2023 Kia EV6 GT Review – Electric Excitement
Standing around outside the Las Vegas Motor Speedway last week, I noticed a bunch of fighter jets taking off and landing from the nearby Nellis Air Force base. It must be unbelievable to feel the G forces when those things accelerate, I thought to myself.
Allow me, then, to make a perhaps-too-easy comparison to the 2023 Kia EV6 GT I was in town to test. While the Kia will obviously never approach fighter-jet level Gs, its own ability to pin you to your seatback under acceleration is quite impressive. So much so that my drive partner and I kept launching away from stoplights in a giggle-inducing frenzy of instant torque.
The 2023 Kia EV6 GT isn’t perfect – we’ll get to that – but its ability to scramble away from a stop in quite an addictive manner is a nice party trick to have.
(Full disclosure: Kia flew me to Las Vegas, fed me, housed me, and paid for our entry to two national/state parks. The only swag I saw offered was a notebook and pen).
Kia’s marketing message is that the 576-horsepower, dual-motor, all-wheel drive EV6 GT can outrun supercars that cost many, many times as much. Much was made about the 3.4-second 0-60 time and how that’s a few ticks faster than certain exotics. Oh, and the EV6 GT costs “only” $61,400 while some of these exotics cost more than a home in a nice middle-class enclave.
OK, fine, but does the high roller with McLaren money care? A Lamborghini or Ferrari gets attention – from valets at high-end joints, from onlookers, and from people the driver would like to go home with. Those who buy those cars spend that kind of money specifically to get that attention. Value propositions mean nothing to them.
It's a neat message, but it likely won’t sway many buyers. The pro athlete who just inked a multimillion-dollar deal is seeking something else other than a nice horsepower per dollar ratio.
Another way to think of it – do people think of the Chevrolet Corvette, which is an awesome machine priced much lower than any Italian with a prancing horse or bull on the badging, as a value alternative to Lambos? Nah, it’s the other way around – the ‘Vette is a toy for the middle-income buyer who finally reached a station in life that allows them to stretch their dollar just enough to park one in the driveway.
I digress. Back to the EV6 GT. What Kia should be doing is focusing on what this car does well – and why it does those things well enough to justify the cost (and some comfort sacrifice) over the EV6 GT-Line.
It didn’t take long to figure out that acceleration is this car’s best dynamic feature. Instant torque isn’t unique to the EV6 GT, of course – a major selling point of EVs, in general, is that power is on tap from zero and the delivery is linear. Just about every EV I’ve driven, even ones that don’t have big power numbers, offers up this ability. But the EV6 GT takes it to another level.
Torque, by the way, is 545 lb-ft. If you’re curious what the breakdown between the motors is, it’s this: The front motor makes 214 horsepower, and the rear 362. The battery is 77.4 kWh. The range is listed at 206 miles, and Kia claims a 161-mph top speed. Kia claims the car can be brought from 10 percent charge to 80 percent charge in 18 minutes, provided you’re using the correct type of fast charger – a 350 kW DC unit. On a 110, the charge time is 72 hours, while it’s around 8 hours on a Level 2 charger.
Kia massages the GT trim of the EV6 for performance by giving it a sport suspension with electronically-controlled damping, front suspension components that are unique to this trim, an electronic limited-slip differential, larger front and rear brakes (15-inch in front, 14.2-inch in the rear) with four-piston calipers, a quicker steering ratio, and a stiffer chassis. There’s also a Drift Mode for those who like to show off their Fast and Furious skills with the help of some electronic trickery.
The front suspension is a MacPherson strut with dual lower arms and the rear is a multi-link setup.
Visually, GTs are set apart from lesser EV6s by neon green brake calipers, neon trim accents, 21-inch wheels, and different front and rear fascias. Inside, the differences include sport seats and neon green accent marks on the dashboard. There are roof and rear spoilers.
Kia didn’t just build a straight-line speedster here – this car can also corner. It’s not light, sure, and it’s got a tall, hatchback body, but it works. Even in “normal” drive mode, the car seemed to handle the generally gentle corners we faced on rural roads with aplomb. Flick it into Sport or GT mode, and the EV6 GT gets more engaging and turns in even better. One-pedal driving is nice here – one can just lift when approaching the corner and usually scrub enough speed to power through without touching the brakes.
Kia also turned us loose on the Speedway’s road course, and the car’s strengths and weaknesses are unsurprisingly very apparent in this environment. In the spirit of full transparency, I will tell you I was slooooow on my first two laps since I was still learning the track (I drove it in 2019 for the Shelby GT500 event, but I’d mostly forgotten the line and this configuration was slightly different anyway) and the car. We were doing a lead-follow format – instructor plus two cars – and halfway through we swapped the order of the follow cars. Once I could tuck in behind the instructor and get a better sense of the line (“late apex” really does mean late apex), I could push much harder.
When I did, I found that the EV6 GT’s weight and shape worked against it a bit – body roll gets a bit pernicious when the car is pushed. The tires also started squealing like a mobster under questioning. A singing tire may be a happy one, but there’s a point when you start wondering how much better a car like this would be with the right rubber.
That’s the bad. The good is that the acceleration can cover a lot of on-track screw-ups. Lose time in a corner? You can narrow that gap on the straightaway. The brakes also were stout and I never experienced fade, though I must point out that fade shouldn’t be an issue with only three or four laps at speed, plus a cool down and some rest time in between sessions.
Turn-in felt sharp and accurate, though the steering, like in so many cars these days, felt a bit artificial and distant, even in Sport and GT modes.
Kia also shunted us over to the dragstrip, where could run to our heart’s content – or until a battery dropped below 70 percent charge, at which point performance would drop, resulting in slower times. Dragging this Kia was easy – just floor it and let the electronics sort out the traction situation. With the power on hand, the runs flew by – I ran four times and was consistently in the 11.5s with trap speeds over 118 mph. A few journalists managed 11.4s and 119-mph trap speeds.
There are tradeoffs for performance. The biggest one here is ride – the car is stiff in all drive modes, and especially noticeably so in Sport and GT. The roads we drove were mostly glass-smooth – this car might be a bit tough on the body if you live in a place like southeast Michigan. Speaking of being tough on the body – the manual-adjusting sport seats gave my back fits towards the end of our longer on-road stints, and I don’t think they anchored me in place enough on track to justify the tradeoff.
Predictably, the sportier the selected drive mode, the lower the estimated remaining range is. If you’re trying to maximize range, Eco mode helps but at the expense of accelerator response.
Despite being a performance car, the EV6 GT is quiet. Obviously, electric motors don’t make much noise, and road/tire noise is mostly well-muted, too. The EV6’s sweeping dashboard integrates the infotainment system nicely, and Kia’s system remains one of the easier to use. One caveat – like with other new Kia models, space is saved by a menu that swaps climate and audio controls at the push of a button. It’s a neat trick but one must remember which settings are in use, lest one get blasted with cold air when looking for Foreigner’s “Cold as Ice.”
Other than the harsh seats, I found the cabin pleasant. Head and legroom were fine, if not copious – most average-size adults will feel at home. The head-up display remained visible with sunglasses on, though adjusting its height required too much menu diving.
Standard or available features include Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, heated front seats, heated steering wheel, navigation, Bluetooth, satellite radio, a power liftgate, a system that allows the vehicle to provide charge to external devices, power sunroof, head-up display, a cargo-area power outlet, second-row heated outboard seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, Meridian audio system, Wi-Fi hotspot, wireless phone charger, multiple USB ports, and keyless entry and starting.
Advanced-driver aid systems on the car include blind-spot monitoring, blind-spot collision avoidance, rear cross-traffic collision avoidance, driver-attention warning, lane-keep assist, forward-collision avoidance, lane-following assist, smart cruise control, high-beam assist, and in-dash cameras that activate when the turn signal is turned on. That last system helps drivers see if anyone is in their blind spot before they change lanes or make a turn.
Sacrifices on behalf of performance are one thing. Another big tradeoff one must make to own an EV6 GT involves the wallet – this car will set you back $61,400 (not including the $1,295 destination charge). That’s a lot of coin – even if it does offer a 3.4-second 0-60 time for much less than a Lamborghini. Especially since a 320-horsepower, all-wheel-drive GT-Line offers more creature comfort and has a respectable 5.1-second 0-60 sprint. It also has more range – about 252 with AWD and 310 with RWD. Then again, while a front-drive GT-Line is about nine grand less, the AWD version saves you only $4K.
The biggest question I have is this: Who is this car for? As noted, the GT-Line offers pretty good performance for a bit less money and without some of the tradeoffs. Kia’s own Stinger is arguably a better-balanced performance car, though it is, of course, not electric. There are other vehicles, both ICE and EV, that perform similarly, though Kia will point out that some obvious comps like the Ford Mustang Mach-E GT and Tesla Model Y cost more and pump out fewer ponies.
I guess the answer is that the Kia EV6 GT is for the person who won’t settle – and for whom performance trumps minor discomfort. Let the commuters opt for the GT-Line. Sure, your GT will have a stiffer ride and the seats might not be as comfy and your monthly payment will take a bigger chunk out of your bank account, but that doesn’t matter when you floor it.
Nor does it matter when you smoothly bomb your way through a sweeping corner on a rural two-lane.
Let the show-off set pay two or three times the price for slightly slower rides that garner more attention. They may be getting the looks, but they’ll also be trawling their mega-bucks sports cars at slow speeds on Sunset Boulevard – either to make sure they’re seen or because traffic just isn’t moving. Or both.
Meanwhile, you’ll be doing a ground-bound impersonation of our nation’s finest fighter pilots. Sure, the Gs will be a lot less and the speeds much, much slower, but there’s still enough acceleration on tap here to keep you grinning all day long.
[Images © 2022 Tim Healey/TTAC]
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