Opinionated at any speed . . . Silvio Calabi


Tue, 09/12/2023 - 10:45am

This is a paradigm-buster. At first glance, it might be taken for a roller skate, a value-priced hatchback. It’s a Kia, too—aren’t they just low-budget Korean knock-offs of the Japanese brands? But it’s electric, so it must be trying to elbow its way into the sub-Tesla end of that market.

Wrong, wrong, wrong. Closer inspection shows this is no grocery-getter; it’s much (much) more sophisticated than that. And in recent years, Kia—and corporate cousin Hyundai—haven’t been imitating anyone so much as raising the bar for everyone, in technology, style and quality. Nor is this a bottom-feeding Tesla wanna-be. The sticker price is a healthy $62,865 and its two electric motors, one driving each axle, together develop an extremely healthy 576 horsepower and 545 torques.

This red rocket rides on a sport-tuned suspension with electronically controlled dampers and a limited-slip rear differential plus—I kid you not—a Drift mode. There are six other driving modes, including GT Drive, My Drive, Eco, Normal, Sport and Snow, to alter the response of the car’s motors and its braking, steering, suspension, rear diff and electronic stability systems.

The EV6 structure feels race-car rigid and the center of gravity sits low, thanks to the battery pack in the floor, but the ride is compliant and comfortable. The 21-inch alloy wheels carry Z-rated Goodyear Eagle F1 tires and oversize disc brakes. Steering and braking are linear and progressive.

So yes, the EV6 GT is value-priced, but for an extreme performance car, not a grocery-getter. With this silky-smooth tsunami of power on tap, Kia proclaims a 0 to 60 MPH blast in just 3.4 very quiet seconds and a top speed of 161 MPH. Let’s go hunt down some Ferraris and Lamborghinis!

But there’s more to EV performance than mere speed. Range, for one thing: How long before I have to fret about plugging in somewhere to recharge? And how long will that take? We set out one day with a 98% charge reportedly good for 248 miles. Upon our return, we’d logged 101.3 miles in two hours and 20 minutes (averaging 43.4 MPH and 3.4 miles per kilowatt-hour) and had 62% charge remaining for an indicated 145 miles of range.  

It was a bright, 80-degree day so, unlike some hair-shirt EV purists, I’d switched on the climate control (aka the A/C). I also accumulated all those miles in Normal drive mode and within shouting distance of the speed limit. Only three times, in egregiously slow traffic, did I toggle over to Sport mode and very briefly call up most of the EV6’s 576 horses.

In other words, I drove the EV6 as I would any normal car that could be refueled at any gas station on any corner of Anytown USA. If I felt any range anxiety—and I did not—it would have been because of the numbers on the computer screen fatefully ticking lower and lower with each passing mile and minute (which happens with internal-combustion cars also). I switched over to the navigation screen instead.

The Level II charger in our garage restored the batteries from 62% to 100% in three hours and 30 minutes. With the EV6’s 800-volt recharging system, Kia claims that a Level III high-speed charger, the 350kW type found at many highway stops, would have brought the battery pack to 80% in less than 18 minutes.

If I had to complain about anything, I’d say that after about 75 miles I began to wish for an adjustable lumbar support. Must I bring along an extra seat cushion in a $63,000 car? The digital speedometer, oddly located in the left “dial” of the instrument panel, is almost obscured by the steering wheel. And finally it’s a bit of a squeeze between the wheel and seat to get in and out, and my right knee hits the steering column. At 5”10” and 185 pounds I am hardly XXL, but a driver’s seat that retracts electrically would be welcome. (Surprisingly in an expensive car, both front seats adjust manually.)

Do these shortcomings detract from the wondrousness of the EV6 GT? No.

In April a jury of 100 automotive journalists from 32 countries handed the EV6 GT the 2023 World Performance Car Award. This was on top of the basic EV6’s win of the 2023 North American Utility Vehicle of the Year Award.

Kia pulled this off by creating a family of EV6s—six trim levels at starting prices from $42,600 to $61,500. The entry-level Light (RWD) packs a modest 167 horsepower and up to 232 miles of range, but it too has the ultra-fast 800-volt charging system and much of the GT’s forward-facing engineering. The second trim level from the top, the GT-Line (e-AWD), has dual motors and 320 horsepower and starts at $57,600. Moving up one more notch to the GT costs another four grand, but this buys 256 more horses, which would win the High-Performance Bargain of the Year Award. If there were such a thing.

Next week: Mazda3 2.5 Turbo AWD