Kia's EV9 offers a glimpse at the family SUV of the future, and although it's not quite perfect, it comes seriously close to it.

If you’re ever in charge of a rebrand at a company – whether you’re selling cars, phones, shoes, kitchenware, or anything else you can think of – the blueprint to follow has to be the way Kia has turned itself from a maker of economy cars to seriously desirable and head-turning eye candy. Not that long ago, its vehicles were little more than white-goods wearing an equally pedestrian badge, but over the past handful of years it has switched to selling sporty cars like the Stinger and EV6 wearing a far classier signature-like badge.

This upmarket push in terms of design and performance is now being reflected with upmarket prices, too, and the brand’s latest creation is its largest, most powerful, and most expensive yet. Meet the EV9 GT-Line, an all-electric seven-seat behemoth wearing a whopping $121,000 price tag. Mind you, even though this is the range-topping model and the brand’s new flagship, the entry-level Air model will still set you back $97,000 before on-road costs, so whichever way you look at it, you’re talking BMW X5 and Land Rover Discovery money now.

Mind you, you’re somehow getting even more presence and aura than that steep price tag would suggest, as this is one of the biggest head-turners I’ve driven in some time. I’d wager it even got more looks than the departing Jaguar F-Type across my time spent with each of them. Unmissably large and unmistakably bold, it actually looks Range Rover-esque with its blocky proportions. The ‘square’ wheel design is perhaps the only polarising part of it to my eyes, although I actually like how these massive 21-inch wheels look in person. Even the off-centre placement of the Kia logo adds something, even if it’ll tick off OCD sufferers.

Inside, all models feature a conventional 2-3-2 seating arrangement, although the lack of second-row captain’s chairs in this range-topping model is more than excused by the amount of space that’s on offer. Plus, despite what its size might lead you to believe, this is really a vehicle built for driving rather than being driven in.

Most surfaces are adorned in either black, grey, or white artificial leather, with this tri-tone colour scheme bringing some real visual interest to the cabin, along with a bright and welcoming feeling. Although you can tell that the leather is artificial, it still feels high quality, with the seats being particularly plush and well-cushioned. There’s even the clever inclusion of mesh headrests which cushion the blow as the EV9’s instantaneous torque plunges you into the back of the seat.

As with most Kia models, there’s a wrap-around panel housing the instrument display and infotainment screen, both of which are 12.3-inch screens which are impressively clear and responsive. There’s also a 5.0-inch display between them to operate the climate controls, although the driver’s view of it is slightly obfuscated by the steering wheel. Mind you, there are at least a couple of rocker switches for controlling the temperature, along with some touch-capacitive shortcut buttons for the infotainment system on the middle of the dashboard.

Indeed, Kia has even leaned so far into the tech-forward feeling of the EV9 by illuminating the logo on the steering wheel – something I’ve silently been wanting to see in a car for years, with the small lights on the steering wheel of the Hyundai Ioniq 6 the closest thing until now. Mind you, Kia has managed to do fancy things like this, but both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto still require a cable to operate.

However, there are still plenty of other gadgets to keep you impressed such as augmented reality navigation instructions on the head-up display, a 14-speaker Meridian audio system, heated and ventilated seats for the first and second row, a massage function for the driver’s seat, a heated steering wheel, two sunroofs, 64-colour ambient lighting, wireless phone charging, and even a fingerprint scanner so you can feel like a movie spy every time you start your car.

Given its proportions, there’s plenty of storage space inside, including some handy cubbies in the centre console including one with retractable cup holders under a sliding cover up top, and a big box on the floor where the transmission would normally be which is perfect for handbags and the like.

In terms of boot space, there’s an impressive 333 litres with all three rows in place which is more than you’ll see in many seven seaters, owing to this EVs improved packaging flexibility. With the third-row folded flat, the space expands to 828 litres, while there’s 2318 litres with the second-row folded down as well. There’s also 52 litres in the frunk with a 20kg weight limit, although the base single-motor model sees this expand to 90 litres with a 40kg limit. Do be aware, though, of the EV9’s limited GVM which at 3240kg only allows for 604kg which could easily be met by a whole family with a few bags or suitcases in the boot.

Lift off the EV9’s gargantuan body, and you’ll find an electric motor hooked up to each axle which together deliver 283kW and a whopping 700Nm, enough to launch this 2636kg barge from 0-100km/h in just 5.3 seconds. A lot of that weight – 566.5kg to be precise – comes just from the massive 99.8kWh lithium-ion battery pack alone, which delivers a claimed 505km of driving range.

As you’d expect, the EV9 feels mega off the line, as the massive dollop of torque it delivers feels like it could create a tear in the space-time continuum. A vehicle this heavy has no right to be as quick as it is, but it’s clear that it has inherited the same driver-first DNA of the smaller EV6.

While both electric motors are identical, there’s a surprisingly tail-happy feel to the EV9 – especially on looser surfaces – which gives it a surprisingly sporty character, although comfort is still certainly first and foremost. There’s no disguising its weight, but it actually handles confidently for such a large vehicle thanks to its quick steering and low centre of gravity. The GT-Line badging isn’t just for show.

For long-distance driving or on city streets, however, the EV9 feels most at home. The ride quality is supple despite the big wheels, you’ll feel as though you’re sitting on a cartoon cloud thanks to the plush massage seat, and the cabin is utterly serene – unless, of course, you’ve turned on the fake engine or spaceship noises it can play through the speakers as you accelerate.

I mention long-distance driving, and while not often considered a strong point for most electric vehicles, the EV9’s massive battery helps it significantly in this regard. Although the official energy consumption claim is 22.8kWh/100km, I managed to do significantly better during my 861km of testing without really trying, with the indicated average of 20.5kWh/100km allowing for a realistic 486km per charge.

The only drawback for keen drivers will be that it feels quite isolating behind the wheel, with little feedback from the suspension or steering rack, but that’s in keeping with its more luxurious aspirations. In that regard, the driving experience feels every bit as Range Rover as it looks, and that’s important considering the price bracket it falls into.

As far as I’m concerned, the experience behind the wheel does genuinely live up to the price point, which is why you’ll note I’ve not been too cynical about that six-figure dealer sticker. The things that help any vehicle live up to that price point are difficult to put your finger on or convey in writing, but there’s a real air of quality and consideration in the way it drives. Considering how many EVs are entering the market right now, that’s all the more important as it helps the EV9 stand out for more than its looks alone.

As with all Kia models, it’s covered by an impressive seven-year unlimited kilometre warranty, although the seven-year/150,000km battery warranty is both a year and 10,000km short of the industry average.

Rather than capped price servicing as with most models, Kia offers pre-paid servicing packages for its electric models including the EV9. Pricing is quite reasonable at a cost of $706 for three years, $1351 for five years, or $1997 for seven years. Servicing is required every 12 months/15,000km and so long as you have it performed by a Kia dealer, you’ll receive up to eight years of complimentary roadside assistance.

With few pure electric rivals to compare it to, the Kia EV9 sits in a class of its own, although the performance and comfort it delivers helps it square up confidently against its internal combustion-powered rivals. Paying $121,000 for a Kia is a big pill to swallow at first glance, but this is no ordinary Kia, and Kia is quickly morphing into no ordinary brand.

Quite simply, the EV9 feels very complete. There’s really nothing to nitpick here, with everything from its looks to the cabin to the way it drives feeling well-rounded and cleverly thought out. Of course, the general talking points and controversies surrounding EVs still apply, but on its own merit this is a shining beacon of just how far Kia has come, and it’s seriously compelling at that.

While it could do with more flexibility in terms of its GVM since the big, heavy battery doesn’t do it any favours in the weight department, it drives better than a car this big and heavy has any right to while still maintaining an air of comfort and luxury. Like the EV6 GT which blew me away with just how good it is when I tested it last year, the EV9 here isn’t perfect either… but blimey, does it come close to it.

2024 Kia EV9 GT-Line AWD List Price: $121,000
  • 9/10
    Performance - 9/10
  • 9/10
    Ride & Handling - 9/10
  • 9/10
    Tech & Features - 9/10
  • 8.5/10
    Practicality - 8.5/10
  • 7.5/10
    Value for Money - 7.5/10

Pros: Plush ride quality and seating, packed with techy features, has some serious presence in the metal, goes quicker and handles better than it has any right to
Cons: Doesn’t have wireless Apple CarPlay despite the other thoughtful tech, heavy weight and limited GVM means tight payload, it’s the most expensive Kia ever made

Full Disclosure: The vehicle tested here was provided by Kia Motors Australia for one week with a full charge upon collection. All additional charging expenses were covered by the author.

Patrick Jackson
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