Kia is ready to pull the wraps on its next big electric vehicle (emphasis on big): the EV9 three-row SUV. The EV9 will have a proper North American debut at the New York International Auto Show next week, but before it does, the automaker is rolling out a list of key specifications to whet our appetite.
Kia revealed the production version of the EV9 earlier this month in South Korea, but in doing so, it left out a lot of crucial details. We’ve seen the interior with its swiveling second-row seats as well as the very Soul-like exterior design. Today, the company is filling in some of the gaps as well as outlining its strategy to dominate the full-size electric SUV segment, which it claims is totally up for grabs.
Full-size three-row SUVs are big sellers in the US and around the world, but there aren’t many that are fully electric. For a long time, it was the Tesla Model X — and that was about it. But that’s starting to change, with the recent introduction of the Hummer EV SUV, Rivian R1S, Volvo EX90, and Mercedes EQS SUV. Kia thinks it can swoop in and capture the market by emphasizing its commitment to design and sustainability, as well as its ability to market itself as a more popular — and perhaps affordable — brand.
Full-size three-row SUVs are big sellers in the US and around the world, but there aren’t many that are fully electric
“We at Kia are committed to the belief that sustainability should be at the forefront of everything we do,” Kia CEO Ho-Sung Song said during a briefing with reporters earlier this week. “And this belief has driven us to create a full-size SUV that is not only stylish and authentic, but also environmentally friendly.”
How environmentally friendly a giant SUV can be — even one that runs on electrons — is certainly up for debate, especially with regard to mineral extraction and non-exhaust road pollution. Unlike the EV6’s refreshingly modest footprint, the EV9 seems primed to win over Telluride and Cadillac Escalade customers with its aggressive dimensions and copious interior space. But Song didn’t address any of those concerns, instead focusing on the EV9’s advantages over the competition.
To say that the EV9 is crucial to Kia’s lineup would be an understatement. The EV9 will “not only offer something new” to customers interested in a full-size SUV but will also “play a key role in how the Kia brand is defined going forward,” Song said. “In many ways we consider the Kia EV9 to be the new flagship for our brand.”
Kia, and its parent company, Hyundai, have been at the forefront of producing EVs that are quick to charge thanks to the 800-volt architecture built into its shared E-GMP (Electric Global Modular Platform) platform. The EV9 will be no different, gaining 239km (148 miles) of range in just 15 minutes when plugged into a DC fast charger. The automaker said it’s targeting a WLTP range of 541km (336 miles) — but more conservative EPA-estimated range is likely to be less than that.
Car buyers will have a number of battery configurations to choose from, including a rear-wheel drive Standard model with a 76.1kWh battery and a Long Range model in both RWD and all-wheel drive variants with a bigger 99.8kWh battery. The RWD Long Range will utilize a 150kW / 350Nm electric motor, giving it the ability to sprint from zero to 100 kilometers per hour in 9.4 seconds (based on Kia’s preliminary data).
“In many ways we consider the Kia EV9 to be the new flagship for our brand”
The AWD version will obviously be more powerful, engaging two motors for a combined output of 283kW and 600Nm of torque, giving it a zero to 100 kilometers per hour acceleration of just six seconds. An optional Boost feature available through Kia’s Connect Store increases the torque to 700Nm, enabling the EV9 to accelerate from zero to 100 km/h in 5.3 seconds.
Like the Kia EV6 and Hyundai Ioniq 5, the EV9 will have vehicle-to-load capabilities, transforming it into a mobile power generator. Like those other E-GMP vehicles, the EV9 will be able to supply up to 3.68kW of power, which is more than enough for powering small electric devices, like laptops and camping equipment. Kia isn’t touting the EV9 as a solution to power outages, like some EV truck makers have been doing, but the feature should be useful for people who want to use their vehicle to power their devices.
The EV9 will also be Kia’s first vehicle to feature Highway Driving Pilot, the brand’s Level 3 autonomous driving system that allows for “unsupervised” driving on highways. That feature will only be available in “certain global markets,” Kia says, but the technology that underpins the feature certainly sounds impressive on paper.
Kia says it will achieve Level 3 “partial autonomy” thanks to the EV9’s array of 15 — that’s right, 15 — sensors, including two lidar laser sensors, cameras, radar, and ultrasonics. Highway Driving Pilot will be available on the EV9’s GT-line model in the future, and Kia says it will have more details to share at a later date.
That and other features will constantly improve thanks to the EV9’s over-the-air software updates. The Kia Connect Store is like the automaker’s own app store, where EV9 owners will be able to purchase new features like a “Digital Pattern Lighting Grille,” for example. There will also be performance enhancements available, like the Boost feature for added torque.
Highway Driving Pilot will be available on the EV9’s GT-line model in the future
Kia is boasting a host of additional safety and convenience features, like hands-free driver assist, remote parking, and intelligent speed limit assist that’s designed to automatically lower the speed of the vehicle based on the regulated speed limit.
But if Kia wants to seize the full-size electric SUV crown from the Tesla Model X, it will need to make a case for itself through its price. And unfortunately, Kia isn’t ready to talk about that yet.
With most luxury three-row electric SUVs retailing for well over $100,000, there’s a real opportunity for Kia to slide in with a more affordable price. The EV9 will have to start under $80,000 in order to compete with the Volvo EX90 and Rivian R1S, and even that’s not a guarantee — especially with Kia jamming a ton of tech and premium features into this thing.
“Our brand will still be positioned to appeal to a wider audience,” Song said. “We will provide [a full range of] EV products across all segments, from smaller to high end. So we will never leave our existing customers behind.”