This could be a big year for South Korean carmakers or, more precisely, all-electric Korean vehicles. Two models in particular, the Genesis Electrified G80 and the Kia EV6 are among the finalists vying for North American Car and Utility Vehicle of the Year honors.
The EV6 has already won its fair share of awards. But it’s likely to gain even more attention going forward as the South Korean carmaker launches what’s not only the most powerful version of the electric SUV but the most powerful product Kia has ever brought to market in any form.
Making a peak 576 horsepower it is, in fact, quick enough to beat such beasts as the Porsche Taycan GTS and the Lamborghini Huracan Spyder RWD from 0 to 60.
TheDetroitBureau.com spent a day in Sin City testing the 2023 Kia EV6 both on track at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and on public roads. Here’s a report on what we learned.
While Kia has already dipped its toes into the battery-electric vehicle market with products like the Niro, the EV6 marks its first use of a modern, skateboard-style platform. The E-GMP architecture — shared with sibling Korean brands Hyundai and Genesis — was designed exclusively for battery-drive technology.
This approach offers a number of advantages, starting with a near 50:50 weight distribution and an extremely low center of gravity. But it also frees up space normally devoted to an engine compartment for passengers and cargo, starting with the small “frunk” under the EV6’s hood. It also provides significant flexibility, as the GT edition demonstrates.
The performance package gets significantly larger motors on both axles, their combined output reaching a peak 576 hp and 545 pound-feet of torque. That’s pushing into supercar territory, and can launch the crossover from 0-60 in a mere 3.4 seconds.
The GT does sacrifice a bit when it comes to range, but its electronically damped suspension helps it maintain surprisingly good manners, whether on track or public roads.
As with earlier versions of the EV6, the GT doesn’t readily fall into a single design niche. There’s a blend of SUV, sport coupe and even station wagon, and it’s likely most folks will lump it into the crossover category. Kia fans will notice some familiar design cues, the EV6 picking up on the brand’s latest “Opposites United” design language used for the brand’s updated Stinger model. But it pushes things a step further, much of that to enhance range-extending aerodynamics.
The familiar Kia “tiger nose” grille becomes the new “Digital Tiger” design, though the GT of the EV6 adopts a unique front and rear fascia meant to give it a more aggressive appearance and emphasize the crossover’s width.
The reality is that there’s not much need for airflow under the hood of an electric vehicle, so what little remains of the grille is actually sealed off and largely for show. As with other versions of the crossover, the 2023 Kia EV6 GT features a small grille below the bumper to deliver cooling air for the motors and battery pack, with additional intakes feeding the air curtains that reduce turbulence around the front wheels.
Cheating the wind is, of course, critical to maximize aerodynamic range. And little things matter, like the pop-out door handles. The GT also gets a unique rear spoiler and an air diffuser. Other distinctive details include bespoke 21-inch alloy wheels shod in Z-Rated Goodyear Eagle F1 rubber — which barely conceal large, neon-green front and rear brake calipers.
There are a number of benefits to a skateboard-like architecture, such as the E-GMP platform used for the Kia EV6 family. While the crossover may have a compact footprint, its wheelbase is precisely the same as the big, three-row Telluride, at 114.2 inches. From an interior volume perspective, the 2022 Kia EV6 actually falls into the midsize category, with 102 cubic feet for occupants and 27.7 cf for cargo. That nearly doubles to 53.5 cf with the second row folded down. Even for rear seat occupants, there’s a spacious 39 inches of legroom.
The EV6 also boasts a flat floor, which translates into even more room for passengers and their “stuff,” a large center console adding to all the little nooks inside the crossover. The GT version, in particular, is distinguished by a striped motif on both that center console and the instrument panel.
The performance model also gets unique front sport seats that are both comfortable on long drives, while supportive when running on a track. The downside is that they are mechanically operated, trading off the power memory controls in other versions of the EV6.
The overall look of the cabin is modern minimalist — but with some surprisingly luxurious detailing. And with an emphasis on sustainability, the “leather” surfaces are actually vegan, while Kia has opted for recycled material, where possible.
Twin 12.3-inch displays dominate the instrument panel, starting with a reconfigurable gauge cluster. The touchscreen infotainment system abandons Kia’s old UVO operating system for a newer technology with a more intuitive voice assistant. While many functions are handed off to the touchscreen, there are still a number of manual controls, including a volume knob and toggles for the climate system — including steering wheel and seat heaters.
The original Kia EV6 is no slouch, producing as much as 320 hp. The GT takes things into a new realm, at 576 hp and 545 lb-ft of torque adding an extra 260 ponies and 99 lb-ft over the earlier GT-Line.
Power comes from motors on each axle and directed to all four wheels, but the back end gets an electronically controlled limited-slip differential allowing torque to be delivered to where it’s needed. Combined with a revised power control system, that allows a motorist to throw out the rear wheels when the driver switches into Drift Mode. The system will, at specific points, cut off power to the front motor to help the driver retain control.
There’s also a GT Mode activated by a button on the lower right side of the steering wheel. It instantly tightens up the crossover’s actively damped suspension and provides an electrical adrenaline boost. The GT also offers a customizable My Driver Mode.
Among other things, shifting to GT Mode makes the EV6’s Regenerative Braking system more aggressive, able to scrub off as much as 0.6 Gs simply by lifting the right foot off the throttle. In normal driving, the 1-Pedal mode lets a driver simply modulate the throttle in normal conditions, limiting the need to jump back and forth from throttle to brake.
There are trade-offs to any performance machine, whether you’re talking EVs or muscle cars. And with the 2023 Kia EV6 GT that’s readily apparent when it comes to range. It’s EPA-rated at just 206 miles, down from as much as 310 miles with the 225-hp base rear-wheel-drive version of the Korean crossover.
Kia helps make up for that by adopting a dual 400/800-volt electrical architecture that can cut the time needed to go from a 10% to 80% state-of-charge down to as little as 18 minutes when plugging into a 350-kilowatt DC fast charger. With a more common 150 kW charger it’s still a reasonable 21 minutes. To completely top off the 77.4 kWh battery with a home Level 2 240-volt system will require plugging in overnight.
Safety and Technology
There are plenty of high-tech features, starting with the twin videoscreens on the instrument panel. Kia has given them additional features on the GT designed to track and control its performance modes.
The Kia EV6 GT gets a hands-free power liftgate, Qi wireless smartphone charging, an available WiFi hotspot and the ability to use Apple and Android smart watches to track vehicle information, such as charge status. You can also pair the EV6 to the Alexa voice assistant and, among other things, use it to “pre-condition” cabin temperature while still connected to a charger, reducing demands on the battery pack.
There’s a 14-speaker Meridian Premium Audio system, as well as an augmented-reality head-up display. When using the onboard navigation system it projects arrows that show you precisely where to make a turn, among other things.
Add a “roster” of advanced driver assistance systems, such as forward collision warning with auto-braking, remote smart-parking assist, blind-spot assistance and highway driving assistance, among others.
The 2022 Kia EV6 also gets what is technically known as “Vehicle-to-Load” functionality, something the automaker demonstrated during a lunch break by using the car to power up some kitchen appliances. The battery pack can easily be tapped into should you suffer a blackout at home, need to power tools at a work site or, perhaps, a TV while tailgating.
According to Kia, the 2023 EV6 GT can hit 60 in 3.4 seconds. That makes it a wee bit faster off the line than an array of performance-oriented competitors, including EVs like the Porsche Taycan GTS and the Ford Mustang Mach-E GT with Performance Pack, as well as the Lamborghini Huracan Spyder RWD among gas-powered machines.
I had a chance to hold Kia’s corporate feet to the fire as I took the EV6 GT out on the Las Vegas Motor Speedway’s quarter-mile dragstrip. I admit my reflexes have slowed a bit over the years, but I still managed to deliver launch times in line with the automaker’s specs, while clearing the traps at the end of the strip in just over 11.5 seconds. A few younger colleagues got into the 11.4-second range, reaching 121 mph at the end of the run.
I also managed a series of laps on the speedway’s street course. The GT proved quick, nimble and predictable, easy to control through the tight corners and S-curves, the 14-inch rear ventilated brakes helping the regen system scrub off speed in a hurry at the end of the straights.
My day in Sin City also included a lengthy drive along the Las Vegas Strip and then out into the countryside, skirting the ever-shrinking Lake Mead. What proved particular impressive was the dual nature of the EV6 GT. On track it was a beast. On public roads it boasted a more relaxed composure, easy to drive, uncannily quiet and just as well-mannered as the tamer EV6 Wind and GT-Line models.
The Kia EV6 is a stylish, fun-to-drive crossover that underscores the pluses of going electric. It has won raves, and a number of awards, since making its debut earlier this year. And it is a favorite among NACTOY jurors — of which I’m one — with a good chance of next month being named North American Utility of the Year.
Even in base trim, the EV6 has a high fun-to-drive factor. The 2023 Kia EV6 GT turns that up to 11. True, there are a few sacrifices, primarily in its modest 206-mile range. But charging times are quick and it should prove more than adequate for those who don’t routinely travel extended distances.
For those who want a plan of maxxed out performance without the traditional environmental penalties, it’s a must consider.
A well-equipped version of the Kia EV6 GT starts at $61,400, a $4,000 step-up from the all-wheel-drive version of the EV6 GT-Line. (Add $1,295 to those figures for delivery fees.) But you not only get the added performance but a number of new standard features, including the that Meridian auto system. And Kia kicks in for 1,000 kilowatt-hours of free energy over 3 years from Electrify America chargers, enough to log somewhere between 2,000 to 3,000 miles.
The price looks even more appealing when you consider the less stylish — and slower — Tesla Model Y Performance edition starts at $69,990, with the Mustang Mach-E GT with Performance Pack comes in at $75,895 (and a tenth of a second slower). Oh, and the Porsche Taycan GTS? It’s got a sticker of $134,100.
During a media briefing ahead of my first drive, Kia officials said they plan to bring somewhere between 2,000 and 2,500 of the EV6 GT crossovers to the U.S. this coming year. I’d be surprised if they don’t find themselves under pressure to increase production.
Q: How fast is the Kia EV6 GT?
A: Making a peak 576 horsepower, the Kia EV6 GT can launch from 0 to 60 in as little as 3.4 seconds — though it makes maximum power only when its battery has at least a 70% state-of-charge. The GT edition can reach a top speed of 161 mph.
Q: What is the difference between the Kia EV6 GT and the EV6 GT-Line?
A: For one thing, the GT produces 576 hp and 545 lb-ft of torque. That’s about 260 hp and 99 lb-ft more than the GT-Line. The newer model has a more aggressive all-wheel-drive system and a electronic limited-slip rear differential. Among other things, it also adds several high-performance driving modes, one specifically designed for drifting.
Q: Is the Kia EV6 GT worth it?
A: That all depends upon what you’re looking for in a battery-electric vehicle. You get massive amounts of horsepower and torque, especially for a relatively mainstream vehicle. Compared to other versions of the Kia EV6, however, the GT does sacrifice in terms of range. It also costs a fair bit more, at a starting price of over $61,000 before delivery fees.