The 2022 Chicago Auto Show marked the world debut of the all-new 2023 Kia Sportage PHEV and was my first chance to see the Kia EV9 electric SUV concept up close — but this year’s show might be as much about what isn’t there than what is.
In one of its first trips back to McCormick Place since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the Chicago Auto Show opens to the public today. As we’ve seen with many re-openings, the show is different from years past. For starters, the show has fewer exhibitors — brands like Audi, Porsche, Mercedes-Benz, and Volvo, among others — didn’t show up, and the reduced scale of the show means that it occupies only one of two main halls for 2022, and the drive sections have been squeezed in, as well.
Despite that, Kia showed up with top-shelf displays and good deal of cars and crossovers in various trims. For the purposes of this article (and because my burn wounds are still healing from the last hybrid I wrote about), we’ll focus on the new Sportage, the über-sexy and supercar-baiting Kia EV6, and the wild EV9 concept shown, above.
2023 Kia Sportage PHEV
We first covered the Kia Sportage PHEV a few days ago, following the original press release. The not-so-compact crossover the turbocharged Sportage PHEV is equipped with a 1.6-liter, 177-hp turbocharged four-cylinder engine and 66.9-kW electric motor that draws power from a 13.8-kWh battery and offers an all-electric range of 32 miles (about 50 km). In person, it’s a sharp-looking car, especially in that satin finish.
Inside, too, the Sportage looks like the mid-premium product Kia would like us to believe it is. And, for what it’s worth, I didn’t notice any obvious seams in the dash indicating that this was two smaller, cheaper screens, and not a single, pricey unit (see, below). Combined with a starting price that’s expected to be in the low $30s, and predicting the future is, in this case, pretty easy: Kia is going to sell a ton of these.
2023 Kia EV6
For most of the show-going public, the 2022 Chicago Auto Show will be their first opportunity to see the stunning new Kia EV6 up-close. Looks are, of course, a matter of opinion – but if you don’t like Lancia Stratos/Lotus Exige-inspired styling of Kia’s best-looking model, I can’t imagine what mechanical monstrosities you do like. The car looks incredible from every angle, and its panel gaps, interior fit and finish, and rich paint quality make it obvious that James Bell (Kia’s comms. head) wasn’t kidding when he said Kia was aiming to be the best of the best.
Here in Chicago, the two EV6s on display look great in their purpose-built display, capped off as it is with an Electrify America charging station. The best part, though, was the inclusion of Kia’s EV6 “skateboard” chassis. Called the E-GMP platform, it was developed with expertise from Albert Biermann, who was originally hired as a chassis and suspension engineer at BMW in 1983, and who worked on every classic BMW you want while working his way up to the role of Vice President Engineering BMW M Automobiles and BMW Individual in 2008. Hyundai hired him away from BMW in 2015 to ensure that new Hyundai and Kia models were as good, from a dynamic perspective, as anything else.
The technical specs of the Hyundai/Kia EV platform are impressive. It’s an all-800V electrical architecture with bi-directional charging that supports “level 7” (in Chargeway-speak) DC fast charging that will get the batteries to 80 percent in under 20 minutes, with a 100% full range of more than 300 miles available. The platform is designed to support either rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive BEVs, with the battery pack sandwiched “skateboard style” between the axles, and is currently found underneath both the Kia EV6 and Hyundai’s Ioniq 5 crossover.
Kia EV9 Concept
It’s been a while since I’ve seen a “pure” concept car at Auto Show, but these were, once, the very reason many people went to an auto show in the first place. Concept cars used to give consumers a glimpse of what carmakers had in store for the future, and this Kia EV9 does that, too – in a very low-poly sort of way. Expect the EV9 to sit above the EV6 in the product lineup and be, effectively, a next-generation, all-electric Kia Telluride.
Seeing as how the Telluride is one of the most desirable and hottest-selling ICE-powered SUVs out there right now, that may not be a bad thing at all. If they can keep it under $60k for a rear-wheel drive base model, I think they’ll have another winner on their hands.
What do you guys think, did Kia do enough at this year’s Chicago Auto Show to make a case for itself as an EV leader, or is it still a few big sedans short of a Tesla Model S? Scroll on down to the comments section and let us know!
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