First Drive: 2023 Kia EV6 GT

2023 Kia EV6 GT makes a high-voltage statement

The blue Kia EV6 GT rolls up on the right side of the Christmas tree at the Strip, the aptly named drag racing course at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. To the immediate left, another Kia EV6 GT, this one bedecked in red, takes up its position.

2023 Kia EV6 GT

Checking the specs on this all-new, high-performance EV, it’s clear that the red paint scheme is the preferred choice—it’s called Runway Red, while the blue car is, sadly, labelled Yacht Blue. I’m behind the wheel of the blue car, eyes peeled on the Christmas tree, ready to punch the accelerator as soon as the yellow lights fade and the green illuminates.

The tension mounts like an over-coiled spring.

2023 Kia EV6 GT

Stepping back, if it seems odd that we’re at a drag strip with an EV… well, frankly, it is odd. The last time I piloted a car on a professional drag strip, the car was the Dodge Demon. Makes more sense, right? But the 2023 Kia EV6 GT is no run-of-the-mill EV. It’s the halo car for the EV6 line and, in fact, the new halo car for the entire brand, displacing the Kia Stinger GT.

2023 Kia EV6 GT

Here’s why: The electrified crossover features a 77.4 kWh battery pack, a 160-kW motor at the front, a 270-kW motor at the back and a range of some 330 km. Horsepower rating rolls in at a lofty 576 ponies, while torque rings the bell at 545 pound-feet. According to Kia, the sprint from 0-100 km/h should take just 3.55 seconds and top speed should top out at 259 km/h.

Those are some serious performance numbers—and that’s why we’re at the drag strip, figuring out whether to take the blue pill or the red.

The first run is a decent warm-up. My reaction time isn’t great, but the Yacht Blue crossover smokes the Runway Red model because the other guy was napping and forgot to trigger the special “GT” button on the steering wheel. The timing sheet reads like this. Reaction time: 0.969 seconds. Estimated time for the quarter-mile: 11.609 seconds. Top speed at the line: 116.27 mph (187.12 km/h).

2023 Kia EV6 GT

Yes, this is an EV—but it’s a very quick EV.

The second run is slightly better. Matched up against the same driver in the Runway Red example, I set sail in my blue pill and win the bracket. Reaction time: 0.969 seconds. Quarter-mile ET: 11.482 seconds. Top speed: 118.26 mph (190.32 km/h).

The charge level in the EV6 GT is holding strong. Representatives from the brand suggest that performance falls off when the battery sinks to around 70 percent. We’re nowhere close to that yet—and there’s one more run to go.

This time around, frustrated at my less-than-NHRA reaction times, I roll up to the timing stand to ask for more specific advice. The track marshals suggest that I’m waiting too long, waiting for the green light to show. Instead, they tell me wait only until the three yellow lights go out—that’s a fraction before the green lights up, but not a big enough fraction to trigger a jump start.

The advice works: The EV6 GT rockets into motion just 0.427 seconds from the light, but a serious headwind (or something) prevents the car from establishing my top speed and ET runs of the day. The final tally shows an ET of 11. 621 seconds and a top speed of 117.54 mph (189.16 km/h).

Still, how about that for repeatable performance from a battery-electric vehicle?

2023 Kia EV6 GT

Of course, the ability to blast off like a spaceship is not the only trick in this car’s arsenal. Constructed on an 800-volt architecture, the EV6 GT can be recharged from 10-80 percent at a DC fast-charging station in just 18 minutes. (That’s quick, too.) The system also features vehicle-to-load functionality, meaning the Kia can provide 1900 watts of power to electric appliances, tools and recreational equipment if the electric grid is out or out of reach.

The car comes standard with a range of technical bits that are normally reserved for high-performance track cars. The EV6 GT has a sport suspension system, electronically controlled dampers, an electronic limited slip differential, 15-inch ventilated front brake discs, 14-inch rear brakes discs and mono block calipers painted neon green. The car rides on 21-inch alloy wheels fitted with Goodyear Eagle F1 tires. It’s all wild and racy.

2023 Kia EV6 GT

On the steering wheel, there are two drive mode selectors. To the left, it’s the switch to toggle between the eco, normal, sport and snow modes. To the right, it’s the aforementioned GT sectors, also bearing the neon green hue, which triggers GT mode.

There’s another mode worth mentioning: Drift mode. This one is activated by holding down the stability button until the system switches off, then pulling back on both regenerative braking paddles at the same time. In this mode, most of the power is diverted to the rear under hard acceleration and those Goodyears light up like a Roman candle.

It’s all incredibly fun—and it’s the reason why the 2023 Kia EV6 GT is an absolute game-changer. With a starting price of $74,495, this is an expensive car—and it’s an expensive Kia. But you need to hand it to the South Korean carmaker for having the guts to release this thing and throw it into the rings against high-performance EVs that cost a lot more than $74.495.

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