PS: Level 1 chargers are the lowest power (110), using a standard home plug.  Level 2 chargers need to be professionally installed and carry twice the power (220) of a Level 1.  Level 3 (FAST) chargers are the commercial units with twice the power of Level 2 and Supercharger capability. 

When offered the Kia EV6 GT for a week’s test, I will admit to being excited and intimidated. I am not any kind of expert on EV’s, having no more than a layman’s observations about EV cars and the future direction of the EV segment.  I will cop to the fact that we bought a plug-in hybrid as a family get-around car last year, and it has been great.  Our use of the family car is mostly running around an area of around 30 miles. That fits nicely with the modest range of the plug-in at 30 miles on a charge. We charge overnight, leveraging cheap electricity rates, so this has been a very satisfactory solution. With one exception. Once we set out on a longer trip, we are relegated to the 1.6L turbo that is just barely adequate for a fully loaded long-distance trip. Thus, the enthusiasm around trying a sporty EV with a range of 300 miles to experience.

First impression….Ruh, Roh…the Kia does not arrive at our appointed time and place, so I call the press fleet manager.  The driver apparently was in “range anxiety” and decided to try to charge the Kia up before delivering it.  In Stockton, he was waiting for a charge station at one of the few Level One (FAST) facilities. The driver had an app for these, and after waiting for a while, realized there was a different charging station nearby that had an opening…so he hustled over to that one and, voila – he arrived 30 minutes later with a car that had 85% of the battery charge ready for my abuse. 

The EV6 GT immediately makes a good impression, arriving to admiring stares at our Starbucks meeting point. A very sleek, modern crossover size and style…Kia is taking chances on design, and this is a big win. Yes, most crossover styles are starting to blend, but the EV6 is sleek, practical, and nicely appointed. The interior, dash, switchgear, seats, led to a mixed first impression. With a heads-up display, a large readout of “Miles Remaining” taking the right half of the dash, and a large graphic of the road edges illuminating the driver assist function. However, I’d like to personally thank the ergonomic engineers for the simple R, P, D knob on the console, making it intuitive to change directions or park the EV6.

The manual slider front bucket seats are part of the GT package, and I think they are out of place. They are great, hip and rib hugging buckets, with slots for shoulder harnesses. Really? Studying their structure, this means that the seat back is a fixed shell without a traditional adjustable headrest. For a whiplash head restraint, there is the top of the shell bucket which is a good 4”-6” further back than where a headrest would be. While I am a sports car guy and would love these seats in my track car, they seem out of place in a sporty small SUV.  Having said that, getting comfy in the EV6 is not hard, as the seats are comfortable with long thigh support and great fabric that doesn’t heat up on a hot day like some do.  When I had a couple of friends check it out and climb in, they both were surprised that the front seats in this $66K car were manual sliders like Dad’s Galaxy 500. Agreed. Having said that, they both loved the seats once they were in them! I am impressed with the overall interior design, the fit and finish is very good, and the driving position was spot on, with the adjustable steering wheel that has ample range of adjustment. 

Then – a second less than positive first impression – the drive through downtown Stockton. Yikes. The suspension, including the very low-profile tires on large wheels, is very harsh. Yes, the streets are pretty nasty, with ruts, potholes, dips, and deviations, but the Kia was not happy.  The car feels heavy and is not kind to the derriere in this urban environment.

The good news here is that we spend only a few minutes in this area and hoped on the freeway to discover the amazing, quiet power of a highly competent EV. Whew!!  First impression wrong!! This Kia, with two motors, 576 HP, over 300-mile range (larger battery pack), and 4-wheel drive, is the EV 6 without compromises – the GT model. On the freeway, somehow the car has awakened, including the dampers, and smooths out, handling a few bumps at freeway speeds along the way with ease. This gives the Kia an eerie quiet and smooth rider experience. And of course, the famous freight train torque of the electric motors is just short of dangerously responsive and effective at getting well beyond the speed limit way too quickly. To this point, a nice revelation came when I drove a 25-mile stint on a two-lane state highway, where passing over the yellow line is too often attempted. With the EV6 GT, when you have an open line offering a legal pass, you can make it happen in a virtual blink of an eye. The acceleration of the 6 is astonishing…feeling more like a supercar than a sporty grocery getter. Thoughts of having to warn passengers for this super quick pass come to mind…Seriously, this is a sensory shock the first few times it has done…and one might actually scare an unsuspecting passenger.  

On the road with a full charge the next morning the EV6 and I bonded. Being my first sustained drive in a full EV, it is pretty special.  The silky smooth, and head tossing acceleration is too much fun, yet after a while we realize it is just that, and a drain on the battery as well.  So my maturity kicked in to find a fun pace to drive and accelerate while not depleting the battery too quickly. Seriously – without the visceral, the acceleration is fun but not as exciting…a good thing?  

The interior space is generous for what the car is. I would call it a mid-size crossover, and it has a spacious back seat.  However, upon test-sitting the back seat, there was another mild disappointment. The seating surface of the back seat has no contours. It is well padded, but with the firm foam, it has no shaping or contours, creating a bench feel.  This was a significant surprise and one I am sure will be addressed in future models.  Talking about space – it is SO TALL inside that we could have five cowboys aboard, all wearing ten-gallon hats with NO problem. It seems like they’ve allowed the outside design to impact the interior.  The car could be at least 3-4” shorter and still have adequate headroom. With this height though, I found the windshield, as a driver, a rare picture window-size offering an amazing panorama before the driver and passenger. Taking a drive from Sonora, CA to Twain Harte, a 2000-foot climb through pretty wooded foothills, the view ahead was truly stunning.  Having said that, driving in to the sunset will be heavily reliant on ample windshield visors to prevent the glare allowed by this huge windshield.

Driving an EV uphill, I paid close attention to the large dash readout of miles remaining on the charge as we hustled up the mountain. After the drama of the drop off the day before, I was wary and felt that the delivery driver’s range anxiety had been contagious with me. They have the “Miles Remaining” graphic too large on the dash screen, as I found myself glancing at it regularly…until I started to gain faith.  The software set up of this screen must have been done to be conservative, as are the range estimates on the EV6. I drove with a normal, mildly aggressive style, but was pleased to do the 32 mile run up and down from Sonora to Twain Harte and back while only depleting around 35 miles of range. I had expected a more substantial depletion, so this was a pleasant surprise. The other takeaway from this jaunt was that the EV6, with its immense power and torque and all-wheel drive, can be driven in a spirited fashion and leave you pleased with your pace.  The Kia engineers have hidden the weight and have dialed in excellent control of body roll on what looks to be a tippy body. I cannot say how it would do on the track, but I can vouch for big grins accompanying spirited driving in mountain twisties…without drama or sound…again – EERIE!! 

One Pedal Driving – AHA MOMENT! One of my favorite discoveries with the EV6 is the regenerative braking system. My friend Egan says this is no news…but is to me, an EV novice.  There is an adjustable feature for this that I did not utilize, but the system in default mode, after getting used to it, is nothing short of a revolutionary discovery for me as a driver. What is one pedal driving you say? Simply put, when you drive the EV6, you will find that as you lift off the throttle, a gentle hint of braking begins on its own, with more braking as you lift off of the throttle more. It feels a bit like driving a traditional piston engine car in a lower gear…. Initially, this was annoying, and I found myself a bit jerky getting used to this. You do not just lift all at once or you will induce a pretty stout braking action.  After my first day with the car, I spoke with Egan, an HOD regular who has had EV’s for some time now, and he coached me on “One Pedal Driving.”  This is a thing…. a major thing!!  One pedal driving in the EV6 became a new revelation and simply a better way of day-to-day driving. Forcing the driver to be smooth with the pedal, it is simply easier to use one pedal than two, while also maximizing the battery charge that comes with the active use of this feature. One pedal will be a huge positive for the driver who is creative and uses the feature. Especially in traffic…simply work one pedal to stay with traffic as it ebbs and flows. This was a breakthrough for me as a driver and a major influence on my attitude and interest in owning an EV soon.

As my jaunt up the mountain proceeded, and my comfort with the new feels, sounds, and sensations became assimilated, I bonded with the EV6. The “Sound of Silence” that is the low wind noise, 100% silent drivetrain, and well insulated interior takes the visceral driving experience away and replaces it with a calm that I just did not anticipate.  I now totally get it. I have been range-restricted and simply have not considered an EV up until now.  As a result of my time with the EV6, I now see clearly that the cars, technology, and safety are ready for prime time.

I have not mentioned the price yet.  The MSRP for our tester was $66K. This does sound like a lot for a Kia, but Kia is swinging big with this car. A base model EV6 is in the high $40K range, so all the performance and range comes at a big jump.  I’ve seen a review that recommended the lower model as a good value.  I would agree.  However, I am writing this article for the HOD driver and enthusiast, which makes my suggestion easy – go for the gusto!  This car eliminates the compromises and remains well under some of the other major marques in this space.  The EV6 GT is not perfect, but the imperfections do not take away its soul – that of a highly “charged” and capable car…great for the family, spacious for the puppies and groceries, quiet for Mom and Dad, and, in the right location, an excellent value for the amazing performance it provides.

But there is a significant concern remaining, having foreshadowed this on the initial drop off of the car. It seems clear to me that there will be a collision of demand with lack of supply of charging stations. Car makers are ahead of the charger implementation. And dare I say it, I’ve yet to see a mainstream gas station begin replacing pumps with chargers. As I reach the wrap of this article, I must say my first EV experience has been a baptism in a better way of powering our main means of transportation, the car. Am I going to keep my Mach 1? HECK yes! But there will be a conundrum coming. With massive investment by car manufacturers to move to EV’s and the infrastructure lagging…there could be a huge issue here. So be wary and certain that you can recharge at a Supercharger station where and when you need to before committing your primary transportation to being an EV. Having said that, Egan once again schools me. Reminding me that most of the charging for these cars will be done at home, during off-peak hours on a Level 2 charger.
The EV6 GT? An excellent package that is very impressive. Whether it is unique enough and has competitive features will be found out very soon, as you can buy one today!

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