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We drove the new Kia EV9: 5 things we love (and 2 we don’t)

The best and worst things about the Kia EV9

Kia EV9
Kia EV9 front Kia / Kia

When Kia approached us to fly out to California’s beautiful Napa Valley to get our hands on their new all-electric EV9 SUV and see what it could do up close and personal, we booked our flight faster than the time it took to uncork our favorite bottle of cabernet to celebrate the occasion.

When we arrived, we were treated to a well-thought-out presentation laying out the facts and figures of Kia’s new flagship and the benefits of EVs in general before being handed the keys to our very own EV9. Walking out to the Napa Valley parking lot, we were greeted by a sea of EV9 models lined up one by one, all painted in Kia’s gorgeous (and very apropos) Ocean Blue.

With a paper map and directions provided to us by the PR folks, we realized that these antiquated travel items were necessary because there is no “scenic detour” setting in any GPS, at least not yet. So, with our curated driving itinerary ready to go, we were promised both jaw-dropping scenic backdrops as well as enough twists and turns to allow the big SUV to show off its athletic driving abilities. We came away with seven conclusions after our driving experience, five of which are positive and two not so much.

Kia EV9
Kia EV9 Interior Kia / Kia

Love: The EV9 is attractive inside and out

Granted, we were privy to the GT-Line trim of the EV9, which is the highest-level trim, until the powerhouse GT shows up sometime before next year. The GT-Line gets its roof rails, side mirrors, and bumpers shaded black to go along with the optional 20-inch geometrically-designed black wheels. With a long 122-inch wheelbase, the EV9 is big. It is 197.4 inches long, 70.1 inches tall, and 77 inches tall.9 inches wide, yet for all that size, the EV9 somehow manages to have an extremely slippery drag coefficient of just 0.28. For some perspective, that makes this big SUV more aerodynamic than both the Chevy Corvette C5 Z06 and C6 Z06 supercar of days gone by.

But beyond its dimensions, the EV9 manages to do something most modern EVs do not… be objectively attractive. Unlike so many other electric cars that, for one reason or another, feel compelled to have absurdly and flamboyantly bombastic design cues, the EV9 manages to look ruggedly progressive without being offensive at all.

Inside, the EV9 continues with an uncluttered and streamlined feel. Unquestionably tech-savvy, it manages to feel plugged in without being excessively distracting or overly busy. There were a couple of things we didn’t like once inside (more on that later), but the overall vibe of the EV9’s interior was both commanding and calming at the same time.

Kia EV9
Kia EV9 front 3/4 Kia / Kia

Love: The Kia EV9 is more powerful than expected

With a curb weight of over 5,800 pounds, it’s hard to think the EV9 is going to be impressively quick. But, being the second Kia based on the company’s E-GMP platform and the first to feature their fourth-generation battery, there is plenty of power hiding inside this truck. Equipped with an optional 99.8-kWh battery powering a dual-motor setup, the EV9 GT-Line makes a total of 379 horsepower and a staggering 516 pound-feet of torque when equipped with the optional Boost feature.

As with all EVs, all 516 lb-ft of that torque is available at zero RPM, and thanks to all-wheel drive, stomping on the accelerator from a dead stop compresses you into your seat with the alacrity of a 747 ramping up speed just before liftoff. Kia tells us that 0-60 mph takes just 4.5 seconds, which, for some perspective, is just as quick as the first-gen Dodge Viper… and oh-by-the-way, the EV9 has room for the entire family and their gear, too.

Kia EV9
Kia EV9 infotainment Kia / Kia

Don’t love: The infotainment buttons

We are unequivocally in favor of actual buttons for things like HVAC and infotainment controls (volume at the very minimum), as they make driving much safer and easier than fumbling through a series of touchscreen submenus just to change the radio station.

So, when we noticed the EV9 had actual buttons beneath its infotainment screen for Home, Map, Search, Media, and Setup, we were proud of Kia for not trying to be overly digital like some other car companies who shall remain nameless.

But when we actually tried to use these buttons, we were severely disappointed to find out that although they appear to be buttons, pressing them returns exactly zero feedback. Nothing happens, no depression, no click, nothing. So that lack of response, combined with the slight delay in activation to begin with, ends up eliciting a dubiously frustrating response that takes away from the otherwise pleasant driving experience inside the EV9.

Kia EV9s

Love: The EV9 offers up just about everything

Being their new flagship, Kia decided to make sure that everything owners could potentially want was either included or available as part of their EV9. More total leg room than the Audi Q8 e-Tron or Tesla Model Y, more third-row head and leg room than the Telluride, and more third-row head and shoulder room than the Rivian R1S, the EV9 has plenty of room for everyone and everything. In quantifiable numbers, the rear cargo area has 20 cubic feet of space, while folding the second and third rows bumps that number up to an impressive 82 cubic feet.

Features like Remote Smart Parking Assist allow the big SUV to enter and exit parking spaces with the touch of a button. Wireless phone charging and standard-issue Apple CarPlay and Andriod Auto keep you connected, while things like a dual sunroof, Smart Power liftgate, ambient lighting, eight-way power-adjustable heated, ventilated, and massaging seats up front, as well as second row “VIP Relaxation” chairs all give the EV9 a sense of luxury formally unheard of from the Korean carmaker.

There is also an available 12-inch Head-Up Display that allows drivers to keep their eyes on the road while being provided with things like navigation directions or urgent vehicle info without sacrificing safety in the process. The available Full Display Mirror uses a camera to display a full view of the road behind you, even if there are objects in the way that would otherwise block traditional old-school mirrors.

The EV9 GT-Line also offers plenty of truck-like features as well. When properly equipped, the EV9 can tow up to 5,000 pounds and has 7.8 inches of ground clearance. And while the GT-Line does sacrifice a bit of range in exchange for its prodigious power, with its 230-kW maximum DC fast-charging speed, the EV9 can tack on 100 miles of range in only 13 minutes. So, while the EV9 doesn’t offer up the absolute best of everything, it offers up a little of everything, so no owner feels like they are going without.

Kia EV9
Kia EV9 Interior Kia / Kia

Don’t love: The massaging seats

Although we have to applaud Kia for giving the EV9 a myriad of options and features to allow it to compete with other SUVs many times its price, there still might be some work to do. The front seats are eight-way power adjustable and allow for an ideal driving position. Those seats also offered exceptional heating and ventilation functionality that warmed us up during the chilly morning hours and then cooled us off when the California sun beat down during the warmer mid-day hours.

But after several hundred miles of travel, we decided to try out the front seats’ massaging feature, hoping to alleviate some of the slight pain creeping up from being in the same position for an extended period of time. But, instead of feeling relieved, the “massaging” was simply just the seats’ lumbar supports inflating and deflating intermittently. These aerated pockets of pressure felt more like laying on a couch and finding a child’s or dog’s ball under the cushion. So, while the idea of a massage while driving sounded good, ours was not worth the price of admission, unfortunately.

Kia EV9
2024 EV9 rear 3/4 Kia / Kia

Love: The EV9 is a relative bargain

With the understanding that cost is relative to each potential owner’s financial situation, we can conclude that if you are in the market for a full-sized EV SUV, then the EV9 is a tremendous value. While we did test the top-of-the-line GT-Line trim, even at its most expensive, the EV9 checks in with an MSRP of $73,900, which is a full fifty grand cheaper than the Mercedes-Benz EQE SUV or Range Rover P400.

If, however, you want the good looks of the EV9 without necessarily all the bells and whistles of the GT-Line, then the entry-level Light trim will set you back a mere $54,900. It is also worth noting that, unlike the expensive Mercedes or Range, any of the EV9’s trims allow it to qualify for the government’s $7,500 tax credit, making it even more cost-effective.

Kia EV9
2024 EV9 front 3/4 view Kia / Kia

Love: We would spend our money on the EV9

After spending an entire day putting the EV9 through its paces, we came away with one unquestionable conclusion — the EV9 is a car we would spend our own money on. Kia has come a long, long way from its early days of making cars used mainly for punchlines in stand-up comedy routines. The EV9 is an incredibly versatile and attractive EV SUV that has a commanding presence from any angle.

With a host of features and performance that puts it on par with the likes of Mercedes-Benz and Range Rover for a fraction of the price, the EV9 GT-Line is a spectacular value. But even though it is an exceptional buy for the price, Kia’s flagship does not feel like anything resembling a compromise. It isn’t just a great truck for the money; it is simply a great truck and one we would own proudly.

Lou Ruggieri
A lifelong lover of cars, Lou contributes to Motor Trend, Hot Cars, Auto & Truck Connection, and the PowerAutoMedia Group.
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