car, nothing is missing except ice cream stains on the seats.

Altogether, the EV9 is the total package for what it sets out to be—and proof that the South Korean brand has come leaps and bounds from its early days as a producer of ugly-but-affordable just-okay cars. The EV9 is, in the end, a people mover. A seven-seater. But it can do a fine job of making a ride to the grocery store with a pack of screaming kids an enjoyable driving experience. If there's an electric seven-seater on the market that's most likely to get a thumbs-up at a Cars & Coffee, or even a nod of approval outside your local biker bar, this is it.

a blue car on a road
DEREK GIOVANNI

In the end, the EV9 has one strike against it. Unless you live near a Level 3 charger or you have a charger at home, charging is still a headache. Kia offers a program to sell you a Level 2 juicer with purchase of the car, which is nice. We charged our EV9 for just over 3.5 hours at a Level 2 charger, and it put roughly 10 percent back on the battery. If you can plug it in at home overnight, no worries. Otherwise? Hmm. This is not an EV9 issue. It is an EV issue, all around. The EV9 packs a 99.8-kWh lithium-ion battery (76.1 kWh for the base model), and Kia claims up to 270 miles of range for the GT-Line AWD (230 miles for the base).

There's not a lot of options for all-electric seven-seaters in the EV9's price range. The Benz EQB is worthy competition. Ford, Hyundai, and Volkswagen are all about to jump in. But for now, this vehicle is hard to beat. Sometimes, you can believe the hype.

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