KIA EV9. Image courtesy of KIA.

Kia EV 9 — Three-Row Seating & Swivel Seats For This Jumbo Size SUV

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“Sculpted” and “chiseled” are two words that spring to mind when describing the Kia EV9, revealed by the company on March 15.  Gone are the rear-hinged “suicide doors” found on the concept car. (They never make it into production because there is no way to meet today’s aggressive side impact protection standards without a robust B pillar in the middle of the car.) But what buyers will find instead are swiveling second-row seats that permit easy access to the interior and that can turn completely around so the second row and third row passengers can face each other. Cool!

Yup, you heard that right. The Kia EV9 is one of the first large-battery electric SUVs on the market with true third-row seating. The company has hit the sweet spot of today’s new car market and done it with a car that features fresh, original styling without the “in your face” attributes of the Hummer EV.

Kia EV9 Insights

KIA EV9. Image courtesy of KIA.

Brett Berk traveled to Seoul for the introduction and got to spend some time with Karim Habib, the head of global design for Kia, who said, “It is an organization that really understands the importance of design, where design thinking and design are becoming more of a real strategy to define not just how things look but what products you build. I work every day with engineers and product people and they are always trying to make a better product — to be proud of the products that they make. And I think that heritage is really nice because it drives us to get to things that are bold.”

KIA EV9. Image courtesy of KIA.
KIA EV9. Image courtesy of KIA.

Berk was quietly blown away by the car. “The EV9 is a stunner, with the kind of bold bossy presence usually reserved for vehicles that cost twice or three times as much, including icons like the Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen or Range Rover. It’s positively chiseled, as if the brand’s popular Telluride three-row SUV — already a handsome truck — went in for cool-sculpting, and then worked out with Tom Cruise’s trainer. It’s audacious without being threatening, a compelling result of Kia’s iterative process which is intended not to shock but to improve.” High praise, indeed.

KIA EV9. Image courtesy of KIA.
KIA EV9. Image courtesy of KIA.

The Kia EV9 is the proof that EVs really can be bigger on the inside than they appear. Its dimensions are similar to many midsize SUVs but its interior is cavernous. “We as a group and as a company, we decided to go to dedicated platforms for EVs because it gives you an opportunity to play with space in a totally different way,” said Artur Martins, Kia’s global chief brand officer.

“So even though the dimensions of this will be like a midsize SUV, the interior space is like a big, full-size truck. You can use the flat floor. You can have a shorter engine compartment because there’s no engine. You can play with the overhang and proportion in the front and rear so it’s shorter. And that long wheelbase allows us to take advantage of that space. Whereas if we would decide to grab Telluride, take the engine away, and to electrify Telluride, we would be much more limited in what we could do with space.”

KIA EV9. Image courtesy of KIA.
KIA EV9. Image courtesy of KIA.

In a press release, Karim Habib says, “The Kia EV9 breaks new ground, aiming to redefine standards for design, connectivity, usability and environmental responsibility. It offers customers an exceptionally high quality proposition and a fresh EV perspective in the family SUV sector. This new vehicle typology provides instinctive experiences and excellent comfort for not just the driver, but all occupants, through innovative use of space, technology and design.”

Kia E-GMP Platform

“Built on Kia’s Electric Global Modular Platform (E-GMP), the EV9’s long wheelbase, low beltline, and completely flat electric vehicle architecture have facilitated the creation of generous space for all occupants to connect and relax with lounge-style comfort in all three rows of seats, the company says. It will be available in both six and seven passenger configurations that carer to the needs of all passengers, not just the driver,” the company says in the press release.

“Throughout the spacious, light, airy cabin, the EV9 embodies an elegantly simple, premium quality, exceptionally user-friendly design, Kia says. The open, floating panoramic dashboard extends from the steering wheel to the vehicle’s center. Two 12.3-inch touch screens integrated with one 5-inch segment display improve the digital experience, offering effortless control of the vehicle’s functions and ensuring physical buttons are kept to a minimum.”

A full global introduction is scheduled for later this month, when more technical details will be released, but we know the E-GMP platform that underpins the shapely EV6 sedan and Hyundai Ioniq 5. As we reported when the platform was first introduced in late 2020, the E-GMP platform operates on 800 volts most of the time but can switch to 400 volts to accommodate low-power charging systems. In 800V mode, it can take advantage of the 350 kW chargers that are becoming available in more locations.

Another important feature of the E-GMP platform is that it is configured at the factory to support vehicle-to-grid operation. The company says it can even be used to recharge another EV should the need arise. When plugged into an ultra-high-power charger, the E-GMP platform can attain an 80% state of charge in as little as 18 minutes. The target range for cars built using the new chassis is 500 kilometers (WLTP).

The Kia EV9 is expected to start at less than $60,000, which is quite reasonable for a vehicle that initial reviewers say compares favorably to the Mercedes G-Class and the Range Rover. The question now is how and when the car will qualify for the federal EV tax incentives provided for in the Inflation Reduction Act. The EV9 will be manufactured at the new Hyundai Group factory near Savannah, Georgia, which is not expected to begin producing cars until late 2024. The company is building several battery factories in Georgia as well. Presumably, by the time production gets started, the EV9 will be eligible for some if not all of the federal EV tax incentives.

What it all boils down to is that the Kia EV9 is exactly the car many US customers are searching for, and no other automakers have similar products in the pipeline, which should give Kia a first-mover advantage in that segment. From the photos and descriptions, it looks to be one helluva good automobile for those who require a fully electric 6- or 7-passenger people mover that can also accommodate a tuba or bass fiddle. We predict there will be massive interest in this car when it arrives in US showrooms.

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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new."

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