2018 Kia Stinger Review | Kia Stinger GT Review
|Engine:||2.0L turbo 4-cyl/3.3L twin-turbo V6|
|Output:||255 hp, 260 lb-ft/365 hp, 376 lb-ft|
|Drivetrain:||RWD or AWD|
|Fuel Economy:||Not yet available|
|US Price:||$32,795 to $52,595|
|CAN Price:||$48,560 to $53,560 est. (GT model only)|
|:||(All pricing includes destination)|
Kia was that somewhat quiet and dorky kid in everyone’s high school. At the 10-year class reunion, they surprised everyone because all of a sudden they were hot and really rich. In contrast to those awkward high-school years, today they are the most compelling and confident person in the room and everyone wants to be their friend.
If success is the best revenge, then the Kia Stinger is the Korean automaker’s big and silently sophisticated middle finger to the haters, all the people who had doubts, and all those more popular kids who looked down on it.Get a Quote on a New Kia Stinger
If you needed any more proof that Kia isn’t that second-rate cheap carmaker it once was and you weren’t already convinced by all the reliability and quality awards it has won, then the Stinger is it. The Stinger is one of the most impressive and surprising cars I’ve driven all year, and it should go down in history as the most important car Kia has ever made.
It Lives up to the Hype
I was extremely skeptical about all of Kia’s hype surrounding this new car. Automakers throw around buzzwords like passion, adrenaline, performance and excitement and the car often ends up being a lazy, uninspired and boring product that makes too many compromises. They claim their cars have an emotional appeal, but that’s impossible to engineer without authenticity.
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The Kia Stinger is a rare exception because it actually lives up to the hype — Kia poured everything it has into this car and it really shows. I can scream this into your ear until you’re deaf, but until you drive it, you won’t understand how significant this point is. You need to drive this car (and drive it hard) because it’s the only thing that will make you understand that this car delivers on its promise to surprise you.
Cars often get flustered and come undone when driven angrily, but if you push the Kia Stinger, it rewards you with an invitation to push it even harder. Driven normally, the Stinger is smooth, comfortable, effortless and luxurious with a decent turn of speed — that much was expected.
What wasn’t expected was how legitimately fun the Stinger was to go ham on. Maybe the novelty of doing tire-shredding drifts with a Kia is still too new, but the car was genuinely engaging and fun to drive, displaying a pure and tactile feeling that is increasingly rare these days.
Much of that tactile feeling comes down to the hydraulic steering setup, which is perfectly weighted, making it precise and responsive — it acts quickly to inputs, feels tight on center, and actually communicates with the driver. This is going to make it sound like I’m lying, but from a driving standpoint, the steering on the Stinger is sportier than the steering in the new Porsche Panamera, which feels disconnected, floaty and over-boosted after Kia’s tighter and more intuitive setup.
Two engines will be available for the Stinger: a 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder and a 3.3-liter twin-turbo V6 for the GT models (the GT designation is exclusively for V6-powered models). In Canada, the GT model is the only Stinger available, meaning the V6 and AWD will come standard and RWD will not be offered, although the four-cylinder model might be available in mid-2018. The four-cylinder model has 255 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque, which helps the Stinger get to 60 mph in 5.9 seconds. We didn’t get to spend too much time in the four-cylinder Stinger, but it’s a punchy engine for sure.
The twin-turbo V6 GT model, however, is the much more exciting option with a healthy 365 hp and 376 lb-ft of torque that helps it rocket to 60 mph in 4.7 seconds, surprisingly faster than the Panamera, which does it in 5.9 seconds. (The Stinger is obviously not a Panamera competitor, which makes it all the more impressive.) All that power goes to the rear wheels (AWD models are also available for both engines and is a $2,200 option in the U.S.) via a smooth and responsive eight-speed automatic transmission. The Stinger also has five distinct drive modes that dramatically change the car’s driving dynamics to suit your mood: Smart (automatic mode), Eco, Comfort, Sport, and Custom. Each mode makes changes to the suspension, steering, throttle response, transmission, AWD setup, and traction control.
The power delivery isn’t as violently strong as other cars in the segment, but the V6 has a ton of hustle and puts down power in a smooth and linear manner with only a whisper of turbo lag. The V6 also sounds shockingly aggressive when you punch it, but I wish more of that exhaust note would make it into the cabin. The eight-speed transmission doesn’t harshly slam into gear like so many sportier cars and also doesn’t suffer from the slow-speed issues that dual-clutch transmissions do. The stop/start for both engines is also smooth enough that I didn’t feel annoyed enough to turn it off, which I do in most cars.
The zero-to-60-mph hustle is impressive, but what’s even more unexpected is that acceleration from 90 to 120 mph was still strong and effortless, and it felt like it still had a ton of life left. And hitting speeds of 140 mph was remarkable — the car is so stable and smooth at that speed that it’s easy to forget how fast you’re actually going because there is no real sensation of speed. Going that fast, nothing rattles and there are no harsh vibrations that would betray how fast you’re traveling – this is what a well-built car is supposed to feel like.
The suspension is also a thing of beauty, hitting the Goldilocks standard of not being too hard or too soft. Chucked into a tight corner, the car stays nice and flat, but driven over rough roads, the car also doesn’t beat you up. The Stinger loves winding roads and brake-based torque vectoring helps pull you through corners with surprising confidence. Not to be forgotten, Brembo brakes are standard on GT models and have fade compensation so they still feel sharp even after repeated hard stops.
The Stinger GT shocked me by how playful it felt. The RWD model was happy to let the back end slide out (although the traction control nannies might be a bit too eager to intervene), and it’s so much fun to feel it fishtail if you nail the throttle. The car pivots and rotates like a much smaller car and that’s not lost even with the AWD version, which has a rear-drive bias and can send anywhere from zero to 50 percent of the power to the front wheels when needed.
The Stinger is effortless to drive close to your limits. Cars like this are all about confidence, and the Stinger has bucketloads of it. No matter how hard you try to drive it, the Stinger just keeps taking the abuse and even seems to enjoy it. The car is balanced, precise, and non-intimidating, and this is a huge accomplishment.
And When You’re Not Going Ham…
So when you’ve had enough excitement or hit some traffic and are ready to slow down, the Stinger continues to impress. The interior is well crafted and almost every touch point feels high-end, with authentic materials and hand-stitching making the cabin feel comfortable and fancy. It’s not yet at Audi levels of opulence and swankiness, but it’s close.
The dashboard and center stack have logical layouts and everything feels like it’s where you expect it to be and a head-up display helps you keep your eyes on the road. The Stinger is available with all the tech and driver assistance features you want, although the adaptive cruise control would benefit from being smoother and more natural feeling, but it was appreciated that it works in stop-and-go traffic. Some other available features include adaptive high-beams, bending headlights, a top-down 360-degree parking camera, blind spot monitoring, rear-cross traffic monitoring, forward collision avoidance, lane-keep assist, heated and cooled front seats, a heated steering wheel and more. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also part of the package, but Kia’s infotainment system is quick and user-friendly.
Frontward and rearward visibility are also decent, although the wide B-pillar makes shoulder checks a bit more difficult. The comfortable and supportive front seats have adjustable bolstering and the rear seats are also roomy with plenty of legroom and headroom. The trunk is also massive: there’s enough room to fit four pieces of carry-on luggage in the trunk with 23.3 cubic feet of space with seats up and 40.9 with seats down.
The Verdict: 2018 Kia Stinger Review
Like that dorky kid in high school who had something to prove, Kia took all that angst and turned it into something it could be really proud of.
The Kia Stinger is practical, legitimately sporty, comfortable, luxurious, is loaded with tech and features, and looks every bit as dramatic and stylish as a rear-drive car should. Combined with the fact that pricing for a fully loaded model maxes out at around $50,000, and the car then becomes a huge bargain.
This car is a huge turning point for Kia and it signifies that the Korean brand has arrived — it has “made it”, and it wants the nerd in all of us to have that same feeling when rolling up to our own high school reunions.
Discuss this story in our Kia Stinger forums
- Value pricing, high-end experience
- Confident and sporty driving dynamics
- All the features you need/want
- Excellent build quality
- Non-functional hood vents
- Traction control a bit too eager
- Adaptive cruise control could be smoother
Jodi has been obsessed with cars since she was little and has been an automotive journalist for the past 12 years. She has a Bachelor of Journalism from Ryerson University in Toronto, is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC), and a jury member for the prestigious North American Car/Truck/Utility Vehicle of the Year (NACTOY). Besides hosting videos, and writing news, reviews and features, Jodi is the Editor-in-Chief of AutoGuide.com and takes care of the site's day-to-day operations.
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