Two friends of mine (and members of this little car gay community) got married in early July. Four of us from Washington, D.C. were invited to attend and we decided to road-trip out there, given there are no direct flights in to Lexington, Kentucky and the next closest airport was over an hour away. Our drive covered roughly 550 miles each way and I had a 2023 Kia EV6 GT on loan – a perfect pairing, right?
The 2023 Kia EV6 is a fabulous car. Built on the shared E-GMP platform alongside siblings Hyundai Ioniq 5 and Genesis GV60, the EV6 is Kia’s rendition of an electric wagon for families. Despite hatchback-y proportions, the styling is full of trickery and the EV6 is indeed a bit larger than you’d think. It’s big enough to easily carry four adults on a road trip, and being fully electric means clever drivetrain packaging and thus, a good bit of legroom with a flat floor.
2023 Kia EV6 GT Basics
Picking the EV6 GT over the other EV6 models gives you a host of performance upgrades. Dual motors are standard but they produce a wild (overall, not just “for a Kia”) amount of horsepower and torque – 576 HP and 545 lb-ft, respectively. Sheesh.
All-wheel drive is of course standard given the dual-motor layout, and the rear axle has an electronic limited-slip differential. Dampers are electronically controlled and brakes are upsized over a regular EV6 (15″ front, 14.2″ rear rotors). 21-inch wheels come wrapped in Goodyear Eagle F1 tires.
Inside, unique front seats with lime green accents bring a sportier vibe, and the lime green accents carry throughout the car. It’s a fun touch and color choice to denote performance.
I made a whole video about the driving experience, but suffice it to say it’s fun for being a midsize crossover-y thing. The all-wheel drive is rear-biased and in GT mode, will let you hang the tail out a bit if you really boot the throttle through a corner. It’s predictable, plenty fast, and a ton of fun if you have room to let it run a bit. And in city driving, the EV6 GT is equally competent, the adaptive suspension in its softest setting providing a great ride.
Range of the 2023 Kia EV6 GT
The downside to all of the performance of the EV6 GT is the range. Where a rear-wheel drive EV6 “Wind” can go up to 310 miles on a charge, the 77.4 kWh battery pack in the GT is only good for an EPA-rated 206 miles. The 800V architecture on the EV6 GT allows very fast charge times, but 206 miles on a perfect day means any long drive route has to have accessible, reliable charging relatively frequently. More on that in a second.
Why is the range cut so much on the EV6 GT? Losing nearly a third of the regular EV6’s range is a pretty substantial drop. It’s not because of the power – just tootling around not actively using 576 horsepower means you’re not working the battery too hard. But those big 21-inch wheels and sticky Goodyear summer tires certainly play a part. Bigger wheels weigh more and performance-oriented tires add grip and rolling resistance.
Kia’s rear-wheel drive EV6 Wind uses the same battery pack and carries a 4,255 pound curb weight, according to Kia. Adding the second motor to an EV6 Wind brings the weight to 4,502 pounds. The EV6 GT adds another 473 pounds, bringing its curb weight to 4,975 pounds. Weight is the enemy in general with cars, and it doesn’t help things here.
Realistic Range of the EV6 GT is… not 206 Miles
The EPA’s electric vehicle range testing is scientific, but makes some assumptions. The “206 miles” number is achieved through the EPA testing, which blends the EV6’s city and highway efficiency to get one estimate. This testing also takes 30% off of the EPA’s results, which are conducted in perfect laboratory conditions on a dyno, to account for “the impact of air conditioning, of cold temperatures, and of high speed and aggressive driving behavior.”
So sure, the 206 mile number should be realistic enough. But in my real-world experience, EV range drops if you’re cruising above 80 miles per hour – that’s harder on any vehicle no matter how it’s powered – and the route to Lexington featured plenty of wide-open highways with high speed limits. And keep in mind, that 206 mile estimate is achieved if you charge the car to 100%, something you generally won’t do at a DC Fast Charging station along your road trip. Yes, the EV6 GT can charge very quickly on a 350 kW charger, but every EV slows down significantly above 80% state of charge.
Eighty percent of 206 miles is 165 miles. I kept that figure in mind when planning the trip, and reasonably assumed a range of 150 miles given higher travel speeds and hot ambient temperatures. July, you know.
It’s All About the Charging Infrastructure
Would you be surprised to learn that charging is difficult if your road trip involves a ton of time in the mountains of West Virginia? Likely not, but the more I researched, the more I realized bringing the EV6 GT along wasn’t going to happen.
I plotted my drive using A Better Route Planner, which is a fantastic (if unintuitive) tool to help figure out a drive and associated charging stops. The beauty of ABRP is that it tells you how long you’ll stop at each charger, and you can choose “shorter stops, more often” or “longer stops, less often” based on preference.
Either way, bringing the EV6 GT on this drive was going to add over three hours of time to an already-long journey. Once we got past western Maryland, availability of true “fast” charging (which I deemed to be 150 kW or faster) fell off entirely. I’d have to rely on 50 kW stations largely located at car dealerships. Americans romanticize road-tripping, but nobody is excited to sit for an hour in the back parking lot of a random Nissan store.
This same trip, set along the east coast, would have been so easily doable that this wouldn’t have been a story. We would have hopped in, driven off, and not worried about a thing. Well, we still would’ve had broken Electrify America stations on our minds, but there would be oodles of options, relatively speaking.
Better charging infrastructure is coming. You can road trip an EV coast-to-coast if you take the right routes. But my specific route posed some real problems. Paired with the low range of this specific Kia EV6 GT, the drive would have been a very hard sell to my three friends. I might have tried it, had I been traveling solo, because I love a good story.
Range Does Matter
Ultimately, we elected to leave the Kia at home and use the ultimate in irony to get to Kentucky and back. I own a 2013 Porsche Cayenne Diesel, a vehicle that was at the heart of the Volkswagen Group’s “Dieselgate” emissions scandal that resulted in VWAG creating Electrify America as part of a government mandate. The Cayenne can do up to 700 miles on one 26-gallon tank of diesel, which means road trip stops are infrequent and at the mercy of everyone’s bladders more than anything.
Had we been road-tripping a regular Kia EV6, with that 310 miles of EPA-estimated range, I could have made the trip work out enough. It still would have been a nuisance, but less of one.
Automakers and journalists both like to parrot the “you only drive 40 miles per day on average!” claim, which is indeed very true for most people doing most things. But for those who live in the middle of the United States, 40 miles is nothing and a 200ish-mile car isn’t a realistic purchase.
Thankfully, more EVs with 300 to 400 miles of range are here or on the way. Solid-state battery technology will help with energy density, allowing more range from the same-sized battery pack. We’ll get there. In the meantime, the more niche EVs like the Kia EV6 GT will be appealing to some, but not all.