Review: 2024 Kia EV9 GT-Line Sets the Borders of the Brand’s Electric Empire

The E-GMP platform continues to impress in this airy SUV, but there’s a price to pay for being the heaviest Kia ever

June 3, 2024 6:23 am
The 2024 Kia EV9 GT-Line, which we tested and reviewed
A legitimately stylish three-row electric SUV? Yes, please.
Kia

Both Kia and Hyundai (and by extension, luxury brand Genesis) have enjoyed fantastic success with the E-GMP platform, a happy marriage of battery power and electric motors that underpins several of the best EVs currently available at any price. Modular, affordable and supporting some of the most stylish sheet metal in the industry, the Korean conglomerate’s decision to go all-in on electrification has paid exceptional dividends.

It was only natural, then, to take the next step with E-GMP and stuff its charms underneath a larger SUV-shaped silhouette to take advantage of the American public’s seemingly unquenchable thirst for all things utility-focused. Enter the 2024 Kia EV9, the largest interpretation of the shared platform to date — three rows, with six or seven seats — and one that at first seems to deliver when it comes to range, cost and eye-catching design.

Vehicle2024 Kia EV9
Trim TestedGT-Line AWD
Starting Price$56,395
Price of Model Tested$78,090
Vehicle TypeThree-row SUV
MotorDual-motor EV, 379 hp / 516 lb-ft of torque
Range270 miles

Time spent in the company of the EV9 did indeed confirm that many of the best aspects of the E-GMP era continue forward despite the Kia’s plus-size proportions. That same embiggening, however, has introduced the first real set of flaws to be found in this previously successful formula, and indicate that development is never a done deal when pushing the limit.

Kia EV9 electric SUV driving down the road
If the Kia Soul got a major glow up.
Kia

Top Marks for Style

Kia has long known how to nip and tuck a cube-like shape for maximum visual impact, and indeed, there’s more than a little of the compact Soul crossover informing the EV9’s upright angles. Add to that the excellent use of lighting elements front and rear, as well as wide hips and beefy shoulders for each respective axle, and the overall impression is that of a solid yet not overbearing sport-utility vehicle that compares well with luxury models seemingly above its station.

Review: Kia Goes After a New Crowd With the Upscale EV6
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The interior of the EV9 is similarly laudable, although there are signs that Kia is beginning to buy into the minimalism that has stripped some other electric car cabins of their individuality. Door panels, seats and dashboard present well and offer respectable amounts of stretch-out and storage room, with the second row’s legroom particularly impressive. There’s a third row of accommodations that fold up from the floor when needed, and they’re perfectly acceptable as far as back-row seats go.

Personally, I kept them flat and availed myself of the EV9’s excellent 43.5 cubic feet of luggage space to haul a set of bulky speakers rescued from a renovated movie theater. You can almost double that measure with the second row tilted forward, and a tiny frunk is also on-hand, but given that my model featured all-wheel drive (which intrudes into forward cargo room) I was looking at just under two cubic feet of storage in that compartment.

Storage space in the back of Kia's new three-row electric SUV
Not only is there tons of space in back but there’s a frunk, too.
Kia

Sidelining the Human Factor

Back to the minimalism: Kia still offers hard button controls on the steering wheel and a small section of the dashboard and center console, but the primary focus is directed to a screen that stretches, visually unbroken, from in front of the driver to nearly the passenger side of the vehicle. It’s here that the gauge cluster, infotainment and climate controls find themselves sequestered.

I had no real issue with the first two screens segments, but the latter is squeezed between its companions and hidden behind the arc of the steering wheel, making it a pain to interact with (and difficult to see). Two other sets of controls — the start/stop button integrated into the column-mounted shifter (similarly blocked by the steering wheel) and a row of touch-sensitive menu selectors just under the infotainment screen (which I activated by accident, on every single drive, just by resting my palm as I navigated the LCD display) — are similarly problematic. 

The EV9’s ergonomic disappointments are a bit puzzling given how well-executed Kia and Hyundai’s other EV controls are, and suggest that the human behind the wheel took second place to sleekness when designing the cockpit.

The dashboard and infotainment in the 2024 Kia EV9 SUV
Thankfully there are plenty of physical buttons to go with the enlarged screen, but there are a few quirks.
Kia

Pay Up or Sit Out

Another irritating bit of business is the insistence of Kia on relegating several features to subscription or digital download only. These include a power boost for some AWD models, as well as a parking assistance feature and a number of front lighting configuration choices for certain trim levels.

Subscription features are the slippery slope that seemingly the entire industry is currently poised at the precipice of. Questions abound: Does that power boost transfer to the next owner, or are customers expected to pay for something that won’t also “boost” re-sale? And are they looking at potential service interruptions if a software error biffs their payment method or the car can’t connect to Kia’s servers in time? It’s a can of worms, and it’s finally here should you wish to tempt the digital fates.

2024 Kia EV9 GT-Line driving around a turn next to a cliff
Weighing just under 6,000 pounds leads to some unique issues for the EV9.
Kia

Two Left Feet

The base versions of the EV9 (dubbed Light) are restricted to rear-wheel drive, a 76.1-kWh battery and 230 miles of range, but you can step up to a larger 99.8-kWh battery to give that same setup 304 miles of driving distance through the Light Long Range trim level. You’ll have to be comfortable with somewhat glacial acceleration if you choose the latter, as the extra power pack’s weight adds more than a second to the vehicle’s sprint to 60 mph (checking in at nine seconds). All-wheel drive starts with the Wind trim and continues through to the Land and GT-Line models, each of which come with 379 horsepower (a hearty jump over the entry-level 201 horsepower rating) and 443 lb-ft of torque (516 lb-ft if you spring for the Boost option, which is standard with the GT-Line). 

Even with the big battery in place, official range drops to 270 miles for the GT-Line I drove, which I was very nearly able to match with a 260-mile-per-charge performance while driving long distance. While not overly impressive as compared to similarly-sized rivals like the Tesla Model X (which provides up to 335 miles of range), this is an extremely heavy vehicle that has forgone an aerodynamic egg-shape so that its owners don’t die of boredom every time they see it in their driveway. As handsome as they might be, the GT-Line’s big 21-inch wheels don’t help stretch its boots, either.

The EV9’s weight largely disappears when romping on the accelerator, with forward progress meted out in smooth and urgent increments. As always, Kia’s E-GMP drivetrain was a genuine pleasure in nearly all circumstances, and its equally quick charging capability — 10% to 80% in 24 minutes — helps on longer road trips as long as you have access to a good DC fast-charging network.

Where the EV9 falls flat, however, is its body control. Simply put, this Kia offers the worst performance over broken pavement of any large SUV I’ve sampled over the past several years. Hitting expansion joints on a bridge, potholes on a two-lane road or even a patch of rough asphalt sends the vehicle’s chassis into a paroxysm of diagonal twist, heaving both ends of the automobile up and down and bobbing the heads of passengers back and forth, and side to side. 

Such was the lack of damping from its shock absorbers that my initial thoughts turned to broken springs, but a quick browse of Kia owner forums online revealed similar complaints from nearly every GT-Line driver. It’s surprising to me that the EV9 left the factory in this state of tune, but given that this model is longer and heavier than the gas-powered Telluride (until now the brand’s largest and weightiest vehicle), it’s entirely possible that the SUV is brushing up against a previously unexplored 6,000-pound limit for its platform (the GT-Line curb weight is around 5,800 pounds). 

The 2024 Kia EV9 SUV, which we tested and reviewed
Your options for three-row electric SUVs are still limited. Is this the one for you?
Kia

Good, But Just Short of Great

I would love to be able to offer the same unreserved recommendation for the Kia EV9 that I have previously lavished on the EV6 and its Hyundai companion, the Ioniq 5. And yet, it seems as though expanding the automaker’s electric platform to such heft has introduced a significant comfort and handling issue that no other vehicle in its class — EV or otherwise — experiences. Throw in the annoyances inherent in its user interface and subscription features, and the questionable decision to saddle entry-level models with a mere 201 horsepower, and the EV9 is more of a mixed bag than outright success.

Pricing also remains a caveat. Kia will be importing its batteries from elsewhere until the 2025 model year, which means the EV9 doesn’t currently benefit from the $7,500 federal tax credit. You’ll pay full freight for the GT-Line’s nearly $75,000 price tag, which pushes past the cheaper, longer-range Tesla Model X, but matches the ask for the Rivian R1S while sticking well below the substantially more expensive Mercedes-Benz EQS SUV.

Still, there are very few three-row, big-boned electric haulers out there — in fact, that’s currently all of them (at least until the Volvo EX90 and the Cadillac Escalade IQ arrive). If you’re looking to avoid Elon, but aren’t certain about a boutique brand like Rivian, the EV9 delivers a mainstream ownership experience attached to a large dealer network and a proven battery and drivetrain technology. The bottom line? While it might not raise eyebrows with its range or smooth ride, the EV9 GT-Line looks great and offers the kind of airy, upscale habitat that many buyers are seeking out.

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