We've already spent plenty of time with the Kia EV6, but the regular all-wheel-drive, twin-motor model has slipped through the net, predominantly because it isn't yet available in Ireland. But should it be? Offering more power and more traction, the AWD EV6 sits between the existing long-range models and the high-performance GT in the EV6 range, so does the AWD version's balance of performance, traction and efficiency make it more compelling than other cars in the EV6 stable?
In the metal
From the outside, the all-wheel-drive version of the Kia EV6 is more or less identical to its rear-drive siblings. There's no obvious difference in terms of styling, except for a little badge on the tailgate to remind you that this is the second most powerful electric Kia - at least for the time being.
As a result, the all-wheel-drive EV6 looks every bit as good as its siblings, and Kia hasn't attempted to make it look either more rugged or more dynamic. Instead, the company has left the design alone, and although the EV6 still looks bigger in the metal than in pictures, it's quite a handsome thing. It's definitely futuristic, but it isn't 'out there' enough to turn most buyers off.
Similarly, the cabin is equally modern without being too alienating. Kia hasn't tried to clean up the design too much by shovelling functions into the touchscreen, so there's still a bank of touch-sensitive switches in the middle, while a rotary gear selector and a digital instrument display add to the contemporary design.
Admittedly, we remain unconvinced by the touch-sensitive switches, particularly as the panel is used for both audio and heater functions (you can switch between the two) and it never seems set to the one you want. Every time we tried changing the radio volume, we just succeeded in making the front-seat passenger either too warm or too cold.
That aside, the technology is generally pretty good, with a clear and crisp digital instrument cluster joined by a solid touchscreen infotainment system. The central screen may not look as fancy as those fitted to Volkswagens and Fords, but if anything it's easier to use, and it's even faster to respond, which makes it less distracting when you're driving along.
Kia's reputation for quality is also improving, with the EV6 feeling much more solid than the Kias of a decade ago. Sure, some of the plastics still leave something to be desired, but the switchgear all feels robust and so too do the dashboard and centre console. It'll stand the test of time, and that matters when you're looking for a family car. Kia is obviously confident, too, offering the EV6 with the same seven-year warranty as other Kia models.
So far, the all-wheel-drive EV6 feels much like anything else in the EV6 line-up, and that doesn't change when you poke around the rear cabin. You get the same ample legroom as the rear-drive EV6s, and you get just as much headroom, which means you can carry four adults quite happily, while kids will have space to stretch out. The boot is much the same size, too, at 490 litres - enough to swallow pretty much anything family life can chuck through the tailgate aperture. The only penalty is to be found when you look under the bonnet. Ordinarily, the rear-drive EV6 would have a 52-litre storage area under there, but the all-wheel-drive cars limit that space to 20 litres to make room for the front motor. As penalties go, though, that's hardly a major issue.
Unlike the EV6s currently available in Ireland, the AWD versions come with an extra electric motor on the front axle. That means instead of the standard 229hp, you get almost 100hp more at the front wheels, and that means a notable upgrade in performance. Alright, the AWD car isn't as fast as the range-topping GT, but a 0-100km/h time of 5.2 seconds is not to be sniffed at. In fact, it's enough to keep pace with hot hatchbacks such as the Honda Civic Type R.
The other advantage of the all-wheel-drive system is the ability to use that power in more varied conditions. Whereas the standard cars, which only power the rear wheels, can get a bit twitchy in damp conditions when you aren't careful with the accelerator, the AWD car feels a little more planted. Of course, it will still slide if it's provoked, but the electrical system can choose which axle to use more power from to rapidly help you out and reduce the danger. Most of the time, though, the system goes about its business imperceptibly, changing outputs depending on the conditions and what the wheels are doing.
What that really means is you can access more of that power without spinning the wheels, even on wet or snowy roads, although careful use of the accelerator might still be needed. Speaking of snow, the EV6 is no off-roader - it's too heavy and it's too low - but with proper winter tyres wrapped around those 18-inch alloy wheels it becomes a great winter car.
Or at least it would were the cold not quite so mean to the battery pack. Like the standard EV6s, the AWD version has a 77.4kWh battery, dubbed 'Long Range' in Kia's literature. But while the rear-wheel-drive EV6s can manage up to 528km on a single charge, the AWD car has a second motor to feed, and that means it isn't quite as capable. And cold weather will see that figure tumble further still. Nevertheless, official figures suggest our test car was still capable of more than 480km on a charge, and 400km should be easily achievable for most. That's pretty good going for something with this much performance. It's almost 100km more than the GT will manage.
And the AWD EV6 is more comfortable than the GT, too. Where the GT feels nuggety and fidgety over bumps, the more conventional all-wheel-drive EV6 is noticeably more forgiving, and it's quite a pleasant car to amble about in. Of course, the immense weight makes its presence felt in town, and the car can thump into bumps at low speeds, but it's very smooth at motorway speeds.
The catch is the AWD EV6 is a little less enjoyable to drive, with less body control and slightly numb steering. You don't get the ballistic, tail-happy GT mode, either. But the GT is still a heavy car, and it feels that way in corners, so the all-wheel-drive version of the conventional EV6 isn't that much less interesting to drive.
It is, however, refined and easy to drive, which is a much more important accolade 99 per cent of the time. Only when you really want to let your hair down will the GT feel like a more appealing choice.
What you get for your money
The Kia EV6 is currently only available in rear-wheel-drive form, with the AWD and GT versions still to arrive in Ireland. We'll update this page if they do, but we expect the AWD cars to be a little more expensive than existing variants.
Far from falling through the cracks between the more range-orientated models and the sportier GT, the AWD car bridges the gap admirably. While it isn't without flaws, most of which are common across the EV6 line-up, the GT-Line S AWD is faster than any family car needs to be, but it maintains the comfort of the less potent variants and it'll still get you far enough on a charge. Given free choice of the EV6 range, this is the one we'd have.