On March 28, Kia pulled back the curtain a little more on the upcoming EV9 battery electric SUV. The car is expected to go into production in South Korea this fall, and pricing details will be provided at that time. Hyundai Motor Group is building a new factory near Savannah, Georgia, where the Kia EV9 will be manufactured beginning in 2024. (The cars made in South Korea will not be eligible for any part of the latest federal tax credit, but the cars made in Georgia will be — although, whether it is the full credit or partial credit is unknown at this time.)
It’s fair to say the company is enthusiastic about the EV9, as well it should be. The car is the physical embodiment of what American customers want in an electric car — third-row seating, 5000-pound towing capacity, tons of room inside, and every electronic bauble and geegaw imaginable. In a press release, Kia CEO Ho Sung Song waxed eloquent about the car. “The Kia EV9 transcends all aspects of traditional SUV thinking and represents the pinnacle of Kia’s design and engineering capabilities. Created to meet the needs of all family members, the EV9 also spearheads Kia’s rapid transition to a sustainable mobility solutions provider, not just by its advanced EV architecture, but also through the numerous recycled and sustainable materials used in its creation.”
The KIA EV9 By The Numbers
There’s a lot to unpack from this week’s announcement so let’s get right to the specs.
- Long Range — 99.8 kWh battery, single rear motor rated at 201 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. 0 to 62 mph time of 9.4 seconds, and a range of 336 miles (WLTP). EPA numbers are not yet available, but they are typically about 15 to 20 percent lower.
- Standard Range — 76.1 kWh battery pack, single motor rated at 215 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, 0 to 62 mph time of 8.2 seconds (helped no doubt by a significantly lighter battery). No range expectations were announced by the company.
- All Wheel Drive — 99.8 kWh battery, dual motors (one in front and one in back) rated at 380 horsepower and 443 pound-feet of torque, 0 to 62 mph in 6.0 seconds. Kia says this version of the EV9 will have a towing capacity of 5000 pounds. No towing information for the other models has been announced.
Kia has gone to great lengths to make the EV9 as aerodynamically efficient at possible — not an easy task for such a large, upright vehicle. The company says it has a full underbody tray to reduce turbulence, new air curtain innovations, an exceptionally long spoiler at the rear edge of the roof, and aerodynamic wheels. All of those items add up to a drag coefficient of 0.28.
Because the EV9 is based on the Hyundai Motor Group E-GMP 800-volt architecture, Kia says the larger battery will permit the addition of about 150 miles of range in as little as 15 minutes using a high-power DC charger.
Limited Level 3 Autonomy
Most of you know there is an EV6 GT that offers significantly more straight-line performance than the standard versions of that car — 576 horsepower, 545 pound-feet of torque, and 0 to 60 mph in 3.4 seconds. “We are aware of growing demand for high performance vehicles in electric applications,” Song said. “And building on our success of our Kia EV6 GT, we are happy to announce that we are currently developing a high performance version of EV9. It aims to redefine what performance means in an electric SUV. We plan to release the GT version of EV9 in early 2025.”
The company says the EV9 will also offer Level 3 “partial autonomy” thanks to an array of 15 sensors, including two lidar laser sensors, cameras, radar, and ultrasonics. Kia claims the system allows for “unsupervised” driving on highways and will only be available in “certain global markets.” The company did not specify which markets will get the Highway Driving Pilot system but promised more details soon. Song did say it will be available on the EV9 GT due out in 2025.
What is not clear at the present time is whether the system will be available on other versions of the car and whether it is limited to roadways that have been pre-mapped, which is a prerequisite for similar systems offered by General Motors and Ford. What is clear is that it is not intended to perform the urban driving chores Tesla’s Full Self Driving attempts to manage, like recognizing stop signs, traffic lights, pedestrians, and the like. More information should be forthcoming as the EV9 gets closer to actual production.
Subscriptions & OTAs
Being based on the E-GMP platform means the EV9 will have over-the-air update capability. That gives the company the ability to offer drivers extra features at extra cost. Some of those may be available via a recurring subscription or by direct purchase (no recurring subscription fees). Kia does say there will be an opportunity to unlock more performance from the EV9 by increasing the maximum torque available to 516 pound feet — presumably in the dual motor version only — which will lop 0.7 seconds off the car’s 0 to 60 mph time. The upgrade will be available through the Kia Connect Store and will be either a direct purchase or a subscription feature.
Those who opt for such add-ons should read the fine print carefully. A subscription obviously ends at some specified point in the future, but a question arises about whether an upgrade that is purchased remains active if the car is sold or traded in. Don’t assume that if you pay for it, it is yours forever. In the brave new world of over-the-air software updates, what is uploaded over the air can later be deactivated over the air. We are in uncharted waters here. Ask questions and get the answers in writing.
In the GT-Line trim, drivers will have access to some special features. In addition to unique bumpers, exclusive wheels, and a black roof rack, the package includes the “Digital Pattern Lightning Grille,” which features new technology that allows light to seamlessly shine through the body color paint. Kia says that the pattern it creates on the EV9’s front end is customizable to your taste and you’ll even be able to purchase additional patterns after the fact to change up the look of your car — for a fee, of course.
Inside, Kia has dispensed with leather and replaced it with bio-components like corn extract in an effort to provide the same feel as leather without killing any cows. Autoblog says there is also a distinct lack of piano black plastic everywhere you look, whether it be the doors, dash, or sliding center console.
The other new assist feature being introduced on the EV9 is the Remote Smart Parking Assist 2, which will automatically maneuver the EV9 into a parking space via the key fob. All of Kia’s existing driver assistance systems — like blind spot collision avoidance, Highway Driving Assist, and more — come with the EV9, too.
Finally, because the EV9 shares its platform with the Hyundai Ioniq 5 and the Kia EV6, it can provide up to 3.68 kW of power, which is more than enough for powering small electric devices, like laptops and camping equipment. Kia is not suggesting the car could power an entire home in the event of a grid outage the way Ford is with its F-150 Lightning, but its V2L capability will be greatly appreciated by those who use their EV9 to go camping or for similar activities.
All in all, the Kia EV9 is one of the first large SUVs like the Cadillac Escalade or Ford Expedition that runs on electrons instead of molecules. We don’t know pricing information yet, but Kia is pretty good at figuring out precisely what the other guys are charging and making their cars cost just a little less money while including a better warranty. It’s how it built its business and the EV9 should be a very attractive alternative to those large combustion engine powered behemoths when it comes to US showrooms later this year.
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