For more than a decade, Kia Australia has been localising the ride and handling characteristics of its cars. The EV6 is the latest in over 50.
Water is hissing into the wheelarches and the wipers are dancing across the screen to their fastest beat. As they have been for much of the last few months, the roads on the outskirts of Sydney are slick with rain and leaves – just where did summer go? In fact, it’s been so wet that we’ve abandoned our Sydney photoshoot in favour of one we completed earlier in Melbourne. Given Melbourne’s reputation for rain, the irony is not lost on us.
The range-topping Kia EV6 GT-Line AWD shrugs off the conditions and simply demolishes the twists of this challenging road. It’s the same tight and technical piece of tarmac that we reserve for our most serious dynamic assessments and it’s been kissed by the sticky rubber from a Ferrari SF90 Assetto Fiorano and the surrounding rock faces have reverberated to the howl from a Porsche 911 GT3. This is where the big boys come to play.
Today is the first time that we’ve fired up and down the road’s length in an EV. Not because we think that EVs shouldn’t be subjected to the toughest dynamic tests, rather that their range makes it a fraught exercise given the distance back to base or a decent charging station. Again, the EV6 dismisses such concerns.
At launch, Kia will offer Australian customers three variants of the EV6. Priced from $67,990, the rear-wheel-drive EV6 Air kicks things off, while the also rear-drive GT-Line RWD model asks $74,990. Both models are powered by a rear-mounted permanent magnet synchronous motor that delivers 168kW and 350Nm. The range is topped, for now, by the $82,990 GT-Line.
AWD that we are testing. It adds a 74kW/255Nm electric motor to the front axle giving the GT-Line AWD a total system output of 239kW and 605Nm. Regardless of model, all EV6 variants at launch use a 77.4kWh lithium-ion battery with the ability to support 400- and 800-volt DC fast charging.
While we’ve yet to performance test an EV6 variant, Kia’s performance claims strike us as more than a touch conservative. Rear-drive EV6 models are said to take 7.3 seconds to accelerate from 0-100km/h, while the GT-Line AWD cuts that to 5.2 seconds. While that second number isn’t anything to sneer at, and is quicker than most current hot hatches, it doesn’t marry up with the way in which the EV6 hauls itself out of tight hairpins on our chosen test route.
Due late this year or early next year, Kia will launch the all-wheel-drive EV6 GT that boasts 430kW and 740Nm. It’s claimed 0-100km/h acceleration time of just 3.5 seconds makes it easily the fastest accelerating Kia of all time and a match for many supercars. There’s no official word yet on pricing but there’s early speculation that the EV6 GT could top $100,000.
The all-wheel-drive system affords the EV6 GT-Line remarkable purchase out of corners, with the Kia firing down the road in a manner not dissimilar to that of a Mercedes-AMG A45 S. There’s little in the way of squat under hard acceleration, just a mad rush of instant torque causing the scenery to start streaking past the side glass. In fact, the chassis sits remarkably flat regardless of what you ask of it – roll during cornering and dive under brakes is incredibly well controlled.
Speaking of braking, the EV6 allows you to adjust and tailor braking response more than any car I’ve ever tested that wasn’t fitted with a roll cage and numbers on the door. Kia suggests that Normal Brake Mode is the choice for everyday driving, especially in traffic, where the regenerative braking effect is mild to moderate. Sport Brake Mode brings a more aggressive, though still linear-feeling regenerative braking effect and shortens the pedal stroke. We’re not talking Porsche 911 GT3 levels of pedal feel and response, but Sport mode would quickly become my default. In addition, i-Pedal Regenerative Braking adjusts the regen effect so that the EV6 can operate as a single-pedal car. Ramping up the i-Pedal level to its max (via the left-hand paddle behind the steering wheel), the EV6 can be driven smoothly using only the accelerator pedal. As a long-time left-foot braker, I found this a little disconcerting at first, but was soon marvelling at how smooth the Kia was braking and enjoying the challenge of judging the correct distance at which to lift off the volts.
While our dynamic test route is largely smooth, the EV6 and its ZF Sach’s Selective Damping Control 3 (SDC3) dampers – also used by Mercedes-AMG and Maserati – do a remarkable job dealing with broken tarmac. Despite riding on 255/40 R20 Continental rubber, the EV6 GT-Line AWD glides over expansion joints with barely a noise or shimmy transmitted into the cabin. Bigger, jagged-edged hits are heard rather than felt and the suspension does an excellent job of catching body movements over higher speed crests and compressions. In fact, if you didn’t possess some technical knowledge regarding the weight of batteries (477.1kg in this case) and electric motors, you’d never guess the weight of the Kia. The EV6 GT-Line AWD gives no clues to its 2105kg mass (rear-drive variants are an even 2000kg). If I could suspend my knowledge of EV weights, I’d have guessed that the EV6 weighed no more than 1800kg.
The EV6 is an interesting car to test and to pass judgement on. It weighs as much as an SUV, though you’d never know it. It offers the interior space and practicality of the best crossovers and it delivers performance and dynamic capability that rivals several hot hatches. It’s probably closest to a mid-sized performance SUV and judged as such it is mightily impressive, especially that it rides with such pliancy and composure – it doesn’t feel heavy footed, rather it moves with surprising delicacy. Of course, this all bodes extremely well for the EV6 GT with its promise of supercar performance.
Perhaps more than that, however, Kia’s first crack at a dedicated EV gives car enthusiasts hope that not only can the future be green and fun, but so can the present.