The flagship SUV boasts up to 442 pound-feet of electric torque at launch, but Kia's app store will let owners buy and unlock even more thrust.
Kia's upcoming flagship electric SUV is shaping up to be even more interesting than expected. The automaker shared a truckload of new details Tuesday, including range estimates, dimensions and a closer look at its transforming second-row seats. The EV9 also looks to be the most updatable Kia model yet, with over-the-air updates and purchases adding features, services and even extra torque after owners have driven away from the dealership.
I'm enjoying Kia's clean-slate approach to each new debut of this new electrified generation. Despite both being interpretations of the automaker's Opposites United design philosophy, the EV9 looks nothing like the EV6 that preceded it. The new model drapes its aesthetic over the traditional, upright SUV framework with a squared-off profile and strong, chunky shoulders. Up front, stacked vertical headlamps flank what Kia is calling the EV9's "Digital Tiger Face," a closed-off version of the automaker's hallmark Tiger Nose grille that integrates user-customizable digital pattern lighting into its design.
The EV9 measures 197.2 inches from bumper to bumper, just 0.3 inches longer than Kia's award-winning Telluride three-row SUV. However, the clever packaging of the EV9's dedicated E-GMP electric vehicle platform allowed its designers to stretch its wheelbase to 122 inches axle-to-axle, 7.8 inches longer than its combustion-powered cousin, freeing up interior volume for passengers and cargo.
My time with our long-term Carnival Prestige a few years ago showed me that Kia knows a thing or two about creating a surprisingly premium second-row experience. The EV9 takes this to the next level. The electric SUV is available in six- or seven-passenger configurations. The highlight setup features swiveling second-row buckets that can rotate to face the third-row -- which could be great for road trip card games -- or swivel outward for easier door access and loading of car seats. Starting with the EV9, Kia says that it's phasing out the use of leather in its interiors, instead using more sustainable upholstery materials. Throughout the cabin, you'll find less PVC plastics and more recycled materials and biomaterials.
Despite looking like a futuristic brick, the EV9 is more aerodynamic than you might think. Minimal openings, a flat underbody and other clever tricks to guide air around the body help the EV9 achieve a respectable drag coefficient of just 0.29, which should help preserve range at highway speeds.
Speaking of range, Kia estimates the new EV9 will cruise for up to 336 miles, depending on the spec, on the generous WLTP testing cycle -- the US EPA's less forgiving methodology will almost certainly see that number shrink. The SUV will be offered with two battery options and in both rear- and all-wheel drive configurations.
The base "standard range" model mates a 76.1-kilowatt-hour battery pack with a single 214-horsepower electric motor. Twisting the rear axle to the tune of 258 pound-feet of torque, it'll sprint from 0-62 mph (100 kph) in around 8.2 seconds. Stepping up to the "long range" 99.8-kWh battery oddly comes with a step down to 201 hp, which extends the 0-62 mph hustle to 9.4 seconds and the range to that 336-mile estimate. At the top of the line -- for now -- the dual motor GT-Line model adds a second motor to the front axle, bumping combined output to 378 hp and 442 lb-ft of torque. So equipped, the EV9 hits 62 mph in 6 seconds flat.
If that's not enough, the EV9's over-the-air updatable firmware will allow users to download more power. The Kia Connect Store in the automaker's vehicle management app will feature a purchasable "Boost" that unlocks more performance from the front motor, bringing total torque to 516 lb-ft. Other DLC offered via the automaker's digital storefront will include the Remote Smart Parking feature, music and video streaming services and even alternate themes for the digital pattern light signature.
Like the EV6, the EV9's 800-volt electrical architecture gives it access to fast DC charging. The automaker estimates that, at a powerful 250 kW station, around 148 miles of range can be added with just a 15-minute charge. Kia's vehicle-to-load feature is also supported, offering 3.68 kW of AC power output to power appliances, electronics or even other EVs in a pinch. Post-launch, Kia will also issue an OTA update that enables vehicle-to-grid functionality, allowing owners to sell power back to utilities in certain places via the Kia Connect Store.
The all-new Kia EV9 is set to go on sale in select countries starting in the second half of 2023. I'll be getting an up close and personal look at the electric three-row SUV next week, when the EV9 makes its North American debut at the New York Auto Show.