As we move toward an all-electric future, many EV makers have wisely focused on the most popular vehicle classes. There are now plenty of compact electric SUVs, but what if you want something more suitable for a large family? Mid-size three-row SUVs are the top choice, but electric options are decidedly rare and limited to expensive luxury brands.
The 2024 Kia EV9 looks to change all that. The EV9’s dimensions are remarkably similar to the indisputably-looking Telluride SUV, though the EV’s wheelbase is nearly eight inches longer. We had the opportunity to drive the Korean-spec EV9 from Seoul to the east coast of the peninsula and back. After our first experience with Kia’s family-sized EV, we expect it to do just as well as its gasoline-powered sibling.
Three EV powertrains
Of course, the specs are important here, so let’s take a look. The EV9 will be offered in three guises. The entry-level standard battery has a capacity of 76.1 kilowatt-hours and is estimated by Kia to deliver 223 miles of range. Output from the single rear motor comes to 215 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. That should get the EV9 to 60 mph in 8.0 seconds or so.
The Long Range model upgrades to a 99.8-kWh battery and is offered in either rear- or all-wheel drive. The latest information indicates that the long-range rear-drive model will provide the same power as the standard battery version, but the range will increase to 300 miles. The extra weight of the larger battery slows the 60-mph sprint to around 9.2 seconds, which is comparatively low for modern EVs.
We drive Long Distance with a second motor driving the front wheels. Combined with the rear motor, it produces 379 horsepower and up to 516 pound-feet, though range drops to an estimated 270 miles. It should hit 60 mph in a more respectable 5.0 seconds.
Initial driving impressions of the EV9
Kia is still finalizing how the North American model will differ from the Korean-spec model, but our fair guess is that it will get sportier tuning for the suspension and throttle mapping. Given that this is a mid-sized three-row family SUV, we really don’t see the need for a different tuning, as our K-spec EV9 was a pleasure to drive. Off the line, power delivery is as immediate as most other EVs and easily exceeds most drivers’ expectations. On the highway, the ride quality should be soft while not floating over bumps. One-pedal drive is available by adjusting the steering wheel paddles, and it’s easy to roll the EV9 to a complete stop smoothly. For more urgent deceleration, the brake pedal has a familiar feel and gets the job done, but you’ll feel significant vehicle weight shifting forward.
That mass factor is less noticeable on some curvy mountain road sections, thanks to the underfloor battery that gives the EV9 a low center of gravity. It’s willing and very controlled when driven harder than prudent. This instills confidence that you will be able to overcome unexpected obstacles when you are just surfing. We’re curious how the US-spec EV9 will differ, but we don’t have any complaints about the driveability. Well done, Kia.
In contrast to the attractive cyberpunk-like beveled exterior of the EV9, the interior is softer and more attractive. The horizontal dash stretches from door to door and features what appears to be a single wide display that extends from the instrument panel to the infotainment screen. Actually, there are two 12.3-inch screens, plus a 5.0-inch touchscreen for secondary climate control.
While it may initially seem to lack physical switches, there are indeed a number of shortcut buttons embedded in the wood grain dash trim. You have to give the embedded buttons a serious push, but you get confirmation with a solid haptic tap back. We’re also happy that there are levers for temperature and fan control right below and a volume roller dial in between. The infotainment system exhibits some slow responses here and there but is easy to use with extensive but well-organized menus.
The cabin makes liberal use of sustainable materials, with most surfaces getting a grained leather look. There are plenty of interesting elements, and we even like the shiny plastic pieces, but most of the covers we’d expect to be well padded are downright solid. As a result, they are not very pleasant to the touch.
We were particularly thrown by the awkward van-like hump that supports the center of the dashboard. Its hard plastic shroud looks more suited to an airplane’s economy class seats, but we’re glad there’s at least something to break up the flat floor. It’s supposed to keep stray objects from rolling from the passenger side down to the pedals, but we think it could be styled to blend in better with the rest of the cabin.
The front seats are cushy, and after an hour we started to feel some hard spots. The synthetic upholstery looks and feels as low as what you’ll find in a rental-spec sedan. We hope the US model will have other options and maybe a similar textile cover with some interior trim elements. The driver’s seat has all the necessary power adjustments to get a comfortable position, but we had to tilt the seat forward more than we’d have liked because the steering wheel doesn’t telescope far enough back.
The seat features a reclining feature with powered footrests for while you wait while the battery recharges. There’s also a unique mesh headrest and a small lip at the back that you can tuck your coat into. The floating center console has a roll top cover, a wireless charger in the center and a large armrest bin. Underneath is an inner tray for larger objects.
The second row captain’s chair is similar in appearance and comfort to the front seats. On our sample vehicle, they had heating, ventilation and an aggressive massage function. The seat vibrates and even kneads your back and bottom, but even on the lowest setting, it tends to tear up our insides. The seats slide forward and back quite a bit, but unfortunately we won’t get the 180-degree swivel function that other markets will enjoy. Second-row benches are available and increase passenger capacity from six to seven.
The twin third-row seats have enough headroom for adults, but the second-row passengers have to slide forward to give rear passengers enough legroom. Fortunately, there is ample legroom for both rows in this configuration. Behind the third row, the cargo area can hold up to 20 cubic feet, which is about the same as the Telluride’s capacity. With both rows stowed, cargo space expands to 82 cubic feet. We have to wait until later for the intermediate number related to the storage of the third row while the second row is occupied.
Kia fits the EV9 with an 11-kW on-board charger, which is big enough to get the most out of most 240-volt Level 2 home and public charging setups. DC fast charging capability, on the other hand, peaks at 230 kilowatts when plugged into a 350-kW charging device using a CCS connector. Kia says it should top up the standard battery from 10 to 80 percent in just 20 minutes, with the longer-range battery taking 24 minutes. Our previous EV6 tests largely confirmed Kia’s claims in the past, so we don’t doubt their estimates here.
All in all, the 2024 Kia EV9 manages to exceed our admittedly high expectations based on the overall excellence of the smaller EV6. Although some of the interior materials are a bit disappointing, it doesn’t detract from the overall experience.
Pricing hasn’t been announced, but we’d be surprised if it costs as much as the limited group of existing three-row electric SUVs: the Rivian R1S, the Mercedes-Benz EQS SUV and the Tesla Model X. That means, when it arrives later this year, the EV9 will have few if any direct competition. And a higher-performance GT model is also in the works, which should further differentiate the EV9.
2024 Kia EV9
Vehicle Type: rear or front and rear motor, rear or all wheel drive, 6 or 7 passenger, 4 door wagon
PRICE (C/D EST)
Base RWD, $56,000; Long Range RWD, $63,000; Base AWD, $68,000; GT-Line, $73,000
Rear Motor: Permanent magnet AC, 215 hp, 258 lb-ftOptional
Front Motor: Permanent magnet AC, 215 hp, 258 lb-ft
Combined Power (with optional front motor): 379 hp
Combined Torque (with optional front motor): 442-516 lb-ft
Battery Pack: liquid-cooled lithium-ion, 76.1 or 99.8 kWh
Onboard Charger: 11.0 kW
Peak DC Fast Charge Rate: 230 kW
Transmission, F/R: direct drive
Wheelbase: 122.0 in
Length: 197.4 in
Width: 77.9 inches
Height: 69.1-70.1 in
Cargo Volume, Rear F/M/R: 82/TBA/20 ft3
Curb weight (C/D estimate): 5000-5800 lb
PERFORMANCE (C/D EST)
60 mph: 5.0-9.2 seconds
1/4-Mile: 13.8-16.5 seconds
Top Speed: 115 mph
EPA FUEL ECONOMY (C/D EST)
MPGeRange: 223-300 miles
With a background in design and open-wheel racing, Mark Takahashi worked his way up to art director at car and motorcycle magazines. He parlayed that into a career as an automotive journalist and has reviewed thousands of vehicles over the past few decades.