• Tesla Model 3 come back, everything is forgiven. Not really, but also not NOT really. The Tesla, with all its quirky faults and strange quality issues (as partially covered in my exit interview), has spoiled my wife and me.

    The EV9 is not only the EV car of the year of 2024 but also THE car of the year 2024. Those are some high praises. In many respects I can see why, but our anecdotal experience with this car leaves us more frustrated than impressed. The big problem is we’ve seen and lived the future. And while this is marketed as a car of the future, it’s rooted in the past in a way that the Tesla was never.

    Let’s get the good out of the way first: The EV9 is an incredibly well built, comfortable and quiet car. I think it looks great and it’s roomy like no car I’ve ever owned. Those are all physical aspects. Basically, you can tell Kia has been building cars for some time. But a tech company they are not.

    Let’s start with the future part. In a Tesla, you set up your profiles, connect them to key cards or your phones. The procedure then is this: you approach the car, it unlocks itself, you get in, put it in Drive, and drive away. Then you put it in park, exit the car and leave, and it locks itself. Fairly straight forward, it takes care of the unlocking and locking, turning the car on and off automatically. With the EV9, not so much.

    The car will unlock on approach, but not lock when you leave. Once in the car, you need to turn it on, and when you leave, you need to turn it off manually. If you forget to turn it off, you can’t lock it. And from the outside there’s no way to turn it off, from either key fob, phone key or the Kia app. Speaking of, you have two key fobs and you can use your phone as a key. However, you can only have two profiles, plus a guest mode, and one phone key. You can share your phone key, but not by actually sharing it. The intent has to come from someone else. They need to set up the whole Kia account first, then request access to your vehicle, then you can share it. Weird.

    There are so many peculiar limitations and unnecessary steps. Be prepared for the wonderful push notification telling you that you left your car engine running and just hope you’re not getting it while boarding a plane or something, since it means your car will be left on and unlocked and there’s nothing you can do about it without physical access to the car.

    Let me translate this notification for you: “Warning! The engine has been running for 15 minutes. For security reasons we recommend that you turn the engine off.” Best regards, a reused system from an ICE car?

    Two profiles, that’s such an unnecessary software limitation that creates a really poor experience for any owner where more than two drives it. Any additional driver will need to rely on the guest mode, but it’s also really easy to accidentally select one of the two profiles and mess up their settings, since the car will auto select a profile if no manual input is made. A profile can be protected with a PIN code and biometric fingerprint security to prevent this. But since the screen is so far away, it’s not very comfortable (and also quite slow and sluggish) or easy to enter a pin every time you get into the car so you might be swayed to use the fingerprint sensor. Bad news then that this sensor is really unreliable, inconsistently unreliable even. You get half a dozen tries before it locks up and asks you to use your PIN instead. I think my success rate here is about 50 %. That’s just not good enough, so I leave it off.

    To prevent my seat settings from being ruined, I can use the seat memory settings (of which there are two). This way, if someone accidentally change my seat while using my unprotected profile, I can rely on the second memory to restore settings. But the documentation for these buttons are poor, and it’s only by trial and error that I’ve learned how they relate to profile settings.

    When interfaces aren’t intuitive, one would hope the manual could be a great resource. However, the EV9 manual is a complicated mess that is incredibly difficult to follow. A great example of this is the very first time I wanted to use the car. I was able to turn the car on, but unable to put it in Drive or Reverse. I was trying to do it the way the rep had told me. No matter what I did, I couldn’t get the car to move. So I went for the manual. How to start the car is explained in this simple 8 step guide:

    Verbose, like me.

    Most things are likely covered in the manual, but those are 650 bitter pages to wade through even navigating by search. I’ve resorted to YouTube for learning things about this car, which has proven more effective.

    From YouTube, I’ve learned that there’s no button to pause media, only a mute button. But the EV9 in the US, the button is pause for media and mute for radio, which makes much more sense. “Can’t you use the on-screen controls to pause?” I could, if they were accessible. However, since the car insists on auto-playing audio no matter how you configure it or your (in my case) iPhone, the need for this button is immediate from the moment you start the car. But there’s the slow profile selector that you can’t dismiss. Once profile is selected, you’re greeted and told to drive carefully, which you can’t dismiss, and since you’re leaving, the car is in park mode with all the cameras, which you can’t dismiss. So you and everyone in the car will have to hear whatever the car chooses to turn on (sometimes it’s music, sometimes it’s podcasts, I’ve found no consistency in how it behaves), until you’ve been able to login, pull out and drive away. It’s not nice. Since writing this post, I’ve learned that the infotainment system’s on/off button works as a media play/pause button when pressed. It only works as on and off with long press. Things you learn by accident.

    The app is difficult to use. So many views and settings that are grouped and presented in different ways. It’s hard to figure out the information architecture of it. I can mention that the app will not let you open the trunk or frunk, it can’t tell the temperature in the car, it can’t be used to share locations from a map app (only the built-in one), it can take minutes for settings to change, the charge speed is oddly presented in percentages, and each event triggers a notification (even successful ones). But the main problem is that you’re always lost. There’s hardly no visual hierarchy, it’s all 50 shades of light gray and five times too many menus and sections that all feel awkwardly squeezed in. I get the feeling this app initially did very little and now it is responsible for a whole lot, but there wasn’t enough time or effort spent on making sure the app.

    Luckily my home and life situation affords the ability to charge at home. In fact, I’ve not charged the car anywhere else than at home since getting it four months ago. Which is good, since the car offers no entertainment features beyond playing music. No Netflix, no games, no nothing. There is no way to stream anything on this system while waiting to charge. What you can do is record voice notes, which is a weird car feature. Browsing AliExpress or similar gives you the opportunity to buy wacky computery dongles that you can plug in to get Netflix and other services. So there is a way, but it’s not very elegant.

    At some point I need to wrap this post up. It’s hard, I keep finding new annoyances. So I’ll just finish with this baffling thing:

    There is one pedal drive, confusingly named i-Pedal. Then there are a couple of levels of regenerative settings, all the way down to free rolling (Level 0). All things related to this is controlled with paddles behind the steering wheel. It’s all they do, navigate up and down among these settings. Long press and it will set regen to auto, in which it does something automatically, but I haven’t figured out what. Here’s the weird thing. When you start the car, it always defaults to Level 3. So if you prefer any other setting, instead of saving it to your profile, you’ll have to set it manually each time. However, if you prefer auto mode, you can toggle to that and THAT is saved to the profile. No other regen setting is. For someone like me, coming from a Tesla, I’m very used to and prefer one pedal driving, I kept toggling it on every time for a few weeks, but finally gave up. There are so many settings to do each time I get into the car, that I simply accepted defeat and got used to the default setting. Perhaps a good thing, because it also turns out that one pedal driving, which has maximum of regenerative breaking, which one would assume is the most economical mode to drive, is in fact not so. In one-pedal drive mode, unlike all other levels, the 4WD is permanent, meaning both front and back motors are engaged. Not sure why it has to be like this, but something tells me whatever I make up from max regen on one pedal drive is more than lost on always on 4WD.

    Building cars is hard. Writing software and designing for cars is hard too, I’ve actually worked with interface design for cars (or HMI, as they prefer to call it) for Lynk & Co, so I have first hand experience of how hard it is.

    But you got to nail the fundamentals. User centric product design revolves around the user needs and what they value. So much about the software experience in this car only makes sense in isolation at best, but as part of a whole, it falls hopefully short of feeling like anything else than the very first stumbling step into the future. I’m loving the boldness of Kia in designing the hardware aspect of this car. At it’s core its the hardware that takes you from A to B. But the actual experience of that movement goes well beyond the physical aspects of a vehicle, it’s the sum of all parts. In the EV9, there are just too many parts missing or faulty.

    Oh, did I mention the Home button on the dash doesn’t actually take you to the home screen? Things like that.

  • I came across this short video of Neil DeGrasse Tyson talking about how many different shuffles a deck of 52 cards can be. It’s quite mind boggling that every time you shuffle a deck of cards, no deck of cards has likely been in that order ever before, or will ever be again (before our sun dies).

  • We’re on the last stretch with our 2021 Tesla Model 3 Dual Motor which is being replaced with a Kia EV9 next week (I’ll write about that car too, don’t worry). I’ve held a lot of opinions about this car for the last three years and I thought it would be a good idea to close the chapter on this journey. For myself in the future should I consider Tesla again, and for others who might have a TM3 in the past or future.

    First of all, this car is fun. Quick as hell and glued to the road. It’s fairly comfortable and it has excellent range all year around. For the 60 000 km we’ve traveled, we’ve averaged 167 Wh/km which is not bad in real world conditions in mostly cold Sweden. The sound system is quite good, the infotainment system has most stuff you need (I’ve never actually missed CarPlay), the app works well enough, the car always starts, and the Tesla Supercharger network is excellent.

    In fact, the charging network and how fun this car is to drive would be my main pros with this car.

    The list of annoyances is quite a bit longer. Nothing’s to say the new car will be any better, you don’t know until you live with a car. It reviews well, but you never know. Anyway, this would give me a chance to post again when I apologise for the bad rap I will now give Tesla when I realise the competition still hasn’t caught up and things are somehow worse than they are now. Time will tell.

    First off, the wind shield wipers which are camera based in Auto are just terrible. Most of the time it misses the mark. Either it’s in deep slumber when it’s pouring down or it’s whacking away its dry rubber on a dry windscreen on a sunny day making not so lovely sounds. I hope they tested the manual wipe button on the left stalk for longevity, because even though this car has very few buttons, that is one of them, and I push it ALL. THE. TIME. On the Swedish west coast, rain is default, and summer is not a season, it’s a day. If you’re lucky. We need those wipers to work.

    Speaking of wipers, the wiper fluid is dispensed from the wipers, not shot up on the wind shield. This makes them not spread as well so you need to use more, which is sad because the fluid container is quite small. This design also makes them more susceptible to freezing. And once they’re frozen during freezing temperatures, there’s nothing you can do except wait for weather to be warmer before you can use them again.

    No lip on the trunk so if you have snow on your car and open the trunk, you’ll have a trunk full of snow. Not great. But you’ll be occupied with booking service for the too weak electric trunk motor that probably broke when you tried to open your trunk with some ice around it, so perhaps you forget about it. While waiting for service, if you get thirsty, you can always open the frunk and have a sip of meltwater that consistently makes its way in there somehow. Tesla has tried to fix this twice. It’s better, but it still get’s wet. Keep little there.

    Autopilot is a twitchy friend. When it works, it’s great. And I don’t mean the “spend-the-equivalent-of-a-small-extra-car”-expensive full self driving package, I mean the regular cruise control with lane assist type of feature. Dry and not too rainy or too sunny days it will mostly do a good job. But it has a lot of nervous breaking going on. Sometimes the car thinks that a highway is no longer a highway and will start aggressively breaking which is really disturbing and potentially dangerous for people behind. No one expects a car on the highway to behave like that if there’s no jam or anything up ahead.

    The car makes a whole lot of sounds. There’s the silly Joe mode that lowers the sounds but not nearly enough. And most of the alerts are incorrect. It’s blaring it’s alarm once in a while for crossing legal lines even though I use the turn signal.

    The fit and finish of the car is not great. Panels are not aligned, a lot of gaps, flimsy attachments and the the material quality for most things are within below average and average, at best.

    And then there’s the door handles. I’ve not yet been in a situation where I don’t have to explain to someone not familiar with Teslas how to get into the car. Or out. Tesla is really pushing the envelope of complicated unnecessary door opening solutions. You should not have to give people a tutorial on how to get in or out of a car. That’s objectively poor design.

    There’s more, like the weird steering wheel with the controls that doesn’t seem to be designed to go sideways yet a lot of features rely on this. Thin paint job, the car had fart and rainbow cowbell features before the ability to add a stop along the route of your navigation. That shows some serious priority issues.

    …that said. I’m going to miss it. It had a lot of character. It’s whimsy, perhaps to a fault, but it was never boring. It has always done the job and we’ve had fun along the way and all things considered, all my annoyances are fairly minor ones, and Teslas will continue to improve as they mature. I might consider a Tesla again in the future, if I can overcome the fact that it’s made by a company owned by Elon Musk.