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The 2023 Kia EV6 GT proves that Kia can. It can make a four-door sports car more convincing than the Kia Stinger. It can sell a 120-hp budget car alongside a 576-hp electric crossover. That EV can sprint to 60 mph quicker than the Ford Mustang Mach-E GT and Tesla Model Y Performance. Kia can do performance, and this feels like an evolutionary step for a brand that started selling low-end, low-cost cars in the U.S. about 30 years ago.

Far from perfect but plenty exhilarating, the EV6 GT shows off this evolutionary performance potential.

It can do all this without taking a big leap from the EV6 that launched last year. At $62,695 including destination, the EV6 GT is only $4,000 more than the EV6 GT-Line and nearly $10,000 less than the Tesla Model Y Performance and Ford Mustang Mach-E GT.

The most expensive Kia is also the most powerful. The 800-volt architecture and 77.4-kwh battery pack remain the same, but Kia essentially swapped out the rear motor of the GT-Line and put it up front (rated at 160 kw/215 hp), then dropped in a larger 270-kw/362-hp motor to power the rear wheels. They make a combined 576 hp and 545 lb-ft of torque, but the larger motors are the largest contributor to the 4,795-pound curb weight, which is 293 more than a similarly equipped GT-Line.

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Efficiency takes a hit, as expected, with the range topping out at 206 miles, down from 252 for the AWD GT-Line. The 21-inch wheels wrapped in Goodyear Eagle F1 performance tires also lower the efficiency rating from 2.9 miles per kwh in GT-Line AWD to 2.4 miles per kwh, but that’s the tradeoff for what the EV6 GT was built to do: go fast.

The EV6 GT shoots to 60 mph in just 3.4 seconds and reaches a top speed of 161 mph. I didn’t test the top speed on a lead-follow course adjacent to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, but zipping past a barren Lake Mead on the way from the Vegas Strip, the acceleration packed a punch every time. Unlike the Porsche Taycan (the Taycan GTS hits 60 mph in 3.5 seconds), the EV6 GT didn’t pin me in my seat and threaten my lunch at launch, but from about 20-60 mph I didn’t breathe or blink. It’s the kind of lightning quick acceleration unique to an EV’s power delivery that the Kia Stinger GT can’t approximate.

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Kia adds three more drive modes to the Eco, Normal, and Sport modes in lesser EV6 models. A My Drive Mode lets drivers customize the throttle responsiveness, steering, suspension, stability control, and electronic limited-slip rear differential, but it’s buried in the touchscreen by at least four button presses, so it’s nothing to adjust on the fly.

The GT mode is much easier to access. Press the lime green button on the steering wheel and it turns most settings to Sport+, so the pedal firms up, the suspension stiffens, and the stability control relaxes. It didn’t feel dramatically different from Sport mode, but the grip was more pronounced and the weight was better managed on the long sweeping turns on a single-lane highway around Lake Mead, where the EV6 GT was at its best.

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Then there’s a hidden Drift mode, which requires a convoluted sequence of steps: start in GT mode, keep your foot on the brake, hold the stability control button until it turns off and the icon illuminates in the cluster, then hold both regen brake paddles for about three seconds. It essentially becomes a rear-wheel-drive car.

On the track, which was set up like an autocross with kinks, hairpins, a brief sweeper, and a straight to flirt with 120 mph or so, we did not have Drift mode enabled. The lead driver might have, however.

In controlled pairings of two cars following an instructor who would go as fast as the slowest car, he came out of the hairpin with the rear sliding out, the rubber smoking, and the front wheels pointed straight where he needed to go. I followed in GT mode, feeling the rear slide out behind me with the diff helping maintain speed through what was probably a lighter correction than it felt like. With most of the torque at the rear wheels, coming out of the turn was a blast and where the EV6 GT most proved its performance chops.

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Coming into the turn wasn’t as grin- or confidence-inspiring. The sport-tuned suspension and adjustable dampers couldn’t alleviate the prodigious weight, even though the EV6 sits lower than other electric crossovers (ground clearance is 6.1 inches and it’s about three inches shorter in height, on average, than rivals). There was some squish in turns, and the understeer posed an initial challenge on that same hairpin that I never fully figured out in two three-lap turns. Part of it was from light steering that caused me to tip in too early, but that’s like the golfer blaming the putter. More heft on the wheel and more feedback would’ve been welcome for this Duffer.

I also felt that there could’ve been more initial bite from the lime green monoblock calipers that grabbed larger 15.0-inch rotors up front and 14.2-inch rotors on the back. I didn’t detect enough initial pedal feel in one-pedal drive mode or with no regenerative braking set. But exiting that turn was an absolute delight every time.

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Kia lets the EV6 operate well in two planes, being a quiet and comfy commuter loaded with Kia’s best features, or to whip around uncrowded spaces such as on a racetrack. I’m not sure how many of the EV6 GTs will make their way to a track—Kia estimates production will be capped between 2,000 and 2,500 units—but the EV6 GT has proven that it can, better than any other Kia, and better than rival EVs.

Kia paid for travel, lodging, and track time for Motor Authority to bring you this firsthand report.

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