2024 Kia EV9 Review and Test Drive
Kia's three-row EV SUV charges into the future.
Updated on Sept. 27, 2023
The Kia EV9 is the automaker's latest electric vehicle, a three-row midsize SUV roughly the size of its popular Telluride. The all-new 2024 Kia EV9 sits atop an extensive crossover and SUV lineup, including the diminutive Soul, small Seltos, compact Sportage, midsize Sorento, and swoopy five-passenger electric EV6.
Like the smaller EV6, Kia builds the EV9 on Hyundai Motor Group's Electric Global Modular Platform. The EV9 has a boxy shape that offers generous space for six or seven passengers and up to 81.7 cubic feet of cargo space. It is available in rear- or all-wheel-drive (AWD) variants and single- or dual-motor configurations, offering 201 to 379 horsepower. Electric range estimates vary from 225 to 300 miles, depending on the configuration.
The Kia EV9 lineup includes Light, Light Long Range, Wind, Land, and GT-Line trim levels. As of publication, Kia has not released full EV9 pricing. However, the base price will be in the mid-$50,000s, including the destination charge. I estimate the fully loaded GT-Line will reach the low $70,000s when the EV9 reaches U.S. dealers later this year. Initially, Kia will build the EV9 in South Korea, but that work will shift to a Georgia-based Kia assembly plant by 2024.
For this Kia EV9 review, I drove several examples of the GT-Line model. They all had a dual-motor AWD system delivering 379 horsepower, 516 pound-feet of torque, and a 270-mile estimated range. Optional equipment varied, and prices were not available. Kia provided the vehicles for this EV9 review and paid for airfare, hotels, and meals during the evaluation period.
2024 Kia EV9 Review: The Design
Aside from serving as a canvas for its futuristic styling, the EV9's boxy body maximizes interior space, and the long wheelbase makes room for the underfloor lithium-ion battery and three rows of seats.
Get behind the steering wheel and you'll immediately notice the dramatic three-screen digital display that sweeps across nearly the length of the dashboard. Elements include a 12.3-inch driver display and a 12.3-inch touchscreen infotainment system, separated by a smaller display for the standard triple-zone automatic climate control system.
Despite the generous screen space, the driver can use a surprising number of redundant hard switches to operate a wide range of functions, bypassing the need to scroll through screen menus. The switchgear has a durable look and feel to it. One interesting detail is the column-mounted, twist-type transmission shifter incorporating the SUV's drivetrain start/stop button.
The EV9s I tested featured luxuriously padded, eight-way power-adjustable front seats with heating and ventilation. They were upholstered in creamy soft artificial leather called SynTex, and the front-seat head restraints were wrapped in a breathable open-mesh that never got sweaty during test drives at Kia's proving grounds in California's Mojave Desert.
Some GT-Line test vehicles had optional Relaxation Mode front seats featuring easy-chair-style deployable lower-leg rests. In theory, these are nice to have while recharging the EV9 at a DC fast-charging station. The test vehicles also had a massage feature that comforted my lower back using a series of inflatable air bladders.
The six-passenger GT-Line vehicles tested had individual second-row captain's chairs, which were nearly as comfortable and supportive as the front seats, featuring standard heating and ventilation, available eight-way power adjustment, and deployable lower leg rests.
Getting into and out of the EV9 was easy, and the SUV's long wheelbase and second-row seats that tilted, folded, and slid forward aided access to the third-row seat. As with many three-row midsize SUVs, the EV9's 50/50 split-folding bench seat's bottom cushion was mounted low to the ground and poorly padded. That is especially disappointing, considering the tall roof delivers unexpectedly generous third-row headroom.
With the shifter moved to the steering column, more useful storage space is available in the bridge-style center console. That includes a large, open shelf at floor level that's great for stashing a bag, cupholders and a standard wireless smartphone charger up top under a roll-up door, an open bin for keys and other small objects, and a deep cubby under the center armrest. Further storage is available in the glovebox, which transitions into a pull-out drawer in the GT-Line. In upper trims, the second-row passengers also get storage solutions in the form of a combination table and bin that slides out from the rear of the front center console.
Cargo space is equally generous, with 20.2 cu-ft behind the third-row seats and 81.9 cu-ft with both the second- and third-row seats lowered. The EV9 also features a front trunk, or frunk, that's big enough to fit a roll-aboard suitcase, a vehicle-charging cable, and valuables such as a purse, laptop, or camera bag. You'll find additional stash space under the cargo area's floor.
2024 Kia EV9 Review: The Technology
Kia provided an early look at the EV9 at its secure proving grounds. Even in the unyieldingly bright mid-afternoon desert sunlight, the high-resolution instrumentation and infotainment displays remained legible and vibrant with bright colors. Located beneath the screen on the dashboard, the EV9 has a row of haptic shortcut buttons for frequently used functions such as Home, Search, Map, Favorites, Media, and Setup. These vibrate when touched and are backlit when you activate the function, but the small type washes out in intense sunlight.
Further examples of Kia's strategy to offer touchscreen virtual controls backed up by redundant hard controls were in evidence within the EV9. For example, the SUV has a roller-type audio on/off and volume control centered on the dashboard above the redundant climate control buttons. It adjusts the 14-speaker Meridian premium audio system, which on my test drives delivered rich sound and crystal-clear fidelity even with the background cacophony of scratchy walkie-talkie commands and the air conditioning blasting.
Kia equips the EV9 with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, a standard navigation system, and an advanced voice-recognition system. Unfortunately, I could not evaluate those features. However, I can report that the EV9 will benefit from over-the-air software updates, allowing owners to download updated features, technology enhancements, and performance upgrades.
In addition, the EV9 has a standard Digital Key 2 system. Digital Key 2 can transform a compatible Apple or Android smartphone into a virtual key to lock, unlock, and start the SUV without the need to place the phone close to the door. There is also a fingerprint sensor that can access stored driver profiles.
For the 2024 EV9, Kia's Drive Wise collection of advanced driving-assistance systems expands to encompass more advanced safety features, many of them next-generation examples of the tech with enhancements and improvements. In addition, a new hands-free Advanced Highway Driving Assist system is set to debut on the EV9.
Time and circumstances didn't permit an extensive exploration of Kia Drive Wise. However, part of the test-track experience included stints on the high-speed oval, where I used the adaptive cruise control and next-generation lane-centering technology around sweeping curves and at speeds approaching 100 mph. I can verify that the systems performed as advertised for me.
The EV9 also has a new Remote Smart Parking Assist 2 system. This autonomous parking-assist technology, which you can use while standing outside the EV9, adds diagonal parking support to the existing parallel and perpendicular self-parking capabilities.
2024 Kia EV9 Review: The Drive
Kia gave me the most potent version of the new EV9 for this test-drive opportunity. The EV9 GT-Line has dual electric propulsion motors good for 379 horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque, and together they create a torque-vectoring AWD system. Kia claims the EV9 GT-Line accelerates from zero to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds. While that's not the nosebleed thrust available in Kia's other dedicated EV, the EV6 GT, it's plenty quick for a vehicle tipping the scales at something approaching three tons.
The EV9 GT-Line gets a lithium-ion battery with an estimated driving range of 270 miles. Remember, the GT-Line is the hot-rod EV9 model. If your interests lean more toward energy efficiency, Kia has the rear-wheel-drive EV9 Light model with a single-motor making 201 horsepower, 258 lb-ft of torque, and an estimated 300 miles of range. When properly equipped, the EV9 can tow up to 5,000 pounds.
Regardless of the motor or battery configuration, the EV9 has ultra-fast, 800-volt DC charging capability. Pick a compatible fast-charging station, and the vehicle can recharge from 10% to 80% in 25 minutes, according to Kia.
Kia engineers created several driving exercises at the automaker's proving grounds during my test drive. One was an autocross course with pylons to allow journalists to experience the EV9's at-the-limit handling through sharp turns but with plenty of runoff space should someone miscalculate.
When it was my turn through the cones, the EV9 GT-Line catapulted out of the starting gate, thanks to its instantaneous 516 lb-ft of torque and with nary a squeal out of the meaty tires. The Kia engineer in the lead vehicle set a fast pace, and I was impressed by how precise the EV9's steering was in the turns and how little the big and tall SUV leaned when pushed through the twistier sections.
I was also impressed by how responsive the brakes were at the top of travel and how linear and predictable they were in all driving situations. The EV9 has paddle controls on its steering wheel to help drivers take advantage of adjustable brake regeneration. There are three settings: off, mild, and aggressive. I tried all three, and although the aggressive setting provided the quickest braking response when lifting off the accelerator, I found the EV9 smoother and more natural to drive with the mild setting.
Out on the high-speed oval, I got to see what the EV9 is like on a typical freeway. All electric vehicles are quiet, but the EV9 GT-Line felt remarkably so with its extra-thick acoustic windshield and side-window glass. Even at speeds sometimes approaching 100 mph, tire sizzle, wind rush, and electric motor whine noises were nowhere to be heard.
Next came an off-road course. Kia set up a steep downhill section with a tight turn at the bottom and a sharp turn up an equally steep incline. This section was a chance to exercise the EV9's excellent hill-descent control system, which limited downhill speed to less than 5 mph without touching the brakes. On the ascent, the off-road forward camera provided a much-needed early peek over the crest of the hill, its efficacy underscored by another EV9 that had stopped short just over the hillcrest.
Is the 2024 Kia EV9 a Good Electric SUV?
I think the Kia EV9 offers a compelling mix of design bravado, cabin comfort, advanced technology, practical utility, and rewarding driving dynamics. The range estimates aren't impressive, relatively speaking, but the EV9's ultrafast DC charging capability could set the bar for the emerging segment. Kia is tight-lipped about prices, but its pledge at the test-drive event to offer advanced technology and luxury features without an upscale badge suggests the company is committed to delivering value.
Will the Kia EV9 be worth it? I think so, especially when production moves to Georgia and buyers can apply the $7,500 federal income-tax credit to a purchase in addition to a lease.