Officially, the Kia EV9 is just a concept vehicle. And there clearly are a number of features on the big battery-electric SUV that will never roll down an assembly line, such as the pillarless coach doors on both sides. But what you see is likely to be quite close to what we will get in the near future.
Making its debut today at the LA Auto Show, the Kia EV9 concept is “the clearest signal yet from Kia as to what might be the next addition to its new-generation EV line-up,” the automaker said ahead of its formal unveiling.
Kia is just getting ready to launch sales of the new EV6 SUV it unveiled in New York last spring. The production EV9 will be one of several products set to follow.
“The Kia Concept EV9 is yet another important marker for us,” said Karim Habib, senior vice president and head of Kia Global Design Center. “Having made our intentions clear — to become a global leader in sustainable mobility solutions — today we are proud to show the world our all-electric SUV concept, which fuses together an advanced zero-emissions powertrain, a cutting-edge exterior design and a contemporary and innovative tech-based interior space.”
Smaller, yet bigger
From the outside, the Kia EV9 has a footprint similar to that of the automaker’s conventionally powered Telluride SUV. But the interior is positively cavernous in comparison.
A key reason is the use of a new skateboard-like platform that will serve as the foundation for not only Kia’s future BEV line-up but those coming from sibling brands Genesis and Hyundai as well. (Hyundai is showing off its own large electric SUV, the Seven Concept, in L.A. this week.)
The E-GMP platform moves its battery pack and motors below the load floor, freeing up space normally needed for an engine compartment. It also has the benefits of eliminating a transmission tunnel and lowering the vehicle’s center of gravity. And it allows the wheels to move further out toward’s EV9’s corners, opening up even more interior space.
The design of the EV9 bears some familiar details. There’s a hint of the brand’s well-known tiger nose grille, albeit a sealed grille since it’s not needed to feed air to an engine compartment.
“The new BEV-focused grille houses an intricate star cloud pattern display that is completely hidden behind the body panel of the Concept EV9 when not in use,” the automaker said. “This stylish lightshow further highlights the high-tech nature of the all-electric SUV while still paying homage to the natural world. Sequential patterns create a ‘welcome light’ for the driver and also function to appropriately position lights during driving.”
The overall look has been dubbed “Opposites United.”
What won’t make it to production
The double suicide, or “pillarless coach,” doors are the most striking feature of the exterior. There’s little doubt Kia will go with conventional doors in production, but they provide a good look at what the automaker has done with the interior of the big SUV.
Kia has crafted what it calls “a scenic, first-class lounge.” That includes custom seating more likely to be found in a sophisticated home than in an automobile, with ambient lighting that can give the cabin a nightclub feel. The high-tech nature is enhanced by a single, 27-inch ultra-wide display that stretches across the instrument panel and includes both digital gauges and the infotainment system.
The South Korean carmaker has designed in three “interior modes,” including one that helps driver and passengers focus on their journey. Two other modes would encourage occupants to remain inside the EV9 concept, even when parked, Kia said.
In Pause Mode, the seats swivel around so those in the first and third rows can face one another. The middle row then converts to a table.
“Enjoy Mode,” adds Kia, “opens the interior into a downtime breakout space by turning around the three-row seat configuration. In this mode, the tailgate opens, giving all occupants the opportunity to connect with the outside environment and gaze ahead and beyond the vehicle while sitting comfortable inside the all-electric SUV.”
Kia isn’t revealing much about the EV9 Concept’s drivetrain but it is thought to be shared with the Hyundai Seven Concept. That means it likely will produce more than 300 horsepower and, in production, AWD and rear-drive versions appear likely, the E-GMP architecture allowing a wide variety of drivetrain configurations — and battery pack sizes. The stretched version of that platform would have room for a large battery pack capable of 300 miles or more per charge.
Look for a production EV9, industry analysts believe, by the 2024 model year.