First Drive: 2024 Kia EV9

Scottsdale, Arizona – If you would have told me, oh I dunno, five years ago that one of the most hotly-anticipated vehicles set to arrive at the end of 2023 was a three-row full-electric crossover not from Ford, from Toyota, not from Audi or Nissan but from little old Kia, well, first of all I would tell you that a) Kia is not so little anymore and b) not only are they not little, but part of a group that runs the most robust electrified line-up of any manufacturer the world over and it makes perfect sense.

2024 Kia EV9 GT-Line

But even then, I don’t think I could have pictured just how far Kia was going to take the baton when it comes to the 2024 Kia EV9, a vehicle that already has 500 pre-orders in Canada. 500. For an all-new model that comes fully electrified – with up to 489 km of range — and can pack up to seven people within the walls of its boxy-but-yet-quite-futuristic shape.

Yes; if you squint, you may be able to call it a Soul on steroids but I’m not so sure. There is some of that, to be sure, but the way Kia describes it, the more overt allusion is actually the way the rear fascia – the taillights, mainly – look a little like what’s seen on the Kia Telluride. Now, that’s another big Kia ‘ute so it stands to reason the two would be compared, but such are the details when it comes the EV9’s exterior that would be doing it an injustice.

2024 Kia EV9 GT-Line

Just look at the headlights and their 12-bulb count – those are standard across all trims (let’s have a quick facepalm for the following nomenclature: Light RWD — $59,995; Wind RWD — $62,995; Land AWD — $64,995; Land + Premium Package — $74,995; Land + GT-Line Package — $78,995) or better yet, look at what Kia calls the Digital Lighting Grille, essentially a collection of LEDs that can light up in two different ways – or, if you so chose, seven different ways if you pay a subscription price for the feature. Yes; you read that right; your car can subscribe to look different and while that is a unique touch, one thinks the system could have better been put to use as a sort of charge indicator while plugged in, similar to what’s seen on the Rivian twins.

2024 Kia EV9 GT-Line

It’s still neat, though, as are other pieces like the squared-off fenders but more importantly, the wheels they surround. They measure 19- 20- or 21-inches and while there are three different designs, they’re kind of all variations on a theme. For starters, black is your only colour choice and secondly, what you’re seeing aren’t the wheels themselves but aerodynamic wheel covers that are actually removable – hence their blocky spoke design.

2024 Kia EV9 GT-Line

Being the top trim GT-Line, our tester also features body-coloured air intakes, black wing mirrors and roof rails and a special underbody diffuser. It all comes together to provide a unique and purposeful shape with presence for days – which, of course, is helped by the fact that at 5,110 millimetres in length, up to 1,780 mm in height and stretching 1,980 mm wide, the EV9 is a big Telluride-sized vehicle. The EV9 gets a lot more storage, though, especially when you consider the frunk – which grows deeper still in the RWD EV9.

2024 Kia EV9 GT-Line

It is big, but being an EV, it doesn’t have to pack as much running gear underneath the body – no transmission, no engine, no driveshaft – so that, combined with the exterior dimensions, means there is a tonne of space inside. Front row, second row, third row (it’s a three-row SUV as standard) — it’s all perfectly usable for adults, especially when it comes to the headroom which lends a cavernous air to the proceedings. We start in the third row, where my 6’3” frame didn’t have to hunch over and I didn’t have to live with my knees close to my chest – especially when you consider that the second row seats are of the “smart” variety; if they sense your knees, they’ll move themselves forward to clear them. The second row, meanwhile, is a stadium seating situation so they are mounted higher than the front row, allowing for a better view out for those passengers. The second row also comes heated and cooled on the top two trims and with captain’s chairs that on the GT-Line, fold almost flat and provide business class-style deployable thigh support. Anything below that is a bench seat. That’s good because it means seating for seven, but less so in that it also means a tougher to access third row. That being said, to at least have the option for a bench seat in the second row on the top two trims would be nice.

2024 Kia EV9 GT-Line

Speaking of visibility: the tall greenhouse and upright windscreen means outward visibility is great at its core, which gets complimented by a digital rear-view mirror on the top two trims. The squared-off hood, meanwhile, helps place the EV9 in tight quarters, as does the surround-view monitor.

That appears on a 12.3” display, which is matched by a 12.3” gauge display and there’s a 5” climate display sandwiched between the two. There’s also a haptic feedback touch panel below that – somewhat inconvenient as you tend to brush against them as you reach for the main display – and some redundant “hard” buttons for your climate controls below that. That’s important in Canada as that means they can be more easily operated with gloves on, though the ability to precondition your EV9’s climate with an app reduces the need for gloves once inside. A heated steering wheel comes standard on the Wind RWD and heated and cooled front seats are standard at base.

2024 Kia EV9 GT-Line

Otherwise, the interior is clinical in execution; from the sustainable faux-suede on the a-pillars and roof liner, to the cloth dash insert ahead of the passenger, to the tightness of the panels and the quality of the synthetic leather seating (standard on all trims, and always finished in two-tone) it is an absolute hit.

You may have noticed in that word salad of a trim walk that there are both RWD and AWD models, and that max range is 489 km; that range figure is accessed only by the Wind RWD model as it gets the larger of the two available batteries – 76.1 kWh (215 horsepower, 258 pound-feet) and 99.8 kWh (379 hp, 516 lb-ft) – and the weight savings of only having a single EV motor. The most range you’re going to get with an AWD EV9 is 451 km, meaning the Land AWD that sits right smack in the middle of the line-up is probably going to be the sweet spot.

2024 Kia EV9 GT-Line

We can’t comment on the dynamics of the RWD model as we only drove the AWD but putting power aside for a minute, all EV9’s are tuned almost the same way when it comes to the ride; the GT-Line gets air suspension which helps with comfort and towing, but otherwise it’s the same set-up and it’s nicely dialled in. Very smooth; even with those big 21” wheels, bumps are absorbed with gumption and small imperfections are easily dispatched. With a Cd of just 0.28, it’s also very quiet (helped by adaptive front grille shutters); when we first set off, however, we found it somewhat loud but the removal of a drag-inducing GoPro mounted to our roof changed all of that and served to demonstrate just how quiet it is inside. It allows for easy conversation, and makes it all that much easier to listen to the great Meridian sound system.

2024 Kia EV9 GT-Line

Power-wise, considering that at over 7,000 lbs. the EV9 GT-Ultimate isn’t lightweight it leaves the line briskly, especially in Sport mode. Power delivery is immediate, and forward progress is such that passing at speed and so forth is not a problem.

In addition to the sport, normal and eco modes, the EV9 also gets snow, sand and mud terrain modes that will change your power delivery and distribution. We sampled all three modes on a loose gravel surface and the differences can pretty readily be felt. The sand and mud modes, by the way, are exclusive to Canada.

That’s a nice bonus, but the EV9 really doesn’t need any sweetener. It is that good – but the more I think about it, the more I realize I’m not that surprised at all. These days when it comes to Kia, you just get the sense you’re going to get quality. About two decades ago, Kia was the underdog here. They were the newcomers to North America that needed to build brand equity and while that took a while, they did come around. Here’s the thing, though: they haven’t really stopped bearing that underdog attitude. It’s almost as if they’re still fighting for their spot at the table even though their sales are up, their value is good and their models are intriguing and unique.

It’s that no rest for the weary attitude that ensures almost no stone is left unturned when it comes to developing their cars – and that’s how we get efforts like this EV9. And we’re all the better off for it.

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