2023 Kia EV6 GT

SANTA CLARITA, Calif. — It was in the spring of last year that I first "plugged in" to Kia’s all-new EV6. Kia has been exploring the EV market for some time, but its efforts — in the guise of Niro hybrids and both an electrified Niro and Soul — were small, conservative steps rather than a dramatic leap. The EV6 was — and remains — a leap.

As I wrote in that earlier review, the EV6 isn’t Jetsonian, but “there’s little sheetmetal conforming to what we expect from the industry — and certainly few elements owing anything to internal combustion.”

With its new GT Kia’s product team belatedly gives a nod to the internal combustion engine, aka ICE; or, at least, those hell-raising, fire-breathing infernal combustion variants of ICE. With 576 horsepower, 545 lb-ft of torque and — you ready? — Drift Mode to unlock additional performance, the EV6 GT is arguably more "boss" than today’s Mustang and aces most versions of the Corvette C8, while offering four doors and a carpool demeanor.

In its debut at Monterey’s Car Week in 2022, the EV6 GT — according to Kia — "shocked" the performance car establishment with its spec, projected performance and perceived exotica. Boasting a 77.4 kWh battery propelling both a 160kW front motor and 270kW rear motor, this Grand Tormentor can tick off 0-60 in 3.4 seconds and reach a top speed of 161.

As you’d hope, braking, suspension and rubber receive the upgrades appropriate to the added performance, but in its press material Kia’s team adds this cautionary note: “Actual results may vary depending on options, driving conditions, driving habits, and your vehicle’s condition. Verification of these results should not be attempted.” In short, buy it (figure just over $60K) for what it can do — but forgawdsake don’t do what it can do…

The good news is that everything we liked about the more basic versions of the EV6 is left intact in the GT. When seen on the street its design will still turn heads (and 14 months later I see the EV6 regularly), its interior remains generally accessible and intelligible, and its refinement is what you’d expect from an upmarket EV and not — notably — what has been long perceived as an entry-level Korean. The EV6 is a world class design, and in its competitive segment (Tesla’s Model 3 and Ford’s Mustang Mach-E are the most obvious) it is fully competitive.

Kia’s EV6 GT delivers a level of performance, tech and design simply not available from other brands on this side of six figures. (Its most direct competition, the Mustang Mach-E GT, offers "only" 480 horsepower, for the same $60K base.) If cross-shopping, Porsche’s Taycan 4S and Audi’s e-tron GT come most immediately to mind. Both German offerings supply 522 horsepower, and both can be yours for that side of $108K. In short, you can buy both Kia’s EV6 GT and a hard-loaded Kia Telluride for what the Taycan 4S — all by itself — will cost you.

If there’s a tick in the should-I-buy-it question, it’s in Kia’s pursuit of power to the detriment of range. With consumer expectations leaning toward 300+ miles of driving before recharging, which Kia’s lower-level trims — sitting on rear-wheel drive platforms — deliver; the 576 horsepower of the GT directed to all-wheels via those two motors will get you only 206 miles down the road. Obviously, that’s fine if there’s a charger at your home or office, but less than optimal if you were hoping to get the 200 miles from Dallas to Austin without a stop. In Waco.

Adding to that anxiety is the growing hesitation among what we once thought of as a typical consumer. In recent reporting by numerous industry sources (including Automotive News), interest in hybrids and plug-in hybrids is growing, while the urge to buy battery electric vehicles is cooling. As more battery electrics come on the market, stockpiles of battery electrics are growing at both the ports-of-entry and dealer lots. And among those electric vehicles whose numbers are swelling are those with less-than-swell range.

We find the EV6 GT gobsmackingly compelling, but for the same reasons I didn’t make last year’s Monterey Car Week I’d probably pass on the GT’s performance and go with a lower trim EV6 and rear-wheel drive; a 0-60 of around 7 seconds will work, along with a range of 300+ miles. And if heading to Austin, I’ll grab a cup of coffee in Waco…because I’ll only need a cup of coffee in Waco.

David Boldt (MyCarData)