2023 Kia EV6 GT First Drive Review: White Smoke, Green Cred

There’s no denying the appeal of the Kia EV6, with a maximum range of 310 miles and a 240-kilowatt charge rate. But with a fair amount of understeer and a suspension that’s tuned for urban streets instead of canyons, the EV6 backs up its aggressive styling with mere adequacy in the performance department – it’s quick, but not particularly sporty.

That changes with the arrival of the 2023 Kia EV6 GT, the new flagship of a model family that’s closely related to our Star Award–winning Hyundai Ioniq 5. The EV6 GT gets a handful of updates befitting its status at the top of the range, including more powerful front and rear electric motors, added chassis bracing, and revised styling. The net result is a more aggressive, sportier EV that makes 576 horsepower and 545 pound-feet – up a healthy 256 ponies and 99 torques over the next-most-powerful EV6.

Gallery: 2023 Kia EV6 GT: First Drive

It seems the Ford Mustang Mach-E GT and Tesla Model Y Performance have some new competition, especially given the EV6 undercuts them with a starting price of $62,695 including a $1,295 destination. And that’s before we even get into the long-rumored, all-but-confirmed Hyundai Ioniq 5 N.
Quick Stats 2023 Kia EV6 GT
Motor Twin Permanent-Magnet Synchronous
Battery 77.4-Kilowatt-Hour Lithium-Ion
Output 576 Horsepower / 545 Pound-Feet
0-60 MPH 3.4 Seconds
Range 206 Miles

Writing Checks…

The alterations for the GT are relatively restrained, keeping the already sporty design of the regular EV6. That means a wedge-shaped side profile with a low nose, upward-arcing beltline, and a neat little spoiler with funky winglets that extend beyond the width of the roof. The glowering headlights and straked taillights carry over as well. In my opinion, the EV6 is much more overtly sporty-looking than its Ioniq 5 platform-mate, although it’s also more anonymous than the retro-tinged Hyundai.

On the GT, the front fascia is a bit more aggressive than the base EV6 Wind, but it’s shared with the similarly named, but less powerful, EV6 GT-Line. The rear bumper has been reshaped a bit with vertical strakes in the diffuser styling element, but the overall design is like that of its kid siblings. The most conclusive evidence of the performance under the skin is the GT-specific set of 21-inch wheels wrapped in Goodyear Eagle F1 tires – up an inch over the GT-Line – as well as the 15.0-inch front and 14.2-inch rear brakes with neon green calipers.

That acidic shade carries into the cabin via an applique on the center console and dashboard. The thick-rimmed steering wheel and microfiber suede bucket seats also get some bright green accents, helping liven up the otherwise all-black cabin. Between the heavily bolstered sport seats and the neon-colored “GT” button on the steering wheel, it’s clear from the moment your butt hits the fabric that this EV is no shirking violet.

…That The Performance Can Cash

That GT button activates a driving mode that is exclusive to the flagship EV6 trim. While the Eco, Normal, and Sport modes restrain the electric motors’ output slightly, GT mode unleashes its full, 576-hp force, uncorking the most powerful and quickest-accelerating Kia ever built. The EV6 GT sprints to 60 miles per hour in 3.4 seconds – four-tenths quicker than the standard Ford Mustang Mach-E GT and one-tenth faster than the Tesla Model Y Performance – and it carries on to a top speed of 161 mph. The Kia shoves off the line with authority courtesy of a four-wheel grip and instantaneous torque.

But that doesn’t mean the EV6 GT is a loose cannon. Even as the 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster displays higher and higher speeds, Kia’s sportiest EV feels planted and stable, with none of the front-end wander that plagues lesser EV6s. That said, with a curb weight of 4,795 pounds, the GT is no bantam fighter, and it sometimes struggles to conceal that mass in tight corners, especially if there are any bumps along the way. The dampers could be stiffer to quell body motions, and quick transitions don’t always inspire confidence (not least because the steering is numb-numb-numb). The Mach-E GT feels more stable in such conditions.

On really technical sections of the road, it’s best to dial the pace back from aggressive to brisk, braking a bit earlier for corner entry and then accelerating out with neutral stability. And with the multi-mode energy recuperation set to the maximum “i-Pedal” mode, the upsized brakes feel more than up to the task of hauling the EV6 down from speed.

Where the GT feels most at home is on long, arcing sweepers, where the suspension has a chance to take a set before the G-forces load up. Carrying surprising speed through such corners is fun, comfortable, and drama-free, giving the oft-overused abbreviation for “grand touring” some real meaning in the EV6.

If you really want to hoon the Kia EV6 GT, there’s a Drift mode that progressively reduces power to the front axle, with the rear eventually taking over completely. In this setting, the EV6 becomes very easy to slide around in, with progressive slip angles that make it an ideal classroom for a novice drifter. And if you insist on being fun-loving and ham-fisted, doing electrified pirouettes in a cloud of acrid tire smoke becomes the order of the day.

Calming Down

The 2023 Kia EV6 GT has a decided Dr. Jekyll side to go along with its drift-happy Mr. Hyde. Slot the drive selector into Eco or Normal and the accelerator pedal becomes less responsive, but there’s still plenty of torque to get the Kia going on a smooth, genteel wave of torque. The adaptive dampers soften up as well – at the expense of body control but to the credit of ride comfort. And the cabin is hushed and serene at any speed, with the only noise being some wind rushing over the A-pillars and the selectable propulsion sound (which can be switched off if you like).

The supportive, manually adjustable bucket seats are also pretty nice on long trips, with one big exception. There just isn’t enough support through your shoulders, so my upper back felt a bit fatigued after a few hours in the saddle. I’ve had the same problem with the Hyundai Veloster N’s very similar sports seats, so maybe it’s my thing. At the very least, the heated buckets provide plenty of thigh, lumbar, and lateral support, and they give the EV6 GT a pleasantly low seating position.

The standard EV6’s interior attributes carry over unscathed into the GT, including a flat floor in the back, an airy front-row footwell, a spacious center console, and a V2L 120-volt outlet in the rear seat. The cabin is laid out well too, with the digital instrument cluster pairing with a matching 12.3-inch touchscreen that’s easy to use, though wireless CarPlay and Android Auto are unavailable – bring your USB cord.

There are 24.4 cubic feet of cargo space behind the second row and 50.2 cubes with the seat folded. That’s down a bit on its Ford rival, which does 29.7 and 59.7 cubic feet, respectively, but the EV6 GT can still take a fair amount of stuff along for a road trip.

Charging Up

Speaking of, distance is Kia’s biggest downfall relative to its siblings and competitive set. Although the rear-drive GT-Line drives 310 miles and the all-wheel-drive version can go 252 miles, the EV6 GT only goes an EPA-rated 206 miles with its 77.4-kilowatt-hour battery fully charged. What’s more, the Mustang Mach-E GT travels 270 miles per charge, while the long-legged Tesla Model Y Performance can go 303 miles.

To its credit, the EV6 GT still benefits from the same 800-volt architecture as the rest of the model family, which means it has a maximum charging rate of 240 kilowatts and can go from 10 to 80 percent charge in 18 minutes using a 350-kW fast charger. And the EV6’s high charging consistency means that even using a 150-kW charger, it can go from 10 to 80 percent in 21 minutes. The Mustang Mach-E takes about 45 minutes to hit the same metric due to a 150-kW peak charge rate, although again, the Tesla is the champ here with a 250-kW max.

You Can Pay My Bills

Of course, both of those cars cost more than the $62,855 Kia EV6 GT I drove, whose sole option was a $170 set of floor mats. The Mach-E GT starts at $71,195 with destination and the Tesla is a minimum $69,990 proposition. While that extra 7 or 8 grand will be a significant consideration for many buyers, it does bring along some added value via longer-range EPA estimates and additional features – the Mustang Mach-E’s BlueCruise hands-free driver-assist has a bit more gee-whiz factor than the EV6’s admittedly excellent Highway Drive Assist II hands-on tech, and Tesla’s ballyhooed Autopilot is darned impressive, though it does cost extra.

But then again, the EV6 is noticeably faster than the Ford, and it trades a bit of limit-handling composure for more gentility around town and pleasing interior ergonomics. And compared to the Tesla, Kia’s offering has a far better fit and finish, along with a more planted feeling in corners. If it were my own personal cash, there’s something appealing about the electrified, SUV-ified pony car, but I still wouldn’t count out the stylish EV6 GT, whose smooth driving dynamics and hilarious drift mode give it the best kind of split personality.

2023 Kia EV6 GT Frequently Asked Questions:

How fast is the 2023 Kia EV6 GT?

Thanks to a 576-horsepower dual-motor setup, the Kia EV6 GT accelerates to 60 mph in 3.4 seconds. It’s the most powerful and quickest Kia ever built, and its top speed of 161 miles per hour is impressive for an EV.

How far does the Kia EV6 GT go on a single charge?

Those more powerful electric motors exact a penalty since the GT has the same 77.4-kilowatt-hour battery as other EV6s. That means it’ll only go 206 miles per charge. However, thanks to the 800-volt charging architecture, the battery will go from 10 to 80 percent in 18 minutes using a 350-kilowatt fast charger.

Is the 2023 Kia EV6 GT a good value?

With a starting price of $61,400 plus $1,295 destination, the Kia EV6 GT is cheaper than its main competitors, the Tesla Model Y and the Ford Mustang Mach-E GT. But it has an estimated range of just 206 miles, compared to 270 for the Ford and 303 for the Tesla. At least the Kia has a higher peak charge rate than the Ford – 240 kilowatts versus 150. Whether the EV6 GT’s lower price and faster acceleration are worth the range penalty is a matter of priority.


9.1 / 10

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