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2024 Kia EV9 sneak peek: Kia nailed this 3-row EV [First Drive]

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Damn. Just, damn. The 2024 Kia EV9 might just be the best new vehicle I’ve ever driven. Yeah. I said it. Damn.

I recently had the opportunity to take a brief sneak peek drive of the all-new three-row EV at Kia’s proving grounds in California. The EV9s we drove were early, early global-spec pre-production models, so we couldn’t drive on public roads. And, damn, if this is pre-production, I can’t imagine what the real-spec models will be like.

Up to 300 miles of range

The 2024 Kia EV9 will offer two different battery packs as well as all-wheel and rear-wheel-drive options. Therefore, there is a 75-mile difference between base range and best range. With the standard 76.1 kWh battery pack, you hit the low range of the estimate at 225 miles.

The best 300-mile range can be had with the extended-range battery pack and RWD drivetrain, which is only available in the Light trim. Otherwise, you’ll see between 270 and 285 miles of range with AWD models and the extended-range battery.

The EV9 is also equipped with 800 V charging architecture, which means at a DC fast-charge station, it will go from 10% to 80% charge in less than 25 minutes. When it goes on sale in Q4 of this year, it will be the only three-row SUV with this capability.

In addition to preconditioning that aids charge times, another nice feature on the EV9 is the available heat pump, which helps preserve range when it’s cold outside.

Because of the nature of our test on proving grounds, we didn’t have the opportunity to test either range or charging, so stay tuned for an at-home test, hopefully within the next few months. But on paper, these specs are impressive.

Towing range estimate done right

One of the pain points with EVs for those who want to tow is range – not only getting an accurate range estimate while towing but also the actual range itself. The 2024 Kia EV9 has a max tow rating of 5,000 pounds, which is solid for a midsize SUV – EV or no. While we don’t have official range estimates for the EV9 while towing, it’s safe to say, you should cut the range in half, at least, if you plan to tow.

But what’s cool here is that Kia takes the guess work out of range planning. If you hook up a trailer, the software in the vehicle will detect the weight and automatically adjust the range estimate based on driving with a load. That seems like a “duh” piece of tech that I don’t recall being on the Ford F-150 Lighting, which is supposed to do truck things like towing.

Furthermore, the native navigation will help you do route planning, so that it will program in charging stations at the appropriate point to ensure you reach your destination instead of brick the vehicle on the side of the highway.

While this doesn’t completely ease range anxiety – only building out the charging infrastructure will do that – it goes a long way toward helping.

kia EV9

Wireless CarPlay/Auto & other cool tech

For giggles, I used Bluetooth to connect my phone to the infotainment system while we were zipping along some dirt roads on a mild off-road course. To my surprise, it activated wireless Apple CarPlay. This a is a BFD because the 2024 Kia EV9 is the first Kia/Hyundai/Genesis vehicle to offer wireless CarPlay and Android Auto with its up-level, big-screen infotainment system. The reveal press release mentions CarPlay/Auto but doesn’t specify wireless. So, there you go.

Other cool tech includes 30 inches of display screen space, a premium Meridian audio system, a rear-camera mirror, adjustable and colorful ambient lighting, a configurable digital grille, digital key technology and vehicle-to-home backup generator capability.

Editor’s note: Yes, Kia and Hyundai vehicles have had wireless CarPlay in previous vehicles, but it was always with the small-screen, base infotainment system. It was always a point of contention that the base system got it, and the high-tech cool one did not. 

The best hands-free system so far?

In a closed 6-mile oval course, Kia let us play around with its new Advanced Highway Driving Assist system, which has hands-free capability. We were able to travel up to about 100 MPH with the adaptive cruise and steer functionality engaged, and the system kept the vehicle steady between the lane lines, even at the higher speeds. It even managed some gentle curves – all while my hands were off the steering wheel and feet off the throttle.

One of the interesting things Kia has done with this system is it allows for the driver to turn off adaptive cruise control, taking over control of the throttle response, all while maintaining the hands-free capability. Neither General Motor’s Super Cruise nor Ford’s Blue Cruise allows for this.

While I did notice a few glitches with the lane change assist, I’m chalking that up to the pre-pre-production nature of the vehicle, and I really can’t wait to test this on one of my Chicago-to-Indianapolis-to-Chicago road trips.

kia EV9

Ride and handling

The 2024 Kia EV9 weighs between 5,100 and 5,800 pounds, depending on trim and options, so it’s a heavy vehicle. You can feel it when cornering or playing around with aggressive maneuvers – which we did on a closed autocross course. But the heft doesn’t affect the acceleration or overall ride comfort.

In addition to autocross and ovals, we had the opportunity to do a brief off-road test – and I use the term “off-road” loosely. We were on well-traversed and fairly smooth dirt roads with one nice, steep decline in which we got to test the hill descent control – which did very well. Even on the bumpiest unbumpy bits, the EV9 remained well-mannered and kept the ride comfortable. With 7.8 inches of ground clearance, the EV9 isn’t meant to traverse the Rubicon Trail, but it will get you to an off-the-beaten-path camp site or trailhead.

Similar to the Kia EV6, the EV9 offers different levels of regenerative braking – from none all the way to one-pedal driving. Personally, I liked the one-pedal driving option because it allowed me to accelerate and brake simply by the pressure I placed on the accelerator pedal. To me that makes for a smoother driving experience with the side benefit of adding some battery charge.

As a petite driver, I had good visibility out of all the windows, and my driving position was really good.

If I had one complaint (seriously, I just found one thing to complain about), it would be that the seat bottom seems a bit too long for me – and with the available “Relaxation Mode” seats, I found the footrest that comes with those seats popped out just a bit and made the seat bottom seem even longer. I’m hoping that is a pre-production issue. But even if it isn’t, the good news is you don’t have to get them.

Trim breakdown

The 2024 Kia EV9 will be available in four trims and have two battery packs. The standard-range battery is only available on the base trim – as is RWD. The top three trims are only available with the extended-range battery and AWD.

Because we are still a few months ahead of the on-sale date, we don’t have any pricing information just yet. However, as heard behind the scenes, the EV9 will be competitively priced, and official pricing will be announced closer to launch when (hopefully) Tesla stops changing its prices every day.

For now, here’s the info we have on trim/battery/power breakdowns:

Light RWD: 76.1 kWh battery, 225 miles of range, 215 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque.

Light RWD: 99.8 kWh battery, 300 miles of range, 201 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque.

Wind AWD: 99.8 kWh battery, 285 miles of range, 379 horsepower and 443/516 pound-feet of torque.

Land AWD: 99.8 kWh battery, 275 miles of range, 379 horsepower and 443/516 pound-feet of torque.

GT-Line AWD: 99.8 kWh battery, 270 miles of range, 379 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque.

The bottom line

Because this is such an early test, specs and range estimates are still in the works, so don’t be surprised if some of the above numbers change.

The tl;dr version of my 2024 Kia EV9 review: This is the best EV I’ve driven to date, and if real-world testing lives up to the on-paper specs, Kia has a slam dunk with the 2024 EV9.

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Jill Ciminillo

Jill Ciminillo is the Managing Editor for Pickup Truck + SUV Talk as well as a Chicago-based automotive writer, YouTube personality and podcast host, with her articles and videos appearing in outlets throughout the U.S. Additionally, she co-hosts a weekly radio show on car stuff for a local Chicago station. Previously, Jill has been the automotive editor for both newspaper and broadcast media conglomerates. She is also a past president for the Midwest Automotive Media Association and has the distinction of being the first female president for that organization. Jill is also currently a juror for the North American Car, Utility and Truck of the Year (NACTOY).

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