Meet the next big thing in electric vehicles.
It’s from Korea (where else), it’s square (in the nicest possible way) and is emissions free.
It’s the latest weapon in Korean maker Kia’s increasingly successful efforts to cut a swathe through the Australian new vehicle market, one eye-catching model at a time.
And we do mean eye-catching.
Even though it’s basically a giant, squared-off, slab-sided, sharp-edged wagon, the EV9 turns heads, in part because of its unmissable size and partly because of its boxy, powerful design.
With its giant panels and oversized wheels, the EV9 looks like it could have been designed for a leading role in a Transformers movie.
But if you think the outside of this car looks big (it really is) it’s inside that big cockpit the greatest space show happens.
Without the need for a transmission tunnel soaking up space between the front seats and beneath the second and third rows, the EV9 looks and feels more spacious than most vehicles - even the Range Rover Long-Wheelbase model tested a couple of weeks ago.
And there’s also the question of price. While that Rangie topped the $300,000 mark, this big Korean will cost as little as $97,000 to enter this space race.
The EV9 will be offered in three models and two driveline options.
The tested entry-level Air uses a single electric motor powering the rear axle and delivering a modest 160kW kW and 350Nm - sufficient to please the average family.
Then there’s a higher-spec, more powerful Earth ($106,500) and, as the flagship, a GT-Line ($121,000) which stretches performance and styling to levels rarely seen for big human-movers like this one.
The twin-motor Earth model, yet to arrive in Australia, gets 283kW and 700Nm - while the identically-powered GT-Line is noticeably quickest of the bunch - a half-second faster to reach the speed limit than the Earth, thanks to performance enhancements.
Among those are the aerodynamics which allow the EV to achieve impressive aerodynamics - with a slippery drag coefficient of just 0.28.
The dual-motor models have reasonably good off-road capability, tested and tweaked when the car was prepped for an Australian market - with one motor powering the front wheels and one for the rear, to make this an authentic SUV.
Kia says the EV9’s chassis has been tuned to suit Australian driving taste and that’s very evident in the product.
It debuts impressive technology for the brand. These include a panoramic wide display that marries a 12.3-inch display as well as a 5-inch infotainment control panel.
Kia has added a new “E-Shift” drive-by-wire transmission selector, situated on a little stalk which in top-grade models includes fingerprinting recognition for the driver.
While it works quite well, for tall drivers the stalk tends to prod into your leg - although fortunately the steering wheel adjustment minimised the issue. Digital side mirrors are included on top-spec models.
What isn’t clear is why the EV9 jumps so far ahead of its passenger car siblings in the naming stakes - the acclaimed EV5 and EV6 models which have dominated new car awards since their arrival Down Under.
Let's see what slots in between 6 and 9 - but if this car is any indication, the Koreans can call their cars whatever they like.
With a price tag in the competitive luxury SUV segment, Kia seems happy to accept the challenge of going up against rivals including the Land Rover Discovery (yet to announce its electric plans), that car’s upmarket sibling the Range Rover (soon to start accepting orders for its all-electric model about to launch in the UK) and big, plush EVs from Benz and BMW.
Nor surprisingly the EV9 will take over as the brand flagship, in the company’s words “it paves a bold and confident new path for the electric SUV.”
For such a big thing it is a surprisingly enjoyable drive. Ride is comfy and, despite the massive banks of batteries required to power such a large machine, it handles with spritely aplomb.
The cockpit is is a little more functional-looking than its smaller EV cousins, both of which have embraced a fully high-tech appearance and design. The controls are tactile and easy to locate.
Range anxiety? Hardly.
As well as 512km of range in the twin-motor variant, Kia says it can be fast-charged from 10-80 per cent capacity in just 20 minutes.
In reality that means you can drive it almost 1000km in a day and recharge mid-journey in the time it takes to grab a burger and visit the rest room.
Nobody can pretend that’s more range than an average family is likely to require. The lesser powered Air model enjoys a range of 443km and the ability to recharge by a further 232km in just 15 minutes of charging.
The twin-motor versions will cover a standing 0-100km/h sprint in an impressive six seconds for the Earth and 5.3 seconds for the sportier GT Line.
That stretches to a more leisurely figure of 8.2 seconds for the Air.
A tape measure helps solve the mystery of why it looks so big. Measuring 5010mm long, 1980mm wide, 1755mm high with 3100mm wheelbase, it still manages 333 litres of bootspace with all three rows of seats occupied.
With the third row laid flat that stretches to 828 litres and it starts to look like a delivery van when the middle row is folded down and the EV9 offers 2318 litres.
KIA EV9 AIR
This full-sized (plus some) machine seats seven people in full comfort with vast footroom and headroom.
The GT-Line needs just 5.3 seconds to reach the speed limit. The more modest Air takes 8.2 seconds.
HOW THIRSTY? Depending on model, the EV9 has at least 443km of range
HOW MUCH? Starting at $97,000 plus on roads; the flagship GTLine is a reasonable $121,000.