Kia EV9 review

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The EV9, Kia's largest, priciest electric model, will re-shape perceptions of this Korean brand, thinks Jonathan Crouch.

Ten Second Review

Kia's EV9 delivers a chunky SUV vibe in a huge, luxurious, futuristic-looking electric vehicle. There's decent range, an uber-trendy cabin and space for up to seven. This is the new, more interesting face of Kia.

Background

Kia keeps surprising us. Here for example, in the EV9, the marque's largest and priciest car yet, is a fully-electric SUV that's completely different to anything we've seen before from the brand. It bucks the trend of super-sleek full-battery models, which helps this six or seven-seat luxury contender to be supremely family-friendly. An intriguing mix of the familiar and the futuristic.

We'll see this chunky 'Opposites United' look again in smaller form with the brand's forthcoming more compact EV5, a design theme very different from the existing more familiar EV6 and one that does indeed meet its intended brief to re-shape the image that customers have of this growing Korean brand. Kia says it wants to 'take a few risks' with its design going forward but retain a mainstream appeal. Is that what's been delivered here? Let's take a closer look.

Driving Experience

You'd expect a big electric SUV to have a big battery and, sure enough, the EV9 does; all models use Kia's Long Range 99.8kWh battery. Things kick off with a Long Range rear-driven 'Air' version, which uses a 201bhp motor and this combination offers a driving range figure of 336 miles. Performance sees 62mph dispatched in 9.4s en route to 112mph. The other two 'GT-Line' and 'GT-Line-S' versions get a dual-motor all-wheel drive powertrain producing 378bhp, 700Nm of torque and up to 308 miles of range. In future, the 99.8kWh battery will also feature in a much more powerful dual motor AWD flagship variant, which puts out 380bhp and 600Nm of torque, enabling a 62mph sprint figure of 6 seconds flat. Kia isn't (for the moment) offering the lesser rear-driven drivetrain with a smaller 76.1kWh battery powering a 215bhp electric motor - which features in other markets.

With the 99.8kWh models we can have, an optional 'boost' function (available as an over-the-air update if you decide you need it later in ownership) increases torque and cuts the 0-62mph sprint time to just 5.3s. For the future, an EV9 GT (using the same powertrain as the frantic EV6 GT) will be even faster. More relevantly, the EV9 can tow 2,500kgs (as much as a Range Rover Velar); can be had with Level 3 autonomous drive technology; and can be parked remotely from its key fob.

Design and Build

The EV era has prompted a whole fresh approach to design from quite a number of brands and Kia is one of them. The EV9, overseen by ex-BMW stylist Karim Habib, is much like the radical concept shown in Los Angeles in 2021, but has slightly smaller 21-inch wheels. And, contrary to the image suggested by the boxy Defender-like silhouette, a lower ride height(because of the required thick battery pack). With the drivetrain beneath the car, you might wonder why it needs such a big bonnet (there's only a small 'frunk' for the charging leads inside). Or such a wide, vertical nose (Kia calls it the 'Tiger Face'), a smooth panel that can be decorated with customisable 'Star Map' LED light patterns shining through from behind. The headlamps and tail lights are both vertically-orientated and in dimensions, we're talking over 5-metres long and almost 2-metres wide - think Range Rover size.

Inside, we're already into a new generation of Kia EV interiors, this cabin less visually dominated by twinkling displays, though there are still plenty of them. The new dashboard gets one large 27-inch instrument panel incorporating a trio of screens, flanked by digital rear view monitors at either end of the fascia, if you've ticked the box for that option. The cabin feel is warmer and more up-market that we've previously seen from Kia, with more cloth and fewer textured plastics. There's a 'D'-shaped steering wheel to make viewing the instrument display easier and the column it's attached to has all the main driver controls to avoid clutter elsewhere.

In the rear, there's a choice of six or seven-seat layouts being offered: choose a six-seater (only available with top 'GT-Line S'-spec) and the middle row has two 'captain's chairs' that can swivel to face the third row seats. Or can be swivelled towards the door openings to help elderly folk in and out. There are tray tables on the front seat backs and a digital climate control panel for the middle row. Depending on seat positioning, expect a large boot too - 572-litres in size. With all the seats flat, capacity rises to 2,319-litres.

Market and Model

Initially, you can expect prices for this EV9 to sit in the £65,000-£76,000 bracket - so usefully less than what you'd pay for a combustion-engined large seven-seat luxury SUV in this class, like a BMW X7 or a Mercedes GLS. And you'll get plenty of equipment for that, as you'd expect from Kia. The range kicks off with base 'Air' spec. Most customers will want their EV9 with more dynamic looking 'GT-Line' trim (from around £72,500), which is marked out by bespoke bumpers, roof rails and unique wheels. Top spec is 'GT-Line S'. Rim sizes start at 19-inches at the foot of the range, with plusher versions getting 20-inch or 21-inch alloys.

Three rows of seats are standard on all models, but with the top 'GT-Line S' variant, special individual 'captain's chairs' are fitted, which drops the total number of passengers you can carry from seven to six - two in each row. Customers will also be able to opt for a new 'highway driving pilot' system that uses 15 sensors (included a couple of lidar sensors) to offer 'Level 3' autonomous driving (where conditions allow). There's no news on whether UK customers will be able to specify a solar panel built into the bonnet (that featured on the EV9 concept car). But you'll certainly be able to add a set of trendy digital rear view mirror monitors, which sit at either end of the dashboard and replace the conventional mirrors. A remote parallel parking assistant's available too, allowing you to park the car remotely using buttons on its key fob. On the AWD version, you can additionally specify a powertrain 'boost' function (also available as an over-the-air update).

Cost of Ownership

In our 'Driving' section, we gave you the drive range stats for this EV9's 99.8kWh battery: 336 miles for the base rear-driven version and 308 miles for the dual-motor all-wheel drive variants. Like the EV6 and other larger Hyundai Motor Group products, this electric Kia uses an 800V e-GMP platform electrical architecture that allows access to the new generation of ultra-rapid public chargers that are springing up around Europe. Connect up to one of these and this EV9 is capable of recharging from 10-80% in 25 minutes when plugged into a 350kW high-powered charger; and gaining up to 148 miles of range in just 15 minutes.

The EV9 is also able to distribute charge to other vehicles at up to 3.6kW using it's Type 2 socket, as part of an incorporated 'vehicle-to-load V2L' function. We're not quite sure why you'd ever want to do that, but it might conceivably be useful to charge large appliances using the car's battery 'on an outdoor adventure' according to Kia.

Like the EV6, the EV9 is fitted with energy-recuperation technologies to maximise driving range. This includes the option of Kia's latest-generation energy-efficient heat pump which scavenges waste heat from the car's coolant system. This ensures that at minus 7 degrees Celsius, the car can achieve 80% of the range that would be possible at 25 degrees Celsius. Also featured is the latest generation of Kia's smart regenerative braking system, which is operated by paddle shifters behind the steering wheel so drivers can quickly and easily slow the car and recuperate kinetic energy to maximise driving range and efficiency.

Summary

The Kia brand's upward trajectory would probably have continued if we'd stayed in the combustion era, but it's really taken off as this new electric age has progressed. We like the fact that the marque isn't afraid to be different - and particularly here. In a segment full of streamlined toothpaste tube-shaped large luxury EV Crossovers, the EV9's bluff, blocky but still-futuristic looks stand out. As Design Chief Karim Habib says, there's an authenticity to it.

The cabin's also a selling point, allowed by the squarical dimensions to be the most practical interior in its class. It makes conventionally-engineered similarly-sized luxury segment 7-seat SUVs like the BMW X7 and the Mercedes GLS feel very yesteryear indeed, limited as they are in so many ways by the constraints of their combustion platforms. We wish the EV9 had been equally ground-breaking in its electric driving range: that's not particularly notable. But the 800V electrical infrastructure that trumps most rivals by providing the potential for ultra-rapid charging is.

And in summary? Well it's rather refreshing that Kia doesn't particularly want to be perceived as 'premium'; it's a brand that deserves to be recognised as interesting and different. The EV9 is.

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