In this Kia, you’ll enjoy getting stung
Words by: Adam Allen
So, this is Kia’s first legitimate sports car.
With every new model year, and with every new product, Kia’s relentless focus on honing their craft as a purveyor of cool, well-built cars marches on. As auto journalists, we have prattled on and on about Kia’s value, their handsome design language (since Peter Schreyer joined the team, anyway) and overall quality. All those bullet points apply to the Stinger we tested recently. But this time it’s different, because were talking about a genuine first effort into the sports sedan segment, one that is chalk full of revered and established names. As we delve into what makes the Stinger sting, remember that this is a first effort and that the Kia brand is bereft of the patinated history that virtually all its rivals have to trade on. You may have heard Kia’s marketing slogan: The Power to Surprise. Without giving away too much at the start, let’s just say that could not be truer with the Stinger. It’s so good that it can legitimately shed the qualifiers you make when talking about a Kia- “Well, it may be OK but it’s a terrific value” or “this is a great effort…for a Kia”- stuff like that will not be seen anywhere in this review. The Stinger is not only a great car, but it’s the best Kia we have ever encountered, and we hope folks will see past its badge and discover the inherent excellence. This is going to cause a lot of worry amongst its competitors.
They really nailed the styling.
When we first clapped eyes on the Stinger in the metal, we instantly declared it to be Seoul’s version of the Audi A7. In profile they’re strikingly similar- did you ever think even a decade ago that you’d be mentioning these two brands in the same sentence where styling is concerned? We can recall our collective jaws hitting the floor in 2011 when Kia pulled the wraps off the GT Concept car, the inspiration of what eventually would become the Stinger. Some of the stuff like the embellished body kit, the monstrous wheels and the hair thin wing mirrors didn’t make it into production, but the car you see here is clearly a descendant from that showstopper. Judging by the informal poll of our surrounding fellow motorists while waiting at traffic lights, the Stinger is a bonafide looker. It’s long and low and purposeful, and we loved the little details, like the incredible LED lighting fore and aft for the turn signals- they both feature a honeycomb like design flair that looks awesome day or night.
The cockpit is pretty snazzy, too.
We’re pretty sure that nobody has accused Kia of being inept when it comes to building smartly executed interiors. Let’s start with the infotainment system, because there isn’t much to discuss- it’s terrific. Sharp graphics, user-friendly menus and structure along with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto all add up to a superb user experience. There’s also an app called UVO Intelligence you can download that allows you start your Stinger remotely as well as get diagnostic reports right on your smartphone. The seating areas are all trimmed in buttery Nappa leather and are heated and ventilated- comfortable, too. We became partial to lowering the windows and blasting our favorite tunes through the many speakers of the Harmon Kardon stereo- this unit can kick up the volume to levels your audiologist warned you about while remaining clear and distortion free. The Stinger also comes with a holistic suite of driver aids that help keep you out of trouble, and we should call out the lane keeping assist for its surprising proficiency. Normally, we try this out once and then it spends the rest of our Road Test inactive. We were pleasantly surprised at how well Kia has managed to make the system on the Stinger feel almost natural.
Does it drive as good as it looks?
Even better. Recall that we stated earlier that the Stinger is the first big step towards sports car legitimacy for Kia. Unless you’re a track rat or someone who’s logged many laps at race pace you’ll find the handling more than up to the task. It’s just so resolutely planted and confident feeling- it has that reassured sense of control you find in a finely engineered German car. Remember that the Stinger’s suspension was dialed in by Albert Biermann, formerly of the BMW M division. It helps that the spiciest of Kias has near perfect weight distribution and a steering rack that was never inundated with Novocain. Actually, one of the best things about the chassis is the amazing ride. Despite all that control, the way the car absorbs both big road-turbulence and little pineapple-textured roughness is a revelation. The Stinger’s AWD gives you the confidence to deploy the robust horsepower without worrying about it getting away from you. Now that we mention the power, the engineers needn’t focus on making the drivetrain better. Kia’s 3.3 litre twin-turbo V6 and 8-speed automatic join forces to give the Stinger fierce acceleration- it certainly feels darn quick and on paper it will easily dispatch may of its prestige rivals in a head-to-head race. The gearbox is always in the right ratio ready to make the most of the V6’s heady 376 pounds feet of torque, and when you use the steering wheel mounted paddles it responds with gratifying urgency. We found that leaving the transmission in Drive yielded the most fun, so we let it do its own thing. When it comes time to scrub off the impressive speed, Kia has fitted generous rotors clamped by Brembo calipers that are actuated by a pedal offering great feel.
What might go wrong?
Not much. On a scale of one to ten where the Stinger is concerned, Kia has come out of the gates in earnest and thanks to their efforts the Stinger is a solid 8 ½ – it shouldn’t take them long to find the other remaining points. The handling at paces that can lightly be described as brisk could use a touch more polish. Measured by itself, the Stinger has a terrific interior- compare it to say, a BMW 4 series Gran Coupe and its evident that there is ever so slight room for improvement- although the brand has closed the gap so much that it will certainly be a threat to its rivals. Also, we hope Kia Canada will give us the option like our American counterparts to choose between rear and all-wheel drive. We understand that the Canadian market will prefer power being sent to all contact patches, but the chassis boasts so much finesse that we’d love to see how it would perform sans front driveshaft and differential.
Should I buy a Kia Stinger GT?
Kia hasn’t committed to building a vast legion of Stingers, so we wouldn’t wait too long to act. This is a halo car after all and they do not traditionally sell in huge numbers. If you think the V6 is too much for your commute, check out the 2.0 litre turbo four option that is still plenty fleet despite being down two cylinders and a bunch of horsepower. But for those of you who can’t resist a good deal but refuse to give up having their cake and eating it too, you need to take a close look at the Stinger GT, after which you will no doubt agree that none of its competitors can even come close to giving you as much stuff for the price that the Kia does- it has pretty much everything. Another asset: The Stinger’s wheelbase is a huge 102 millimeters longer than that Bimmer Gran Coupe we motioned earlier, and its only 43 millimeters shorter than a Porsche Panamera’s- so, actual people can fit comfortably inside. Another well-known car we found ourselves drawing comparisons to was the Audi S5 Sportback. The two share many similarities- both have turbocharged V6 engines, all-wheel drive and even their styling motifs are close to one another. And while the Audi may drive a smidge better and offer a slicker interior, you can’t honestly say that it is worth the gaping $22,000 premium over the Stinger. The Kia is faster, has more personality and doesn’t carry any pretentiousness with it- people will nod approvingly at it while giving the aforementioned S5 an ambivalent glance and continue about their day. As we leave you with that to consider, it bears repeating again- this is hands down the best we’ve seen from Kia Motors, we can’t wait to see what they’ll do next.
2018 Kia Stinger GT– Specifications
- Price as tested: $51,855
- Body Type: 4-door, 5 passenger Sports Sedan
- Powertrain Layout: Front engine/all-wheel drive
- Transmission: 8-speed automatic
- Engine: 3.3 litre twin-turbo V6, DOHC, 24 valves
- Horsepower: 365 @ 6,000 rpm
- Torque (lbs-ft.): 376 @ 1,300 rpm
- Curb weight: 1,816 kg (4,004 lbs)
- Observed Fuel Consumption: 11.8L/100km (20 mpg)