2024 Kia EV9 First Drive – Setting Expectations

Tim Healey
by Tim Healey

Having one of the first entries into a segment can really help an automaker. It’s even better if said entry is done well. Enter the 2024 Kia EV9 – a three-row large SUV with an electric powertrain that is one of the first vehicles of its type on the market.

Not the first – all six of the luxury EV SUVs that Kia considers competition are on sale now, and one of the three mainstream rivals, the Chevrolet Blazer EV, has launched. Poorly, perhaps, but it’s available for sale.

That said, this segment is relatively wide open, and the EV9’s price/trim/feature range will have it stack up against both mainstream and luxury models. Being on sale now will give the EV9 a bit of a leg up – but it’s not clear it needs it.

That’s because the EV9 is well thought out and well packaged. It has flaws, as all vehicles do, but it comes into the segment as a strong choice right from the start.

Full disclosure: Kia flew me to Napa, California and fed and housed me for two nights. I don’t know if swag was proffered, though I did take home a notepad and pen.

The EV9 will often get referred to as an “electric Telluride” and it’s easy to see why, given its size and boxy/angular styling. It’s also slightly longer than the Telluride and about the same in height and width, though its wheelbase is 7.8 inches longer. There’s a small front trunk for those interested in such things.

The comparison to the Telluride does both vehicles a disservice. First off, they don’t share a platform. Second, the EV9’s styling is, to my eye at least, more interesting and eye catching than that of the Telluride. It also feels a little less ponderous on the road.

Instantly available EV torque plays a part here – the EV9 is a bit too heavy to be a true burner but it’s quick for its size. You’ll have no issue merging, passing, or getting ahead of traffic when turning onto a busy road.

Napa provides plenty of twisty roads – most of the gently curving variety, but some are decently challenging. Pushed a little hard, the EV9 responds better than something this size should, but the word “sporty” won’t enter your mind. The steering is a bit too distant, and if you push too hard there’s a predictable amount of body roll.

For those wondering, it’s a MacPherson strut upfront and five-link multi-link in the rear. A self-leveling rear suspension is available, and my test vehicle was so equipped.

I should note that selecting Sport mode will, at the cost of six or seven miles of range, change the EV9’s character, mostly in terms of making the ride feel stiffer as the suspension gets more aggressive. The EV9 has available adjustable one-pedal driving – you can use steering-wheel paddles to dial in the desired amount of aggression. Still, sometimes you need to use the brakes, and they seemed appropriately progressive.

Not that you’ll push something like this often. Our route included in-town and freeway segments and the EV9 was quiet and pleasant during more sedate driving. The overall package feels well put together.

Speaking of packaging, there are five trim levels: Light, Light Long Range, Wind, Land, and GT-Line. Kia tells us the heavy volume trims will likely be Wind or Land but GT-Line sales have been strong in the early going.

Lights get a single rear electric motor with an output of 215 horsepower and 258 lb-ft, with the lithium-ion battery pack (all EV9s are LI) putting out 76.1 kWh. Range is 230 miles. Opt for the Light Long Range and you drop 14 horsepower down to 201 and range bumps up to 304 miles.

Winds and Lands use a dual-motor setup and put out 379 horsepower and 443 lb-ft of torque, and like the GT-Line the battery pack energy is 99.8 kWh. Range is 280 for the Wind and Land and 270 for the GT-Line.

We parked with 118 miles range remaining and an average of 2.9 miles per kWh (more is better, obviously) after 145.2 miles of driving.

Kia is promising charge times of 10 percent to 80 percent in 25 minutes with high-speed DC chargers, thanks to 800V architecture. Normal charge time on a 240V is 8 hours and 45 minutes.

The EV9 offers vehicle to load charging and vehicle to everything charging is expected to arrive soon.

Driving dynamics probably matter less to the potential buyer than things like road noise, seat comfort, interior controls, and so on. As noted, the EV9 generally kept outside noise out. The seats were generally comfortable, though my first stint behind the wheel was about 60 miles and I felt my derriere getting a bit numb during the final miles.

I was able to get my six-one frame into the third row with relative ease, though getting out require some contortions, even with the powered movable second-row chairs. Once ensconced in the third row, I found it acceptable for short trips, though taller adults might not feel the same way.

I cringed during the briefing when Kia talked up the use of haptic touch for some interior controls, but I didn’t run into any obvious issues. The infotainment screen presented almost too much information – I am sure one can tailor it as one pleases, though.

Speaking of infotainment, the EV9 uses Kia’s newest system, dubbed the Connected Car Navigation Cockpit. The company claims faster processing times and over-the-air updates are now available. So are swipe controls. The navigation system can provide drivers with guidance-based distance-to-empty and arrival times. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android are now available – my drive partner tapped into his phone’s AA without any issues. The wireless cell phone charger worked just fine.

I also appreciated the second-row console pull out that has a no-slip surface for phones.

There’s still a volume knob, but it’s centered in the middle and not as convenient as using the steering-wheel controls. You can, at least, adjust the climate-control temps and fan speed via a rocker switch. One unfortunate design decision involves the start/stop button – it’s oddly placed on the column shifter.

A digital key setup is available, and you can set it up so every seat has a USB port.

It’s an aesthetically pleasing cabin with hampered by a few odd design choices. I found the materials generally price appropriate at first touch but a bit chintzy when prodded more closely.

There are several trims available but Kia only supplied us with loaded GT-Lines for sampling. This variant had two electric motors, one front and one rear, for a total of 379 system horsepower and 516 lb-ft of system torque.

It also had quite the sticker price. The GT-Line I drove started at $73,900 and came standard with features such as forward collision-avoidance assist, blind-spot collision-avoidance assist, rear cross-traffic collision-avoidance assist, navigation-based smart cruise control, parking collision-avoidance assist, blind-spot view monitor, dual 12.3-inch screens for gauges and infotainment, navigation, wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, Meridian audio, satellite radio, heated and cooled front seats, heated and cooled second-row seats, power tilt and telescoping steering wheel, heated steering wheel, 20-inch wheels, dual sunroofs, power liftgate, digital pattern lighting, and roof rails.

Options included 21-inch wheels to replace the 20s, a head-up display, higher towing capacity (up to 5,000 pounds), GT-Line styling touches, self-leveling rear suspension, passenger-seat leg support, second-row leg support, smart parking, the Ocean Blue paint, and carpeted floor and cargo mats.

With destination, the price came out to $78,430.

The lower trims will be less dear -- $54,900 gets you in the door for a rear-wheel drive Light. Add five grand for the Light Long Range. A Wind will set you back $63,900. It’s $69,000 for the Land. You need to get at least the Wind for all-wheel drive.

The base Light gets you 19-inch wheels, LED lighting, power liftgate, heated front seats, cooled front seats, second-row bench seats, digital key, infotainment, Apple CarPlay, navigation, tri-zone climate control, satellite radio, Bluetooth, Android Auto, keyless entry, and more.

You need to get to the Land trim for V2L charging and the Wind to get a sunroof. Smart parking and some of the ADAS systems require you to step up to the Land trim, and even then you may need to tick an options box. With five trims and some options packages, we’ll let you sort through everything else for the sake of brevity.

The key to designing a popular vehicle, EV or not, usually comes down to how well the total package jells. For this Kia, it all flows together well. I’d like a skoosh more range on the high-end trim, and the pricing for even the mid trims will pop some eyes. I’d rethink one or two minor design choices. Overall, however, the EV9 does what it’s asked to do very well.

That’s about all you can ask.

[Images © 2024 Tim Healey/TTAC.com]

Become a TTAC insider. Get the latest news, features, TTAC takes, and everything else that gets to the truth about cars first by  subscribing to our newsletter.

Tim Healey
Tim Healey

Tim Healey grew up around the auto-parts business and has always had a love for cars — his parents joke his first word was “‘Vette”. Despite this, he wanted to pursue a career in sports writing but he ended up falling semi-accidentally into the automotive-journalism industry, first at Consumer Guide Automotive and later at Web2Carz.com. He also worked as an industry analyst at Mintel Group and freelanced for About.com, CarFax, Vehix.com, High Gear Media, Torque News, FutureCar.com, Cars.com, among others, and of course Vertical Scope sites such as AutoGuide.com, Off-Road.com, and HybridCars.com. He’s an urbanite and as such, doesn’t need a daily driver, but if he had one, it would be compact, sporty, and have a manual transmission.

More by Tim Healey

Join the conversation
9 of 58 comments
  • TheEndlessEnigma TheEndlessEnigma on Jan 23, 2024

    If it was a hybrid powertrain or a PHEV this would be an interesting full-size...but it's an EV so it's not. If ya'll have been paying attention to the news and EV used values you'll notice the EV craze is fading; those who were of a mind to jump in EV's already have now the market is full of hard sell customers. Kia has jumped with this...thing...a bit late in the game. This product looks like it has the makings of a fail. Absurd price and poor range (notice charge time is quoted as 10% - 80% leaving 30% potential range on the table).

    • See 1 previous
    • TheEndlessEnigma TheEndlessEnigma on Jan 23, 2024

      Notice what I said, because reading for comprehension is a thing, "If ya'll have been paying attention to the news and EV used values you'll notice the EV craze is fading". EV used values are dropping, and dropping more than the market. Added to that, depreciation in EV's exceeds that by ICE, Hybrid and PHEV. I would also add, EV prices are being dropped as tax subsidies are disappearing, like magic the price drops just happen to match the missing tax subsidies. So, no, the evidence does not say otherwise. If it did Tesla wouldn't be dropping prices and names like Ford wouldn't be slashing production goals for 2024 (not because they can't meet goals but because they are having significant problem selling what they are producing).

  • Vvk Vvk on Jan 23, 2024

    Great job ignoring Model X, the large, roomy three row SUV that has been available since 2016.

    • See 4 previous
    • Vvk Vvk on Jan 23, 2024

      "Falcon doors are a good reason not to buy a Model X." -- agree! When I bought my 2017 Model S, Model X was exactly the same price. I honestly would have preferred a MX, but could not accept the falcon doors. Also the huge windshield -- I was hot on a sunny day in the winter, can't imagine how bad it gets in 100 degree weather.

  • MrIcky Worrying about mileage is for poors.
  • ToolGuy A 'true' Volvo (pre Ford Motor Company). I would buy this and drive it for 3 years until I can get one of them 'Chinese' EV things. But I'm offering $1,850 against your $3,700 because you couldn't be bothered to pull it outside for pictures. 😉 And I will stick close to home with this one -- no road trips.In related news (Relevant and Connected!!): My new dishwasher is Swedish -- little outfit called Frigidaire, you may have heard of them. (On order, should be here in March)
  • CKNSLS Sierra SLT Let me get this straight-It's OK for GM to make cars in China and ship them here-under a Buick name. But for the Chinese to directly do it is not OK.If the Big 3 had not a deserted sedans/low end of the market they wouldn't have anything to worry about.Yea...makes perfect sense.
  • Analoggrotto This must look great in your Tellurides
  • Dukeisduke Meanwhile in the EU, they're inviting Chinese manufacturers to build assembly plants there, especially in Italy. FIAT cut back production in Italy from one million vehicles a year, to 750,000, so the Italian government wants the Chinese plants for the jobs they'll create. They've contacted BYD about building a plant, but so far, BYD has only committed to building a plant in Hungary. A second plant in the EU will depend on demand for vehicles.