The Kia brand has come a long way in a short time, both in design and quality. But, as good as their vehicles are today, their long range goal seems directed at being a true Asian alternative to European luxury-sport brands. That’s a tall order, and for it, they have ordered up an all-new rear-wheel drive sedan, the Stinger. So, let’s see if rivals should be looking for bug spray.
Kia has been working towards building more exciting and dynamic cars for a few years now, but this 2018 Kia Stinger is their biggest step yet. While called a sedan, it’s really a well-camouflaged 5-door hatchback.
But, under its fastback skin lies the more important story, a finely-balanced, rear-drive chassis shared with the forthcoming Genesis G70, supported by struts in the front, and 5-links in the rear.
Under the long hood is a longitudinal, class requisite, base turbocharged 2.0-liter I4 with 255-horsepower and 260 lb-ft. of torque. But, our test Stinger GT packs a 3.3-liter twin-turbo V6 good for 365-horsepower and 376 lb-ft. of torque. Both hook up to 8-speed automatic with paddle shifters; there’s no manual, but both can add all-wheel-drive.
While the 2.0 is no slouch, the GT’s V6 powertrain really impressed us with its overall smoothness. Even the paddle shifters work with a quick precision we didn’t expect.
Size wise, the Stinger is almost mid-size, being bigger than a 3-Series but smaller than a 5. Apart from its tiger nose, the Stinger doesn’t favor anything else in the Kia stable. It nails the luxuriously sporty look, attracting the kind of attention usually reserved for exotics.
We’ll admit there are some Audi cues; but hey, if you’re going to copy someone, you should make it one of the best. We also acknowledge the touch of cheapness with fender and non-functional hood trim, but they certainly didn’t go cheap down below, with Michelin Pilot Sports on 19–inch rims and Brembo brakes all around.
Quad exhaust tips look great and sound even better. Especially when streaking down the track with the 3.3-liter at full boil. It doesn’t snarl and bark like a HEMI Charger sedan, as its smooth and quick acceleration feels purely European.
All-wheel-drive grip and well-designed launch control make for simple, drama-free launches. There’s hardly any sense of weight transfer either. It’s one second you’re sitting still, and the next you’re at full power. We hit 60 in just 4½ of those serene seconds.
If you’re looking for hard-firing, throw you back in your seat, torquey shifts; you won’t find them here either. The gears are indeed changing, but the only sensation you get is just calm unrelenting thrust.
The car feels very stable at high speeds, as we reached 108 miles-per-hour in the ¼, completed in 13.1-seconds.
While there’s nothing exotic in the basic suspension theory, it’s all in the tuning, which as you may have heard by now, was overseen by Albert Biermann formerly of BMW’s M Division. And the results feel totally in that realm.
There was massive grip through our cones, staying nice and stable with minimum flex. Steering is impressively quick with decent feel. Plus, five comprehensive drive modes, including a custom setting, come standard. We can’t wait to get this GT on a proper race course.
Those Brembos brought this 4,000-lbs. hatchback to a halt in just 105-feet; minimal fade with an overall tight and sporty feel.
But of course we can’t all live our lives a quarter mile at a time, so it’s good to know the Stinger is just as pleasurable sitting in traffic. It never feels like a thoroughbred waiting to run free; rather more like a luxury car with tremendous performance potential.
There’s plenty of room in the cabin, both front and rear. V6 GT trim comes with a nice flat-bottom steering wheel, rear view camera, and aluminum trim.
Stepping up to GT1 will get you navigation, a sunroof, and 720-watts of Harmon Kardon premium audio.
Finally, GT2 adds Nappa leather trim, a head-up display, and a host of advanced safety features.
And just for fun and quirkiness, the fact that Stinger’s key fob resembles some kind of detonator, just gives you a hint of what you’re about to set off when get behind the wheel.
There is a practical side as well; hatchback versatility means a wide opening with 23.3 cubic-ft. of cargo space, 40.9 with rear seat backs folded.
Government Fuel Economy Ratings for an all-wheel-drive GT are 19-City, 25-Highway, and 21-Combined.
Pricing starts at $39,250 for the GT; but pro tip, base models look virtually identical outside, are almost as fast, and start a few grand less than a 3 Series at $32,800.
While it was easy to be impressed with the first effort at building a true European-style sport sedan from Kia, we’d be just as impressed with the 2018 Stinger if had come from a more established marque; it’s that spectacular. But it’s what’s coming next that has us really excited, as a whole new adrenaline-packed era for Kia has begun.
Engine: 2.0 liter / 3.3 liter
Horsepower: 255 / 365
Torque: 260 lb-ft. / 376 lb-ft.
0-60 mph: 4.5 seconds
1/4 mile: 13.1 seconds @ 108 mph
EPA: 19 mpg city / 25 mpg highway,