On the other hand, it feels like the automakers involved with the US automotive market have talked about not bringing any major novelty this past week to our attention. Instead, they're all busy showcasing their models' numerous 2024 model year variants, no matter how subtle or unworthy the changes are. Of course, we could find some highlights in there, too – such as the 2024 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Nightshade that looks stealthy or the 2024 Nissan Z Nismo, which costs a resounding $65k.
Frankly, although I love the Z-car more than many other compact(ish) sports cars, I really can't recommend it over the BMW M2, which is marginally cheaper at a little over $63k and also a lot more powerful – it rocks 453 official hp plus all the extra ponies BMW doesn't want to talk about. EV truck fans also have something to discuss – as they wait for the first Tesla Cybertruck deliveries and for Rivian to unleash the new dual-motor R1Ts on the market.
By the way, a lot of Toyotas were just updated for the 2024 model year, and Rolls-Royce unveiled yet another bespoke masterpiece – the Phantom Inspired by Cinque Terre, Bentley showcased to the world the 'Belonging Bentayga' painted by an exceptional artist with 29 landscape milestones from across the globe from memory (!), and the 2024 Jeep Wagoneer lost the 5.7-liter Hemi V8 engine while the Grand Wagoneer sibling somehow managed to keep the 6.4-liter Hemi for a bit longer.
Because I'm a firm believer not just in battery or hydrogen-powered EVs but also in plug-in hybrids as a measure to offset the potential range anxiety as we progress toward the zero-emissions lifestyle, it's nice to note that BMW just updated the all-new 5 Series roster with a couple of plug-in hybrid 530e and 550e xDrive variants. Naturally, I hope the latter makes it stateside, along with its combined output of 489 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque (700 Nm) plus 19.4 kWh high-voltage battery and 56 mi (90 km) of pure EV driving capability.
However, two other models are the most important novelties of the week – the refreshed Genesis GV80 mid-size luxury crossover SUV that now also boasts a GV80 Coupe variant to spite the X6 and GLE Coupe, plus (some say) one of the nicest premium cabins around. However, those two were only launched at home in South Korea, so it will be a long wait before we get the US versions in front of our eyes or computer/smartphone screens.
On the other hand, the 2024 Kia EV9 three-row mid-size EV crossover SUV will be the second E-GMP representative from Kia and also the first zero-emissions model to be assembled in North America. There, it will go home from the dealership starting from at least $54,900, with first deliveries planned for the year's fourth quarter. The perks, by the way, look great. There's standard space for up to seven people on board, an 800V architecture to take advantage of blazing-fast DC fast charging infrastructure and go from 10 to 80% state-of-charge in under 25 minutes, plus a very long list of driver assistance features (ADAS) and a friendly, minimalist exterior and interior design.
However, I don't think Kia will have it easy on the US market. The competition has stayed active while Kia prepared the EV9 following the initial release of the namesake concept at the 2021 Los Angeles Auto Show. Now, the situation is as follows. So, you could buy a best-selling Tesla Model Y from $50,490 with the dual-motor AWD and Long Range battery pack – you'll get 330 miles of EPA-rated range, 135 mph top speed, and brisk 4.8s acceleration to 60 mph. But there's no space for additional people on board.
On the other hand, the Tesla Model X starts much higher – at $79,990, and you only get AWD options – the dual motor for 348 miles of range or tri-motor Plaid for $89,990 for 2.5-second sprints to 60 mph. But it's much costlier than a Kia EV9, of course. On the other hand, the latter starts at $55k with RWD and has 'just' 215 horsepower on tap. Meanwhile, the bigger battery options with 201 hp (RWD) and 380 hp (AWD) are a little late at the EV9 party and will be offered starting sometime next year.
So, there's a trade-off in terms of performance and practicality, as AWD fans of zero-emissions vehicles won't even look at the EV9 Light model that just launched. As such, it's best to select a different foe for this nice-looking Kia – the Mercedes EQB compact luxury crossover SUV, which is a nudge smaller but also has space for seven people on board. It even boasts an EQB 250+ version, which starts from $52,750 and features a single motor, FWD, and 190 horsepower. Its battery is just 66.5 kWh compared to Kia EV9's standard 76.1 kWh pack – which is where the larger dimensions show their worth.
So, which one would you choose – the fresh 2024 Kia EV9 Light, a Mercedes EQB 250+, the best-selling Tesla Model Y, or its larger Model X cousin?