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Kia EV9 review: The full-size EV SUV that America needs (but may not want)

Americans love their three-row SUVs, and Korean automaker Kia (000270.KS) is hoping they’ll love an electric version just as much.

The EV9 — a large, brawny, but futuristic-looking SUV — hit American dealer lots in earnest in December 2023. With a starting price in the mid-$50,000 range, it was considered a strong contender to siphon off sales from traditional automakers who don’t have large electric SUV offerings.

Kia’s US sales were strong in the first quarter, up 9% from a year ago. But Kia electric vehicle sales were even stronger — up 131% compared to a year ago. EV9 sales were consistent in the quarter, hitting 4,000 total units through March, though Kia heavily discounted EVs to move them off showroom floors.

2024 Kia EV9
2024 Kia EV9, courtesy of Kia (Kia)

Though EV interest in the US is waning, the EV9 has a lot going on for it at the moment. There aren't a lot of large all-electric SUVs to choose from. The only contenders out there that are true, full-size EVs are the Rivian R1S (that starts at $74,900), Mercedes EQS SUV ($125,000), and Tesla Model X ($83,490).

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For a starting price of $56,395 ($63,900 with all-wheel drive), the EV9 is a relative bargain, though it looks just as expensive as its prestige rivals.

Read more: Are electric cars more expensive to insure?

The EV9 looks like a distant cousin to the iconic Range Rover, with more hard edges than soft, a brutish front end, a high waistline with big fender bulges, and a roofline that looks shorter than it really is. It all buttons up in the rear with a spoiler mounted high above its swing-up hatch. And the unusual four-spoke wheels add to its futuristic look.

2024 Kia EV9
2024 Kia EV9, courtesy of Kia (Kia)

The interior of the EV9 was similarly futuristic, with a near-premium look and feel. Our test vehicle in the top-end GT-line trim featured comfortable seats in “SynTex” faux leather trim, soft-touch materials on the dash and door panels, a 30-inch “panoramic” digital display, and captain’s chairs in the second row.

The infotainment system powering the digital display was surprisingly easy to use and customizable. The only drawback to the system was that it was hard to access the digital climate controls.

The drive: Full size, yet nimble

2024 Kia EV9 interior
2024 Kia EV9 interior, courtesy of Kia (Kia)

When the EV9 pulled out of the garage for our road test, it looked gigantic. Think Chevrolet Tahoe big.

Nonetheless, the EV9 is remarkably quick for such a large vehicle. The EV9 in GT-line trim with dual motors, 379 horsepower, and 516 lb-ft of torque zips to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds. Note that the vehicle weighs nearly 5,900 lbs. But much of that weight comes from the batteries lying low in the car’s floor, aiding the dynamics and handling of the vehicle.

2024 Kia EV9
2024 Kia EV9, courtesy of Kia (Kia)

What sets the EV9 apart from its rivals (and not in a good way) is its lack of adaptive suspension and air suspension. But for the price, Kia buyers may not miss those features.

The base EV9, with only 215 hp and 230 miles of range from its 76.1 kWh battery, is a tough sell for many buyers, even with that low $56K starting price. For those who need the extra power, the Wind AWD trim with 379 hp and 280 miles of range is likely the way to go.

Will the EV9 break through and make it to the mainstream?

2024 Kia EV9 interior
2024 Kia EV9 interior (Kia)

With overall sales jumping 9% last quarter alongside EV sales, Kia doesn’t exactly have a popularity problem.

The success of the EV9 likely depends on whether Kia can churn out these EVs at a profit (it’s unclear if it does), whether they can be made more affordable with better range, and whether mainstream Americans will embrace EVs.

Snagging the 2024 North America Utility Vehicle of the Year award earlier this month at the New York Auto Show certainly helps the cause.

Plus, without any true rivals in the space, the EV9 has a wide segment of buyers to choose from. And perhaps as more Americans come to see more of these EV behemoths — the same size as Kia’s extremely popular Telluride — the EV9 could eventually become the strong contender Kia, and the automotive industry, hopes it will be.

Pras Subramanian is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. You can follow him on Twitter and on Instagram.

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