By Barbara & Bill Schaffer
As avid Kia watchers since the brand’s U.S. debut in the Portland, Oregon area, we’ve watched the brand grow quickly, mature and build into an important presence in the North American automotive market. If you don’t think the Kia is a major player just look at the number of Kias you pass on your daily drives. We also noticed a considerable number of Kia brand vehicles during a recent trip to Mexico.
Since the introduction in 1992, we’ve been able to drive and review nearly all the Kia models, which now total 22 when you count hybrid and electric variations. We’ve always told our readers that if the Kia had a Honda, Nissan or Toyota name badge, they would cost several thousand dollars more and they would be even bigger sellers. With each new model Kia introduced since the beginning, we’ve see continued advancements in styling, quality and features.
Our latest Kia test car is one of the most exciting to date, and major step away from the company’s economy car image and into the realm of performance, meet the Kia Stinger.
The Kia Stinger GT is an all-new Fastback Sport Sedan, which Kia calls a GT model. Initially, a GT car was considered to be a performance and luxury automobile capable of high speed and long-distance driving. The most common format is a front-engine, rear-wheel-drive two-door coupé with either a two-seat or a 2+2 arrangement. In recent years, since the advent of and popularity of the four-door coupe, cars like the Stinger had adopted the GT nomenclature and it fits nicely with two extra doors and sleek design.
Unlike most Kia models which are front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, the 2018 Kia Stinger GT uses a rear-wheel drive platform, plus the Stinger is also offered with the increasingly popular all-wheel drive configuration. The most exciting engine is the Hyundai/Kia (Hyundai is the major owner of Kia) 365-hp 3.3-liter twin turbo DOHC, direct injection V-6. The secondary engine is a 255-hp, 2.0-liter twin scroll turbocharged four-cylinder. Both engines have a standard eight-speed automatic transmission with a manual shifting model and both are available with FWD or AWD. A six-speed manual transmission is rumored to be coming for the four-cylinder engine.
With its sculpted lines, trimmed Kia Tiger-Tooth grill and fastback design, the Stinger looks like a GT car should look – fast and sexy. Interior appointments amplify that image with rich-looking supportive seats, a trim efficient dash layout and all the latest electronic enhancements and infotainment goodies as standard equipment.
The Stinger dimensions are within a few inches of four-door competitors like the BMW 4 Grand Coupe, Audi A5 Sportback, Lexus GS and Infiniti Q50. It rides on a four-wheel independent suspension with MacPherson struts up front and a sophisticated five-link rear system. The tires are low-profile 19-inchers with wider and lower profile rear tires for better traction.
With a very quick 0 to 60 mph acceleration time of 4.7 seconds, the stinger performance numbers fall right in the same league as the big-name speed machines, but not quite at the level the expensive high performance German factory tuners. The top track speed is 167 mph.
With a car like the Stinger in our garage we get a strong craving for the open road, so a trip from our home near Portland Oregon to the Oregon coast was in order. We found the Stinger to be a beautiful road car. It handles corners flat with excellent control and a surprisingly good ride for a car of this type. The interior to be very comfortable with rich-looking and supportive seats. We especially like the control placement and ease of use. Driving briskly, we averaged 23.8 mpg for the trip. The EPA estimates fuel economy to be 19 mpg city, 25 mpg highway and 21 mpg combined.
The 2018 Kia Stinger is a bargain at all five trim levels: 2.0L and Premium with the 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine or the GT, GT1 and GT2 with the twin-turbo V-6. Pricing starts at $32,800, including the destination charge, for the 2.0L (the four-cylinder version) RWD. The top of the line Stinger GT2 RWD is $50,100. All-wheel drive is $2,200 extra on all trims. The only option on the Stinger GT2 is the color.
Anyone wanting a GT style coupe-like car with impressive performance needs to trot down to the local Kia dealer and drive this car. We can’t think of any other car that comes close for the money. The Stinger just went on to our favorites list of the cars we’ll consider buying when the time comes.