Kia revealed Tuesday the next EV in its portfolio, a three-row flagship SUV called the EV9 that is packed with tech and a key product in the company’s mission to reach annual sales of 1.2 million battery electric vehicles by 2030.
The South Korean automaker didn’t disclose pricing, but it did provide numerous details on the SUV, which will go on sale in selected global markets in the second half of 2023. And more specs may come our way next week when the Kia EV9 makes its North American debut at the New York Auto Show.
While Kia hasn’t listed every market that the EV9 SUV will be sold, it is certainly one made for North America. Kia has already gained U.S. customers with its full-sized Telluride SUV. Now it’s betting that it can land even more customers with a large all-electric SUV that is likely more affordable than other similarly sized EVs on the market today, such as the Mercedes EQS SUV and the Rivian R1S.
The stakes are certainly high for the company. “In many ways we consider the Kia EV9 to be the new flagship for our brand,” Kia CEO Ho-sung Song said in a livestream that aired Tuesday. “While the Kia EV6 played an important role in repositioning the Kia brand following the launch in 2021, the Kia EV9 moves us further forward.”
Here are the features and tech that stood out in the all-electric Kia EV9 SUV.
The EV9 is a three-row SUV based on the company’s Electric Global Modular Platform (E-GMP) that has a 122-inch wheelbase and an overall length of 197 inches, putting it about in line with other full-size SUVs on the market today, including the popular internal combustion engine-powered Kia Telluride. The E-GMP platform is shared with Hyundai and is the underlying foundation of the Hyundai Ioniq 5 compact crossover.
The EV9 will be offered in a standard trim as well as a GT-line model design that includes a digital pattern lighting grille and other exterior features that distinguish it from its base model counterpart. Buyers will be able to pick from different electric powertrain configurations, including a rear-wheel drive standard model with a 76.1 kilowatt-hour battery and RWD and all-wheel drive variants with a 99.8-kWh battery.
The RWD long-range vehicle has an estimated range of 541 kilometers (or 336 miles) under the WLTP (Worldwide Harmonized Light Vehicles Test Procedure) metric. (WLTP is typically more generous than the EPA estimates.) It also comes equipped with a 150 kW electric motor that allows it to accelerate from 0 to 100 km per hour (62 mph) in 9.4 seconds, according to the company. The standard RWD version of the EV9 also comes with a more powerful 160 kW electric motor that can accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h in 8.2 seconds.
The EV9 is also equipped with an 800-volt electrical architecture that allows ultra-fast charging of about 239 km (or 136 miles) added to the battery in 15 minutes.
Kia will launch a store it’s calling the Kia Connect Store, where customers can buy digital features and services on demand. For instance, a Kia EV9 owner might decide after their purchase that they do want that remote smart parking assist feature. Now they’ll be able to open the Kia app and select that item to upgrade the vehicle via an over-the-air software update.
Owners will also be able to upgrade the performance and lighting features.
Speaking of lighting, Kia is using the EV9 to launch what it calls a “digital tiger face.”
No, there are not any tigers on, or in, this vehicle. Instead, it’s a playful name for a new lighting scheme on the front grille. Adjacent to the two vertical headlamps are two clusters of small cube lamps that create an animated lighting pattern. Owners will be able to change the design of the digital tiger face.
Inside the Kia EV9 is a curved digital screen that extends from the driver seat across the center point.
The Kia EV9 also comes with a few interior options, including a seven-seater or six-seater configuration and a variety of second-row seat options.
One neat feature is the ability for the second-row seats — if they are the special “swivel” ones — to pivot 180 degrees to allow passengers to face each other. This option is meant to be used while the SUV is charging. The vehicle is also equipped with charging points and cup holders, including in the third row.
Kia is also leaning into the sustainability angle for this vehicle. But it appears to be more than mere greenwashing. The company is phasing out the use of leather and increasing bio-based materials such as corn, sugar cane and natural oils in its aim to increase the proportion of recycled plastics it uses to 20% by 2030.
The company is using 70 PET bottles in each EV9, as well as recycled fishing nets for the floor mats.
The Kia EV9 will also have vehicle-to-load capabilities, which is a fancy way of saying it can act as a mobile power source. The EV9, like its EV6 sibling, will be able to supply up 3.68 kW of power. That’s enough power to charge a smartphone or laptop or even camping equipment “for the ultimate driving adventure,” the company said.
By the way, the data points tied to the 3.68 kW of power pertains specifically to the European market, where the standard voltage is 230 V. Data on maximum power varies by market, according to Kia.
Kia is targeting an advanced driver assistance system in the Kia EV9 GT-line that allows for unsupervised hands-free driving on highways in select markets. The system, called highway driving pilot, would provide so-called Level 3 automated driving, which would theoretically allow for a driver to be hands off and eyes off in certain conditions.
To allow for that, Kia is adding 15 sensors, including two lidar, radar and cameras for a full 360-degree field of view that lets the system detect and react to the road and other users to prevent potential collisions.
The highway driving pilot (HDP) system will only be available in certain markets, according to the company.
There will be a number of other active safety features in the vehicle, including a rear cross-traffic collision-avoidance assist to prevent collisions with oncoming vehicles when reversing. The ADAS will also keep the vehicle in its lane and maintain speed and distance from vehicles in front of it, and a detection system will ensure drivers are engaged.
The EV9 is set to make its inaugural physical debut at the Seoul Mobility Show 2023 later this month. It will then be showcased at this year’s New York International Auto Show in early April.