From the December 2022 issue of Car and Driver.
The chaos of upheaval can create opportunity. Take the dawn of the EV revolution, which has already seen a fledgling car company overtake age-old rivals to become the most valuable carmaker on earth. In the latest upset, a Korean brand best known for low prices, long warranties and liberal financing has created a machine with performance that rivals the most respected Germans.
In nomenclature, the difference between the Kia EV6 GT and the lesser EV6 GT-Line models is minor. That Kia marks the top-performing version of its midsize EV by reducing rather than adding to the nameplate is something of an undersell, but the GT’s hardware shows the intensity of this effort.
The main achievement is the power source. Other twin-motor, all-wheel-drive EV6 models produce 320 total horsepower; the GT, presumably after downing a can of spinach, bursts with 576 horses. A new GT mode offers access to the entire thundering herd. Normal and Sport modes limit output to 460 horsepower, and Eco reduces it to 288. The full hit of torque, which climbed from 446 pound-feet in the all-wheel-drive GT-Line to 545, is always available.
In our testing, the 320-hp EV6 GT-Line hit 60 mph in 4.5 seconds, but the GT made the jump in 3.2. Let it sink in: 3.2 seconds to 60. In a Kia. It also dispatched the quarter mile in 11.6 seconds at 119 mph. The top speed is a claimed 161 mph. This is clearly not your cheapskate uncle’s Spectra.
You know what else posted a 3.2-second 60 mph time? The Audi RS Q8. As for other EVs, the Kia beats the Ford Mustang Mach-E GT Performance (60 mph in 3.7 seconds, quarter mile in 12.7 at 101 mph) to head the table with the Porsche Taycan 4S ( 60 mph in) 3.4 seconds, quarter mile in 11.7 at 120 mph) and the BMW i4 M50 (60 mph in 3.3 seconds, quarter mile in 11.7 at 120 mph).
When you engage the full power of the powerplant, pressing down on the right pedal brings a faded scenery that feels like it should come with streaks of light and Chewbacca’s roar. Instead of hearing “Take us to lightspeed, Chewie,” you’ll notice a vaguely futuristic electric-car sound — it turns out the noise is another configurable element. Three audio themes provide customization for volume and rapidity of rising pitch. Stylish can be more aptly described as spacey, Cyber is a shrill version of Stylish, and Dynamic is like the ominous rumble when the spaceship heads for the evil planet.
To help put the power of the steroid-enhanced motors to the pavement, the GT gets an electronically controlled limited-slip rear differential (eLSD). Kia also beefs up the EV6’s chassis with quicker steering and firmer suspension, aided by adaptive dampers. Here again, there are more modes that adjust the throttle response, steering effort, damper setting and eLSD.
With the dampers in their normal mode the ride is acceptable, but it gets quite stiff in the firmer settings. The upside is that this car eats up corners, led by steering that never gets too heavy, even in Sport+ mode. With Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric 3 SUV treads, the GT clung to the skid plate with 0.92g of stick, compared to 0.86g of the GT-Line on all-season rubber. The eLSD can overdrive the outside rear wheel in corners, and you can feel this car’s tail-happy in the Sport and GT drive modes, which relax the stability control’s oversight. In either one, you’ll fishtail out of the Dairy Queen, just like their Duke boys. For even more TikTok-worthy antics, there’s a Drift mode. (To activate it, start in Sport or GT mode with your foot on the brake pedal, hold the stability control button until the system is fully deactivated, and back off on both paddles for three seconds.) The setting optimizes the front-to -to-rear torque split and the eLSD, which makes it possible to drift—or, as we discovered on wet pavement, to turn. This thing is the Firebird Trans Am of crossover EVs.
Good thing the GT also has more substantial brakes: 15.0-inch front discs (squeezed by four-piston calipers) and 14.2-inch rears, as opposed to the 12.8-inch front and rear rotors in lesser models. They stop the EV6 from 70 mph in 159 feet and are easy to modulate in one of their two settings. Drivers can choose how much to work the brakes, as the GT offers the range of regen, from none to true one-pedal riding with three steps in between.
The battery pack is one element that hasn’t been upgraded, and therein lies this car’s weakness. The 77.4 kWh battery, good for an EPA-rated 274 to 282 miles in the regular dual-motor EV6 and 310 miles in the single-motor version, delivers an estimated 206 miles here. In our 75 mph highway range test, the GT managed 190 miles. The battery drains quickly, but is also quickly refilled thanks to an 800-volt architecture that swallows electrons at a rate of up to 240 kilowatts; the GT’s battery went from 10 to 90 percent in 26 minutes on a DC fast charger.
For all its perception-exploding performance, the GT is visually understated. It’s true that the EV6 is stylishly sleek and futuristic, but the GT is barely visible from lesser models (the observations: lime green brake calipers, 21-inch wheels, a subtle rear spoiler, reworked fascia). It lacks the plumage of maximum-attack Porsches, M-cars and AMGs. With the EV6 GT, Kia shows it can make a muscle machine, but it doesn’t yet have the confidence to brag about it. Maybe her next one will be loud and proud: Wild Wings. A dive plane distributor. Blown fenders. Canards and vortex generators. A screaming chicken on the hood. In chaotic times, expect the unexpected.
Everyone Revved Up
Increasing the output of the EV6’s motors (front left) is not enough to reliably propel the EV6 GT to its top speed. More power requires more cooling, and Kia also had to beef up the rotor assembly to keep it all together at up to 21,000 rpm, 40 percent faster than the EV6.
2023 Kia EV6 GT
Vehicle type: front and rear motor, four-wheel drive, 5-passenger, 4-door wagon
Base/As Tested: $62,695/$63,400
Options: Steel Matte Gray paint, $695
Front motor: permanent-magnet synchronous AC
Rear motor: permanent-magnet synchronous AC
Combined power: 576 hp
Combined torque: 545 lb-ft
Battery pack: liquid-cooled lithium-ion, 77.4 kWh
On-board charger: 10.9 kW
Peak DC fast charging rate: 240 kW
Suspension, F/R: struts/multilink
Brakes, F/R: 15.0-in ventilated disc/14.2-in ventilated disc
Tires: Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric 3 SUV
Wheelbase: 114.2 inches
Length: 184.8 inches
Width: 74.4 inches
Height: 60.8 inches
Passenger volume, L/H: 52/48 ft3
Cargo volume, rear F/H: 50/24 ft3
Curb weight: 4772 lb
C/D TEST RESULTS
60 mph: 3.2 sec
100 mph: 8.0 sec
1/4-mile: 11.6 sec @ 119 mph
130 mph: 14.8 sec
150 mph: 24.1 sec
Results above show 1 foot deployment of 0.3 sec. away.
Acceleration, 5–60 mph: 3.4 sec
Top Gear, 30–50 mph: 1.7 sec
Top Gear, 50–70 mph: 2.2 sec
Top speed (mfr’s claim): 161 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 159 ft
Braking, 100–0 mph: 335 ft
Road holding capacity, 300-foot skid road: 0.92 g
C/D FUEL ECONOMY AND CHARGE
Observed: 74 MPGe
75 mph highway driving: 80 MPGe
75 mph highway range: 190 miles
Average DC fast charging rate, 10–90%: 152 kW
DC fast charge time, 10–90%: 26 min
EPA FUEL ECONOMY
Combined/City/Highway: 79/85/74 MPGe
Range: 206 miles
C/D TEST EXPLAINED
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