Test Drive: Kia EV9 Offers Style, Power, Efficiency

Editor's Note: This story ran in a previous edition.

The Kia EV9 has won award after award this year, for good reason.

It offers three rows for passengers and tons of cargo space when the third and/or second row are folded down. It’s stylish, with touches like retracting door handles that give the vehicle’s sleek lines an even more aerodynamic look. 

The starting price of the EV9 Land AWD (the long-range version) is $69,900, and the well-equipped vehicle I test drove came in at $74,230. The base 2024 EV9 Light RWD version starts at $54,900.

By comparison, it’s less than other three-row luxury vehicles such as the Cadillac Escalade (starting at $89,090) or the Jeep Grand Wagoneer (starting at $93,945). A comparable EV might be the Tesla Model X, which starts at $84,880 for the seven-seater or $87,880 for the six-seater.  

I think it offers a lot for the money -- and bonus, it felt easier to park than most large vehicles I have test driven lately. I even backed into a very narrow space in a crowded parking lot with relative ease thanks to the aid of the vehicle screen showing several camera angles, including overhead. (The Panoramic Wide Display combines a 12.3-inch cluster, a 12.3-inch infotainment screen, and a 5.3-inch HVAC segment display.)

Driving an electric vehicle as my “daily driver” for a week gives me a chance to assess the state of public EV chargers in southeastern Michigan.  

I was happy to discover there are six ChargePoint chargers in the downtown Detroit parking lot near the Detroit Institute of Arts. 

Even more delightful, they are free, and unlimited parking is only $7. They are only Level 2, but that makes sense since folks are likely leaving their car for 2-3 hours or more when they go to the museum, a movie or dinner. 

I parked in this lot three separate times over the weekend since I was seeing movies nearby during the Detroit Free Press film festival. I added 63, 60 and 78 miles of range in 2-3 hours. ( I could have added more range during the second charging session — which was four hours — but my battery reached 100% full midway through the session.)

The “fuel economy” is an impressive 83 miles MPGe (the battery equivalent of miles per gallon of gas). Like all EVs, the driving range varies depending on conditions and usage. 

With a full charge, you can expect to get 280 miles, but could get as high as 393 miles or as low as 190 miles. I really like that the vehicle screen gives you all three numbers so you can better predict when you will need to stop for a charge. 

I think it’s important that all consumers begin to understand how EV charging works. There are some variables to consider. Let me explain.

No, it’s not as simple as going to a gas station, filling up your tank in 5 minutes, and then getting back on the road. But I challenge you to find a gas-powered (aka internal combustion engine or ICE vehicle) that gets 83 MPG. 

There are generally two different types of public chargers — Level 2 and Level 3.  Level 3 are “fast chargers,” but not all fast chargers offer the same output and not every vehicle charges at the same rate of speed on the same charger. Just like some vehicles have bigger gas engines (and therefore take longer to fill and can offer a higher range of miles) the same holds true with EVs. 

The Kia EV9 is equipped with a Combined Charging System socket which allows for ultra-fast charging -- up to 210 kW - thanks to the multi-input charging system that is compatible with both 400-volt and 800-volt chargers.

With 800-volt ultra-high speed charging, 15 minutes of charging results in up to about 155 miles of all-electric driving range for the RWD version and up to 140 miles for the AWD versions. This means that the EV9 can be charged from 10% to 80% in only 24 minutes.

The 80% figure is important. Even on a fast charger, it takes longer to charge the last 20% to get to a “full” 100% battery. So it’s way less time-consuming to only charge to 80% rather than to try to “fill up” to 100%. The last 20% of charging should be relegated to lengthier charging sessions either on a home or public Level 2 charger — like the one I used downtown over the weekend. 

During another short trip over the weekend, I was disheartened to discover not a single public charger in the Detroit suburb of Birmingham, Michigan with the exception of two Tesla chargers. While many vehicle manufacturers are switching up their hardware to allow non-Tesla vehicles to use Tesla's NACS charging ports in 2025, we aren’t there yet. 

So the two hours I spent in Birmingham at a movie was a missed opportunity for charging. If I had found and plugged into a charger before the movie, I might have been inclined to go for coffee or a snack after the movie and give the city’s businesses some patronage. Instead I headed home. 

Driving on Woodward Avenue away from Birmingham, there were the typical Saturday night driving hijinks happening around me, with engines being gunned at stoplights. I noticed two vehicles in particular that seemed to be “challenging” each other. They didn’t know it, but my three-row SUV could take them both. At least that’s what I was thinking, but I didn’t try.

However, upon researching, I discovered the 2019 Dodge Challenger's base engine, a 3.6L V6, puts out 305 horsepower and 268 lb-ft of torque while the standard trim 2023 Chevrolet Camaro has a 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder engine that delivers 275 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque

Per my suspicions, the 2024 Kia EV9 Land AWD has both of them beat with 379 horsepower and 443 lb.-ft. of torque. 

I’m not going to start challenging sports cars to races on Woodward, but it’s nice to know I could whup them if I did. It’s just another trick the stylish Kia EV9 has up its sleeve. 

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