From the December 2022 issue of Car and Driver.
The chaos of upheaval can create opportunity. Take the dawning EV revolution, which has already seen a startup car company rocket past century-old competitors to become the most valuable automaker 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 revered Germans.
In nomenclature, the difference between the Kia EV6 GT and the lesser EV6 GT-Line models is slight. That Kia denotes the top-performing version of its mid-size 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 headline achievement is the powertrain. Other dual-motor, all-wheel-drive EV6 models serve up 320 total horsepower; the GT, presumably after downing a can of spinach, is bursting with 576 horses. A new GT mode affords access to the entire thundering herd. Normal and Sport modes limit output to 460 horsepower, and Eco cuts it to 288. The full hit of torque, which has 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 leap in 3.2. Let that 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. Clearly, this isn’t your cheapskate uncle’s Spectra.
You know what else laid down a 3.2-second 60-mph time? The Audi RS Q8. As for other EVs, the Kia vaults past the Ford Mustang Mach-E GT Performance (60 mph in 3.7 seconds, quarter-mile in 12.7 at 101 mph) to sit at the head of 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 dial up full powertrain strength, mashing the right pedal brings a blurring of the 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-motor sound—turns out the noise is yet another configurable element. Three audio themes offer customization for volume and quickness of rising pitch. Stylish might be more aptly described as spacey, Cyber is a shriller version of Stylish, and Dynamic is like the ominous rumble when the spaceship heads toward 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 fortifies the EV6’s chassis with quicker steering and a firmer suspension tune, abetted by adaptive dampers. Here again there are more modes, which adjust the accelerator response, steering effort, damper tuning, and eLSD.
With the dampers in their normal mode, the ride is acceptable, but it becomes quite stiff in the firmer settings. The payoff is that this car eats up corners, guided by steering that never gets too heavy, even in Sport+ mode. Wearing Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric 3 SUV sneakers, the GT clung to the skidpad with 0.92 g of stick, versus 0.86 g from 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-happiness in the Sport and GT drive modes, which loosen the stability control’s oversight. In either one, you’ll be fishtailing out of the Dairy Queen just like them 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 disabled, and pull back on both paddles for three seconds.) The setting optimizes the front-to-rear torque split and the eLSD, making it possible to drift—or, as we discovered on wet pavement, to spin. 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 either of their two settings. Drivers can choose how much to interact with the brakes, as the GT offers the gamut of regen, from none to true one-pedal driving 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, here delivers an estimated 206 miles. In our 75-mph highway range test, the GT managed 190 miles. The battery drains fast but also quickly refills thanks to an 800-volt architecture that gulps 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-shattering performance, the GT is visually demure. It’s true that the EV6 is stylishly sleek and futuristic, but the GT is barely discernible from lesser models (the telltales: lime-green brake calipers, 21-inch wheels, a subtle rear spoiler, reworked fascias). It lacks the plumage of max-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 its next one will be loud and proud: Wild wings. A dive-plane splitter. Blistered fenders. Canards and vortex generators. A screaming chicken on the hood. In chaotic times, expect the unexpected.
All Revved Up
Simply increasing the output of the EV6’s motors (front at left) isn’t enough to reliably propel the EV6 GT to its top speed. More power requires more cooling, and Kia also had to fortify 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, all-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door wagon
Base/As Tested: $62,695/$63,400
Options: Steel Matte Grey 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
Onboard Charger: 10.9 kW
Peak DC Fast-Charge Rate: 240 kW
Suspension, F/R: struts/multilink
Brakes, F/R: 15.0-in vented disc/14.2-in vented disc
Tires: Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric 3 SUV
Wheelbase: 114.2 in
Length: 184.8 in
Width: 74.4 in
Height: 60.8 in
Passenger Volume, F/R: 52/48 ft3
Cargo Volume, behind F/R: 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 omit 1-ft rollout of 0.3 sec.
Rolling Start, 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
Roadholding, 300-ft Skidpad: 0.92 g
C/D FUEL ECONOMY AND CHARGING
Observed: 74 MPGe
75-mph Highway Driving: 80 MPGe
75-mph Highway Range: 190 mi
Average DC Fast-Charge 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 mi
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