The 2024 Kia EV9 boldly leaps over the Telluride
From the December 2023 issue of Car and driver.
We might imagine that most car designers don’t get too excited when they’re set on a new three-row SUV. There’s only so much you can do with the two-box format, and the sector is so competitive that it’s worth playing it safe rather than doing something completely new. But a few years ago, Kia proved all that wrong with the Telluride, and now the Korean automaker is doing it again with the new EV9 electric vehicle.
Whether you view it from 100 yards or up close, the EV9 makes a big impression. You can tell that the people who worked on this vehicle—designers and engineers alike—were up to the challenge of implementing battery-powered operation on the family crossovers that have become so common on driveways across the country.
Built on Hyundai Motor Group’s Electric Global Modular Platform (E-GMP), the EV9 has dimensions that differ radically from those of the Telluride, although it gives a somewhat boxy appearance. The wheelbase is 122.0 inches, nearly eight inches longer than the Telluride’s, and the wheels are pushed into the corners, giving the EV9 a more dramatic stance. The headlights, which combine a row of dot-pattern LEDs with LED signature lights, are almost cyborg, and the intricately detailed, vertically oriented taillights look like they belong on some kind of sci-fi spacecraft.
The attention to detail inside is even more impressive. Although the EV9 is not a luxury SUV, no one seems to have told the people who chose the materials used in our fully loaded GT-Line test car. The faux leather is soft, the dashboard includes a variety of attractive finishes, and there are innovative touches, like the trampoline-style mesh headrests in the front seat that are much more luxurious than you’d expect from looking at them. Yes, there are plenty of screens, including a 12.3-inch infotainment screen and a digital instrument cluster. It’s easy to navigate, and there are enough physical buttons and knobs to make the interface easy to access. Our only real niggle with the user experience was the placement of the climate control screen, which is obscured by the steering wheel.
Being a family vehicle, the ambiance behind the driver and passenger is of particular importance, and it does not disappoint. Not only are the second-row captain’s chairs heated and ventilated, but they’re also available with power adjustment and extendable footrests. The rear doors are wide, making entry easy, and Kia has paid attention to the little things like the roof-mounted air vents, which are surrounded by attractive edges. Although the size of the third row of seats is not quite as large as some of the larger three-row petrol models, the lower cushion is positioned at the right height and angle for adults to sit comfortably, making this a sensible place to sit for short periods.
This level of design and packaging efficiency is not surprising, given the Telluride’s success, as well as the EV9’s strong performance, considering that the top 10-winning Hyundai Ioniq 5 and Kia EV6 share the EV9’s E-GMP platform. There’s a relatively wide range of powertrain configurations available, starting with a single motor, rear-wheel drive and a 76.1-kilowatt-hour battery pack. We tested the top-of-the-line dual-motor all-wheel-drive model, in which the front and rear motors combine for 379 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque. The juice comes from a 99.8 kWh battery, which is more capacity than we’ve seen in any other E-GMP vehicle to date.
This big lithium-ion pack weighs 1,249 pounds, and the EV9 weighs 5,839 pounds, which is 1,349 pounds more than the last Telluride we tested. But the electric motors have more power and torque than the Telluride’s 291-hp 3.8-liter V-6, and in terms of acceleration, they make up for the extra weight. The dual-motor EV9 accelerates to 60 mph in just 4.5 seconds and passes through the quarter mile in 13.3 seconds at 101 mph. Those are fast numbers regardless of segment, and the EV9’s instant responses to throttle punches make the Telluride—which hits 60 mph more than two seconds slower—seem positively sluggish by comparison.
Kia has also done a good job of ensuring that extra weight doesn’t dampen the EV9’s dynamic qualities. It’s fitted with 285mm-wide Hankook Ion Evo AS SUV all-season tires, much wider than the Telluride’s 245s, and larger brake rotors. The results speak for themselves: The EV9 grabbed our skidpad to the tune of 0.87 g and stopped from 70 mph in 184 feet, numbers that would have been more than competitive in a recent comparison test of three-row gasoline-powered SUVs. Better yet, the EV9 is satisfying to steer, with good weight from the helm and well-controlled body movements. We noticed a bit of unpredictability on rougher roads, but overall ride quality is good, and responses to changes in direction are linear if not particularly enthusiastic.
At 70 mph, the EV9 registers a muffled 67 decibels. It’s a fun car on the highway, although cruising range is the only objective measure where the EV9 doesn’t outperform the Telluride. In our 75 mph highway range test, the EV9 posted a reasonable result of 240 miles, slightly below the EPA’s estimate of 270 miles. Realistically, the EV9 will offer less than that on road trips if loaded with family members and stuff — we can fit five carry-ons behind the third row and 17 with the third row folded, by the way — which means you’ll be stopping to recharge every few hours.
Fortunately, the EV9’s electrical architecture is set up to quickly replenish the battery. Using a 350-kilowatt DC fast charger, we watched it gain 100 miles of on-screen range in just 13 minutes and measured an average charging speed of 139 kilowatts between a 10 and 90 percent charge state — the highest average of any electric car we’ve tested since when. And if you want more range, there’s a single-motor configuration that has a large battery and an EPA range of 304 miles. However, its meager 201 horsepower will likely result in slow acceleration times.
Since the EV9 is in the first wave of three-row electric SUVs to enter the mainstream market, its price will be a crucial factor in convincing families to switch to electric powertrains. The EV9 starts right where the Telluride tops out at $56,395 for the rear-drive model and the small battery. Not surprisingly, our most powerful and best-equipped GT-Line commands much more than that, with an opening price of $75,395. That’s a lot to ask when there are so many attractive gas-powered alternatives for less coin, but the EV9 looks great inside and out and offers enough of a performance advantage to feel worth it. Those who take this leap will not be disappointed.
Talk about playing to your strengths. Kia takes the two things it does best — three-row SUVs and electric vehicles — and puts them together in the EV9. Quiet and quick power delivery makes sense for a family car, and the EV9 has both. Its third row is suitable for adults, its opening is luggage-friendly, and its front rows are full of features that make driving and charging more comfortable. Like Kia did with the Telluride, the brand’s three-row electric vehicle will have everyone playing catch-up. —Ilana Sher
Is it time to update my Kia Telluride recommendation for three-row SUV buyers? Passenger space in the EV9 is nearly identical; The biggest differences are third-row headroom (the EV9 has more) and hip room (the EV9 has less). Sure, the EV9 has a plush interior and luxury features, like optional power second-row seats with leg rests, but it can also drive pretty heavy with the occasional undulation caused by its additional 1,300-plus pounds of weight. But the EV9’s high price and today’s imperfect charging network are what make me recommend the Tellurides. -Dave VanderWerp
Vehicle type: Front and rear drive, 4-wheel drive, 6-passenger, 4-door wagon
Base/as tested (grandfather Estimates: $75,395 / $77,500
Front motor: AC synchronous with permanent magnet, 189 hp, 258 lb-ft
Rear motor: AC synchronous with permanent magnet, 189 hp, 258 lb-ft
Combined power: 379 hp
Combined Torque: 516 lb-ft
Battery Pack: Liquid-cooled lithium-ion, 99.8 kWh
Internal charger: 10.9 kW
Peak DC fast charging rate: 215 kW
Transmission: direct drive
Suspension, F/R: Multi-link/struts
Brakes, F/R: 14.2″ ventilated disc/13.6″ ventilated disc
Tires: Hankook Ion Evo AS SUV
285/45R-21 113V M+SK
Wheelbase: 122.0 inches
Height: 197.4 inches
Width: 77.9 inches
Height: 70.1 inches
Passenger Size, F/M/R: 58/58/35 ft3
Payload Size, Rear F/M/R: 82/44/20 ft3
Net Weight: 5839 lbs
grandfather Test results
60 mph: 4.5 seconds
100 mph: 13.0 seconds
1/4 mile: 13.3 seconds at 101 mph
120 mph: 21.3 seconds
The above results remove a 1-foot subtraction for 0.3 seconds.
Rolling start, 5-60 mph: 4.7 seconds
Top Gear, 30-50 mph: 1.9 seconds
Top Gear, 50-70 mph: 2.9 seconds
Top speed (gov ltd): 126 mph
Braking, 70-0 mph: 184 ft
Braking, 100-0 mph: 365 ft
Road Grip, 300′ Ski Pad: 0.87 g
grandfather Fuel and shipping economy
Observed: 79 mpg
Highway driving at 75 mph: 76 mpg
75 mph highway range: 240 miles
Average DC fast charging rate, 10-90%: 139 kW
DC fast charge time, 10–90%: 37 minutes
EPA fuel economy.
Combined: 80 mpg
Range: 270 miles
grandfather Test explained
Although he grew up on a steady diet of typical Honda and Toyota models — or perhaps because of it — Joey Caparella had an obsession with the automobile industry throughout his childhood in Nashville, Tennessee. He found a way to write about cars for the school newspaper during his college years at Rice University, which eventually led him to move to Ann Arbor, Michigan, to start his first professional auto writing gig at Rice University. Car magazine. It was part of Car and driver Team since 2016 and now lives in New York City.