We’ve already spent a lot of time behind the wheel of a 2018 Kia Stinger GT compact sport-luxury sedan. But, this is our first chance to really wring out a rear-wheel-drive version at a proper road racing course all to ourselves.
Getting right to it, after a week of hands on research at Savannah’s Roebling Road Raceway, all of our drivers came away impressed with the lively feel of the Stinger.
At track speed, it is very responsive, and quick to obey your inputs. While steering and suspension feedback is good on the streets, we’d like even more for the track, so you do need a few laps to get a firm grasp on what the car can do.
But, the twin-turbo V6 has plenty of guts for the track, and delivers a broad spread of lag-free power; it never feels peaky or boosty either, so kudos to them, as that’s hard to do on a twin turbo. And no matter how hard you’re pushing, there always seems to be a little more in reserve. There’s no V8 exhaust note, but it’s not shabby for a V6.
The GT’s Brembo brakes are really good, only showing fade at the end of our track days. Traction was provided by 19-inch wheels wearing Michelin Pilot Sport performance tires.
Play your cards right getting into turns and the Stinger just hunkers down with plenty of grip. Get too eager with the throttle however, and this Stinger will sting, with a predictable amount of oversteer, just the way a driver’s car should.
Having a true 8-speed automatic transmission didn’t seem to hinder things at all; triggering the well-positioned paddle shifters, resulted in very quick shifts.
Is it perfect? Not quite. Despite all of its capabilities, the Stinger doesn’t have all of the chassis stiffness we’ve come to expect from the best European sport sedans. But, it is only a matter of a small degree.
Front seats are plenty supportive for track work, and thankfully since it’s doubtful too many Stingers will end up there, they are more than comfortable for long distance cruising.
The Stinger does feel great on the street. So, any lack of track rigidity actually translates into a great highway ride.
And the available all-wheel-drive adds a level of security for when the weather turns ugly, as well as aids the street handling experience with dynamic torque vectoring, though you do have to pay a penalty in the form of additional weight and less overall responsiveness.
It was an all-wheel-drive Stinger that we took to the drag strip for ¼-mile testing. Hitting 60 in just 4.5–seconds, it gets off the line quickly with effortless, no drama launches.
The automatic rifles through gears with ultra-smoothness, and engine power is seamless throughout the band; all helping us complete the ¼-mile in 13.1–seconds at 108 miles-per-hour. Easily the most fun we’ve ever had with a Kia at a drag stip.
All of that fun happens because of the GT’s twin-turbo V6 in the engine bay, of course. Kia’s 3.3-liter is quick to rev, while it delivers 365–horsepower and 376 lb-ft. of torque.
Base Stingers do come with the requisite 2.0-liter turbo-4 which punches out a still fine 255–horsepower.
There’s no doubt that the 5-door hatch is becoming the new norm for performance sedans, and the Stinger’s rear hatch is very well disguised. Plus, it’s hard to fault the added practicality with 23.3 cubic-ft. of cargo room rear seats up, expanding to 40.9 cubic-ft seats down.
Up front for the driver, is a compact flat-bottom steering wheel, simple yet comprehensive gauge cluster, and Kia’s UVO infotainment with 8.0-inch touchscreen; along with a healthy dose of well-placed traditional controls.
Base 4-cylinder Stinger pricing is $32,800; V6 GTs start at $39,250. You’re looking at about 50-grand for our GT2 test car. The same sport-sedan ballpark as a BMW 3-Series or Audi S4.
We know that to some, awarding our MotorWeek Best of the Year Drivers’ Choice Award to the 2018 Kia Stinger may have come as a surprise. But, you would have to live in a padded room not to know this first, true, Euro-styled sport-luxury sedan from a Korean brand is causing quite a stir in the automotive press. And as if we needed it, the proof, as they say, is in the driving.
Engine: 3.3 liter
Torque: 376 lb-ft.
0-60 mph: 4.5 seconds
1/4 mile: 13.1 seconds @ 108 mph