Final Thoughts On Kia’s EV9

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About a week ago, Kia dropped something pretty special in my driveway: an EV9 GT-Line! I have to admit that I was a little skeptical at first, but I also remembered being pretty impressed with a Sorento Hybrid I reviewed in 2021. So, the big question was this: would Kia impress us with its first 7-seat electric SUV? Or, would the company fail and go back to its ’90s roots when trying something new with EVs?

On the first day, I was pretty impressed with the vehicle. For one, 379 ponies and over 500 lb-ft of torque in the drive units showed me that Kia could deliver drive unit performance, and all of that power went to forward motion (no burnouts). It also had a lot of range, with a battery pack just under 100 kWh, but I hadn’t roadtripped with it yet at that point. The interior was also great, providing decent seating, decent technology, and a one-piece display that provides for both gauge cluster information and a center display.

There were, of course, some small issues. There’s practically no frunk, only providing some room for a charge cord and a few adapters and tools. Not a big deal to me, but for some people, that’s a dealbreaker. Another issue is that with all seats folded up, there’s not much room for luggage. So, a large family that takes up all of the seats needs to either pack light or get a luggage carrier of some kind.

How I Tested The Vehicle

I had two big questions about the EV9. It was obviously great for local drives, but I wanted to see how it does on road trips and how it does away from pavement. If you’re going to sell a family vehicle and call it an SUV, it needs to do both of those things well.

So, I first did a day trip to get to know the vehicle’s roadtrip capabilities better. First, I went to the Very Large Array (VLA), a movie-famous radiotelescope site near Socorro. Then, I drove out to San Lorenzo Canyon, a place where nearly any vehicle can drive around on the bottom of a sandstone canyon! You can learn a lot more about that trip here, but in short, it went very well until I ran into problems at a charging station that have since been resolved.

A couple days later, I took the vehicle on a three-day trip to visit two national parks. First, I approached the Guadalupe Mountains via a scenic gravel road that runs from near Piñon, New Mexico, along the Guadalupe Rim, and then to the Queen Highway (NM-137). Along the way, most of the road was decent, but there were some sections that were a lot steeper and more rough than anticipated. But, the EV9 gave no problems climbing slippery dirt grades and navigated the bumps and jumps pretty well.

The road took hours to safely go down, but we were rewarded with some neat views and it seems likely that we’re the first people to take an EV down this particular stretch of little-traveled road.

A view from the Guadalupe Rim road where you can see the highest peaks of Guadalupe Mountains National Park.

The next day, we visited Carlsbad Caverns, had some lunch in Carlsbad, hung out at a cabin in Queen, New Mexico, and then turned in for the night. The day after that, I drove to the front side of Guadalupe Mountains National Park, collected my parks passport stamp, and had a good time picnicking with the family. Then, we caught as many views of the Guadalupe Mountains as we could as we headed out toward El Paso.

One of the best views was from the Salt Flats at the bottom of the hill:

Kia EV9

How We Liked It After A Week

When it came time for the car to go back to the press fleet, we were sad to see it go. Despite some minor shortcomings, it was an excellent and normal vehicle to travel in that also happens to be electric.

The biggest thing that won over family members was that it wasn’t trying to be a spaceship or an exercise in brutalism. There was a nice touchscreen, but also a small number of buttons for key things you’d want to do regularly. It has turn signal and wiper stalks, as well as a Bop It!-style lever that you use to turn the vehicle off and on and for selecting park, drive, neutral, and reverse.

It also proved itself very capable of doing everything we wanted to be able to do in an SUV. It handled minor off-highway duty fine. It was also comfortable at highway speeds. It had excellent range. It even had a power outlet in the back that we were able to use to power an electric ice chest.

Minor Things It Could Use

If I owned the EV9, I’d be hounding Kia about a few small things, though.

First off, the use of the power plug in the back can be a little confusing. For most of the multi-day trip we took, it just worked. But, the next day, it didn’t want to charge the ice chest (fortunately, it has batteries). I never really figured out why it worked one day but not the next, but that should have probably been simpler.

Another issue I ran into and only solved toward the end of the trip was “dog mode.” The vehicle doesn’t have an animal mode. In most EVs, you can leave it on and lock it manually as you walk away to at least get a couple hours of air conditioning for any pets you need to keep inside on trips. But I had to fool the EV9 into locking up by putting it in “utility mode,” rolling the window down, closing the door, and then reaching in to manually lock the doors. Then, I hit the power window switch and pulled my hand out of the way before it could hit me.

There may be an easier way to do this (it might involve the little rectangular capacitive buttons on the pop-out door handles), but I didn’t figure that out within the week we had it.

Finally, I think it goes without saying that EV9 owners will be looking forward to receiving a NACS adapter. It wouldn’t have helped me much on my test trips (as even Tesla doesn’t have stations in some places), but I know that it will be very useful for more trips.

All images by Jennifer Sensiba.

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