2024 Kia EV9 First Drive Review: Kia's three-row EV is a big achievement

2024 Kia EV9 First Drive Review: Kia's three-row EV is a big achievement

LOS ANGELES — Back in 2020, Kia made a huge impression with its Telluride three-row SUV. It gained unanimous praise and numerous awards for its spaciousness, design and general excellence. With four years under its belt, the Telluride remains the best in its class, even in the face of newer rivals. So what's next? Simply put, take all that worked with the Telluride and combine it with elements of another Kia hit, the electric EV6. The result is the 2024 Kia EV9, and it raises the question: “Can lightning strike thrice?”

We were some of the first to drive the all-new EV9 in its U.S.-spec form at the Hyundai/Kia proving grounds in the high desert north of Los Angeles. After putting this three-row electric SUV through its paces in a variety of conditions, we can answer that question with a confident, "yes."

When the EV9 goes on sale at the end of 2023, it will be offered in five trims: Light, Light Long Range, Wind, Land and GT-Line. Unfortunately, pricing is not yet available.

The entry-level Light model comes with a 76.1-kilowatt-hour battery pack in the floor that powers a single motor on the rear axle. Range is estimated by Kia at 223 miles on a full charge and power output comes to 215 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. That’s a modest amount of a heavy three-row vehicle, but it should still get the EV9 to 60 mph in a not-slow 7.7 seconds.


The Light Long Range steps up to a 99.8-kWh battery and dials back output to 201 hp (torque remains the same). That should push the range to 300 miles, but significantly lengthens its 0-60 time to 8.8 seconds. If you're looking for the longest-range model in the EV9 lineup, this is it.

Things get more serious with the Wind trim. It adds a second motor up front for all-wheel-drive and a combined output of 379 hp and 443 lb-ft. Range drops to a still-above-average 270 miles and acceleration improves to a rapid 5.7 seconds. If you opt for the larger 20-inch wheels, range is further reduced to 253 miles. It's also worth noting that Kia will offer a Boost “Feature on Demand” (FoD) that can be purchased through the infotainment system that increases torque to 516 lb-ft. We'll get into FoD a bit later.

The Land trim has identical power output specs as the Wind, but its standard 20-inch wheels have it stuck at 253 miles of range.

The top GT-Line comes with the higher 516 lb-ft of torque and 21-inch wheels, resulting in an estimated range of 243 miles. It should hit 60 mph in only 5.0 seconds.

Although battery size and performance contribute to range, so does efficiency, and for that, the EV9 isn’t exactly miserly. While a long-range, all-wheel-drive EV6 returns an EPA-estimated 109 miles-per-gallon equivalent (mpg-e), the comparable EV9 Wind AWD is good for only 79 mpg-e. It goes down to 71 for the GT-Line (and conversely, up to 86-87 mpg-e for the Light trims). This is akin to a Rivian R1S. Electricity isn’t free, so much like gas-powered family vehicles, opting for a bigger model is going to cost you more to refuel.

We drove the top GT-Line throughout the day and came away impressed. As expected, acceleration is immediate and with no drama. Just floor the pedal and the EV9 tracks straight in relative silence. It's quicker than most drivers will ever need. In panic stops from 70 mph, the blocky SUV is just as stable and controllable. Kia claims it will come to a stop from 62 mph in 128 feet, which is respectable for a vehicle weighing between 5,000 and 5,900 pounds (a Telluride tops out at only about 4,500).

When navigating turns, the EV9 exhibits some body roll, but it's not at all excessive. It traces through curves with confidence and transitions between left and rights gracefully. When pushed harder than is prudent, this big SUV still feels stable, though it doesn't encourage you to push it further. The front tires predictably surrender grip first and you have plenty of time to react and regain full control. You can indeed have some fun behind the wheel, but most three-row SUV drivers will never have the desire to. Instead, the handling dynamics serve to instill high levels of assurance when you need to maneuver in an instant.

We also had the opportunity to test the EV9 on a moderate off-road course. With only 7.8 inches of ground clearance, its terrain capabilities are somewhat limited, but short front and rear overhangs help quite a bit. You wouldn't want to attempt tougher terrain with big rocks or deep mud, but steep climbs up dirt trails should be no problem.

Despite the EV9's ability to tackle these conditions and its buttoned-down handling, the ride quality remains pleasantly comfortable. It's tuned more for compliance and bumps in the road are well smoothed over. At the same time, it's not so soft as to feel floaty. The suspension tuning just feels right for a three-row SUV (much like the Telluride), which is saying something since the EV9 does not benefit from adaptive dampers.

In addition to the EV9's commendable driving manners, it also has some solid charging stats. The larger battery is able to charge at a 215-kW rate on a DC fast charger and should only require 24 minutes to get from a 10- to 80-percent charge. The smaller battery can get there four minutes quicker. That seems like a just-right amount of time for a whole-family pit stop. With an 11-kW Level 2 home charger (or similar public charger), you can expect a full charge to take almost nine hours while the smaller battery will get there in under seven hours.