The Kia EV6 GT Swaps Range for Speed, Sadly

We loved the vanilla EV6 with the best charging tech around. But this new performance version makes a fundamental mistake.
Kia EV6 GT parked next to large concrete wall
Photograph: Kia

Adding “GT” to a car’s name often raises more questions than it answers. Does this turn it into a product of Porsche’s fabled GT division, responsible for its track-ready 911 GT3? Or is GT used in its original sense of gran turismo or grand touring, of cruising along the French Riviera with massive but scarcely deployed power under your right foot?

Kia’s use of the GT badge on its new electric flagship, the EV6 GT, wants to straddle both, and in doing so takes the South Korean company into unchartered waters.

Last year we drove, and very much liked, the standard EV6. It’s a stylish but sensible five-seat electric crossover with over 300 miles of range from both the single-motor and dual-motor variants, and 321 bhp from the latter producing a very un-Kia-like 0 to 62 mph time of 5.2 seconds. It shares the same E-GMP platform as the Hyundai Ioniq 5, which means an 800-volt electrical architecture and the ability to charge its 77.4-kWh battery from 10 to 80 percent in just 18 minutes when using a 350kW charger.

All of that top-notch charging tech is transferred over to the EV6 GT, but instead of making range the priority, Kia has given its sensible crossover a whole heap of extra power and supercar-bothering levels of performance.

Photograph: Kia

The front motor is now similar to that found in the rear of the standard car, and the GT is treated to a modified rear motor, producing 363 bhp and featuring a new dual-stage inverter with silicon-carbide semiconductors for improved energy efficiency. There’s also a new “hairpin” winding technology in the coil pack, designed to reduce energy losses and improve the motor’s high-speed response.

Total power is up 44 percent on the standard dual-motor EV6, to 577 bhp, while torque has jumped significantly from 350 nm to 740 nm. This gives the GT a 0 to 62 mph time of 3.5 seconds, and the top speed has increased from 114 mph to 161 mph. Such rampant acceleration is only available in GT mode, with Kia restricting Eco Mode to 288 bhp and limiting both Normal and Sport to 460 bhp.

The extra power of the rear motor has led Kia to reinforce both the bearing cage and magnet arrangement, and to keep motor temperature within the correct operating window. The standard EV6’s water-cooled motor housing is supplemented by a coil pack flushed with oil to keep it cool.

All this makes for a car that is phenomenally quick off the line, and in GT mode—accessed via a new dedicated button on the steering wheel—the EV6 will beat a Porsche Taycan GTS to 62 mph. It’s the sort of gut-punch performance that makes sense from a pedigree sports car manufacturer, but feels incongruous in a Kia. Exciting, certainly. But it’s a turn of pace, which we wonder whether Kia buyers—usually nodding in approval at generous warranties—actually want.

Photograph: Kia

To its credit, Kia says the GT accounted for 25 percent of all EV6 preorders, despite these customers knowing the faster model would launch 18 months after the rest of the family. Plainly, Kia believes the souped-up EV market already occupied by the Taycan Turbo, Tesla Model Y Performance, and Ford Mustang Mach-E GT is worth entering.

We’re sure Kia would like to argue that its order book tallies with a study asking EV owners which factors they prioritize most when shopping for a new car. Published in Korea Science, it found that 24 percent of buyers ranked performance first. But then consider that, unsurprisingly, maximum mileage was by far the most sought-after factor, with a whopping 45 percent of the vote. And this is precisely what’s sacrificed for that Taycan-bothering speed.

Photograph: Kia

As well as a mountain of extra power, the GT is treated to larger brakes, stickier tyres replacing the low-rolling-resistance ones fitted to the standard car, bespoke semi-active and electronically-controlled suspension, and an electronic limited-slip differential. The springs are softer at the front but firmer at the rear in a bid to counter roll in the corners and pitch when accelerating and braking, and the differential shifts torque to whichever rear wheel has the most grip when exiting a corner.

Lastly, the steering ratio is slightly quicker than the standard car, at 2.3 turns lock-to-lock compared to 2.67, but this is something hardly anyone is likely to notice.

Does all of this lead to a night-and-day transformation compared to the standard car? No, but we think that’s a good thing. For all its sporting credentials the GT retains much of the standard EV6’s agreeable ride quality. The larger 21-inch wheels, 5-mm lower suspension and performance-optimized tires make it pointier and slightly firmer, but it doesn’t pretend to act like a bone-stiff race car. It’s a more comfortable ride than the overly-firm Tesla Model Y, and one that doesn’t feel spoiled by the extra trimmings.

Photograph: Kia

Kia intends the EV6 GT to be a spiritual, electrified successor to its Stinger GT-S; to be a car that is a comfortable and quiet cruiser, but which has massive performance when you want it. Think more about road trips with the occasional blast away from a toll booth, or a brief top-speed run on the autobahn. Not a Silverstone track day.

While much of that ideology rings true, a key factor of the GT brief—the intention to build a grand tourer—has been missed, as the GT has a shorter range than any other model of EV6. The single-motor, rear-wheel-drive car (from £44,195) has a quoted range of 328 miles, and the dual-motor, all-wheel-drive EV6 (£50,695) can manage 314 miles. But in the GT, priced from £61,595, you’ll be plugged into a charger after 263 miles.

The EV6 GT is still a heavy car, and its 2,185-kilogram curb weight is felt through the corners when driven quickly. If truly let loose, we suspect physics would soon overcome the efforts of Kia’s engineers. Plainly, and despite its huge power, this is not a car designed for track use. Kia says as much itself, conceding that, while the GT was tested on the Nürburbring Nordschleife, it “has been developed very specifically for road use.”

As such, you probably don’t need to know that a “secret” drift mode switches off the front motor, tells the traction control to take a few minutes out, and lets you slide the Kia with a prod of the accelerator. Fun for a couple of minutes on private land, but somewhat pointless for the other 99.9 percent of the time.

Photograph: Kia

Inside, the GT shares a very similar cabin to a regular EV6 equipped with the GT-Line options pack. It is comfortable and fairly quiet at low speed just like any other EV. However, wind noise generated by the wing mirrors (a hangover issue from the standard EV6) is louder than we’d like from a car costing a little over £60,000.

The cabin is attractive and the GT-exclusive semibucket seats provide extra support, but aren’t as comfortable as the softer, squishier chairs fitted to the standard car.

The dual 12.2-inch curved dashboard displays are the same as in the regular EV6, and so too are the touch-sensitive controls below them, showing icons for media and climate but not at the same time. Kia has tried to reduce clutter here, but in doing so has a system that frustratingly doesn’t show any climate controls at all unless you prod at a touch-sensitive button to switch from Media and Navigation to Temperature. It then returns to the former after a few seconds instead of leaving the heating and cooling controls in place.

Kia’s wireless phone charger is grippier and more reliable than some others we’ve seen, but the lack of wireless Apple CarPlay, a glaring omission in the existing vanilla EV6, remains unfortunate. Practicality is on par with its siblings, with the same cabin and storage space as the regular dual-motor variant, meaning just 20 liters of storage under the hood.

Kia says it set out to produce a grand tourer reminiscent of comfortable, big-engined cars of the 1970s. The EV6 GT certainly has plenty of performance, and the suspension and differential changes show the company has put real effort into driving dynamics as well as straight-line pace. But the 262-mile range fails to live up to the GT billing.

And while superfast charging via the car’s 800-volt tech will go some way to alleviate range anxiety, we wish Kia had held back on outright performance and instead opted for a more long-legged blend of speed and range.