KIA EV9 can take on cars or SUVs with ease

John Gilbert

After eagerly awaiting the chance to test drive the new, 2024 KIA EV9, when it finally showed up it seemed like only a minor delay to wait while the pure-electric (EV) vehicle was fully charged up for me. We have driven EVs at various times over the last three years, so we know all about being able to beat the challenge of what they call “range anxiety.”

The EV9 model was, technically, a “GT-Line AWD with long range AWD.” That meant its system would be equipped to take the anxiety out of the range, capable of taking on an 800-volt charge from a fast-charging station to restore the electric “fuel” for the 88.7 kWh lithium-ion high-voltage battery pack. The power goes to both front and rear electric motors, one of which op-erates the front wheels and the other the rear.

In addition, the test vehicle included a DC fast-charge port for the 800 volt chargers, but also a heat pump to let you keep the interior and engine warmed up before starting to eliminate the heat loss in severe cold. It also has an on-board power generator connector

In design, the EV9 has similarities to the EV6, except instead of being short and blunt, the EV9 is stretched out, with a sloping, aerodynamic rear hatch. That’s so the EV9 can house a third-row seat, making it a very capable six-person hauler.
Range anxiety is that stretch of time when EV drivers start white-knuckling the steering wheel out of worry that they will run out of electric power before they reach their destination — or the next charging station. There are two issues at work here, one being the driver/owner carelessness in not recharging before the amount of stored electricity is running low, and the second is not blaming the area you’re driving to for its lack of charging facilities.

EVs are few in the area of Duluth, Minnesota, the cliffside city on the western tip of Lake Superior, because manufacturers are reluctant to sell EVs in an area not blessed with a lot of charging stations. The odd thing about Duluth is that there are a solid number of charging stations within the city, with one very important location, down near Canal Park. It has about 20 charging stations for EVs, and it has one “Level 3” charger, which can charge about five times faster than the slower Level 2 chargers.

The Level 2 charger delivers 240 volts, which will take 15 hours to fully charge a completely depleted EV, while a Level 3 can pump out 800 volts and do the job in about 3 hours. So travelers and impatient locals line up to use the single Level 3 charger, and the guys delivering the car notified me that the Level 3 charger was out of order, so they had plugged into the takes-all-day alternative. We had noticed a couple weeks earlier that the Level 3 device was out of order, and while I was surprised it was still on the fritz, I had found an alternative. Duluth Kia, the city’s dealership in the West End, has an outdoor charging receptacle and willingly allowed us to use it previously.

It took several hours to get the EV9 up to “full,” which indicated that even in the spring chill we were experiencing in our snowless winter, we should have a range of 270 miles from that charge. If you believe the manufacturer’s numbers — and I do — that translates to 88 miles per gallon city, and 72 mpg highway, which means the electric motors will use up 42 kjQWh per 100 miles.

We drove the vehicle — officially classified as an SUV — as our primary transportation all week, although in the last couple of days we decided to charge it up for the long haul back from Duluth to Chicago.

The high-speed Level 3 charger was still out of order, so we got creative about finding alternatives. We found an excellent restaurant on the North Shore — the Ledge Rock Grille — and they had a charging station. We plugged in, and took our time to enjoy a wonderful meal. When we came out, it had built up some stored electricity, but by the time we drove 20 miles to our home, we had pretty well used that all up.

The power from the electric motors turns the EV9 into a comfortable, roomy vehicle with the capabilities of a drag-racer, and accelerating into traffic is a breeze. A couple of times, I pulled out onto the freeway and saw a car coming around the curve behind us; I stepped on the gas pedal hard, and by the time I could glance at the instruments we were doing 85. Whoa!

The sticker price rises swiftly when you order the dual-motor, all-wheel-drive version, taking the price of the very comfortable and well-appointed EV9 from a base price of $73,900 to a sticker price of $78,430. That includes an option such as the very neat “Ocean Blue” paint job, which adds $695 by itself.

It balance and suspension coordinate to allow you to drive the EV9 as though you were preparing for a slalom. It may cut and swerve at your command, but it remains stable and firmly planted. The front buckets are covered in SynTex, a leather-like material that is tougher.

The EV9 includes the full complement of KIA safety features, including collision alerts front, rear and side; blind-side and rear cross-traffic alerts; are exit assist; parking distance warning front, side and rear; collision-avoidance assist’ navigation-based smart cruise; and a full surround camera. Dual 12.3-inch screens make it easy to follow navigation and other vitals, and the Meridian Premium audio system, heater vents in the first and second rows of seats dual sunroofs with the rear one fixed, and a power liftgate are simply classy comfort features.

The GT-Line adds 21=inch alloy wheels over the standard 20s, and you get increased towing capacity and self-leveling rear suspension, which helps with that sporty-car fee of handling,

I listen to ultra-right radio announcers belittle EVs and rave about how unnecessary they are, and how they prefer gas-engined cars. But we’re speeding into the future, and the day I heard the radio guys belittle EVs, I had to acknowledge that the lack of fast-charging facilities in Duluth made their argument seem valid. Then I noticed that every gas station in Duluth that I drove past had jacked its price for regular gas by 39 cents since the previous day. What would we do if they started raising it by 50 cents, or a dollar, a couple times a month?

What we’d do is start looking for an impressive and trouble-free electric vehicle. They’re coming, folks. Now if we can just get Duluth to expand their charing stations.