The real app that kills the Kia EV9 could be its software

When automakers use the term “flagship,” it traditionally means a premium supercar or plush luxury sedan. But the all-new 2024 Kia ​​EV9 is a flagship of a whole different kind.

It’s a crossover, to begin with. And a large one with three rows of seats, intended for large families. It is also electric and capable of quickly recharging its battery from 10% to 80% in less than 25 minutes. Pricing has yet to be announced, but it will likely be the most expensive Kia in the lineup.

All told, the EV9 is a big step forward for a brand that just a few years ago was synonymous with cheap rental cars at the airport and “No credit?” No problem” dealers. Now it’s becoming an electric-focused tech company with huge global sales targets, and the EV9 will lead the way.

One of its biggest features went a little under the radar when it debuted at the 2023 New York International Auto Show this week: it’s the first Kia with the new Connected operating system. Car Navigation Cockpit (stylized ccNC) from Hyundai Motor Group.

This update takes Kia’s infotainment and software game to the next level, enabling over-the-air updates for nearly every feature in the car – a first for Kia. While Kia’s lineup has OTA updates for its infotainment system, ccNC allows over-the-air upgrades for bug fixes, new feature releases, better battery optimization and more. Eventually, one of them will also be a more advanced automated driver assistance system.

2024 Kia ​​EV9 GT-Line interior I

2024 Kia ​​EV9 GT-Line interior image credit: Kia

OTA updates are expected to be crucial technology for new cars in the years to come. While Tesla has offered this feature for years to give customers things as serious as Autopilot upgrades and as silly as Christmas light shows, the rest of the industry is quickly catching up. And with cars owned (and often financed) for almost a decade or more now, OTA updates are the automakers’ way of keeping things fresh if people aren’t buying as often – while still adding revenue from subscription features to their portfolios.

Kia spokesman Jeff Jablansky said ccNC runs on a new chipset with more processing power than current models, “fast-for-iPhone” scrolling speeds, more shortcuts to key functions, revised graphics and other improvements.

“Mapping has improved, resolution has improved,” Jablansky said. “You’ll have fewer trips to the gas station because you can get updates as you need them.”

But even if things change, old habits die hard. Crucially for many buyers, Jablansky confirmed that, unlike General Motors, Kia won’t be removing Apple CarPlay or Android Auto integration. “We’re launching with it,” Jablansky said, though he added that these features will require a wired connection – unlike many competitors who allow this to happen wirelessly.

That’s a bit odd for an EV whose close relative, the Genesis GV60, offers facial recognition but also wired-only CarPlay. But Jablansky said this interface works for those who still want to charge their phone in the car.

Chevorlet Trax 2021 carplay software display inside car dashboard

A wired Carplay setup in a 2021 Chevrolet Trax. GM is getting rid of Carplay completely. image credit: GM

Additionally, OTA updates will unlock new levels of in-car customization, Kia officials said. Maybe even a sports team themed interior. Yes really.

“We are still developing these features, but it gives us the opportunity to not only keep the car running smoothly, but also to add graphics enhancements,” said Mike Wilde, Director of Planning and Pricing. products for Kia America at TechCrunch. at the New York International Auto Show this week.

“We’re looking at things like sports team-themed GUIs, on-demand entertainment type things,” he added.

The ccNC system first appeared on the ultra-luxury Hyundai Grandeur sedan which is mainly only sold in South Korea and the Middle East, and it is featured in the 2024 Hyundai Kona which also debuted at the New York International Auto Show this week. The EV9 and the new Kona are expected to go on sale in the fourth quarter of this year. Wilde said ccNC will be rolled out to all Kia models over the next few years as major updates come along.

He said that while Hyundai, Kia and Genesis now share the same hardware and soon the same software, each brand has its own product planning operations and specific audiences. With ccNC they will also get an even greater degree of graphical and visual differentiation.

With Kia, the conglomerate is targeting a younger and “more progressive” audience, Wilde said. In the case of EV9, this means younger families with increasing numbers of children and possibly grandparents.

If so, they will benefit from a family-friendly interior and a supposedly “green” interior. Kia executives say that in addition to the software overhaul, great attention has been paid to creating an airy and uncluttered cabin where parents can easily see their children in the back thanks to head restraints in semi-transparent mesh. The EV9 will also not offer leather at all, but non-leather polyurethane seats. These, as well as the headliner and some fabrics, are partly made from recycled plastic bottles.

A test of the EV9 will be the haptic controls under the central infotainment system. These eschew the traditional buttons (which the car also has) for “hide until turned on” switches that vibrate when touched. Other automakers like Volkswagen and Cadillac have tried this and the reception has never been positive.

Jochen Paesen, Kia’s vice president of interior design, told TechCrunch he thinks this setup will work better because the switches are closer to the driver, easier to see and easier to reach than what competitors have offered.

He added that the low battery placement, and lack of a transmission tunnel, allows for a “flatter floor” for loading cargo and significantly more rear legroom compared to crossovers. three rows that are usually only suitable for lowercase. children in the back.

“This space gives us a lot of opportunities and possibilities,” Paesen said.

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