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What is it: The 2018 Kia Stinger is the company’s first real foray into sports sedan production. The sportback style lends itself to convenient cargo space and the vehicle is positioned as luxury model for the brand, with better-quality materials and more safety tech. The Stinger GT2 is the top trim level.
Base Price: $50,100 As-Tested Price: $50,100
Highlights: The rear- or all-wheel drive Stinger gets either a 2.0-liter turbo four making 255 hp or a twin-turbocharged V6 making 365 hp, both coupled to an eight-speed automatic transmision with paddle shifters. Its design is based on the Concept GT from the 2011 Frankfurt motor show.
Our Opinion: Entering the sports sedan market is tough, but Kia has done a fine job with its first effort. The Stinger looks great — I’m loving the sportback styling, the front end looks aggressive and low and the rear is something straight off a concept. The only think I don’t like is the way the taillight wraps around the side — not sure why.
Inside, the materials aren’t Mercedes-nice, but the Stinger’s design is clean, and I’ll take red leather seats on any car. Some of the buttons feel a little chintzy — the mode-adjustment dial in particular — but the round vents set across the sparse dash look cool. The infotainment screen is a little far to reach though. There looks to be plenty of space in back and I folded the one seat down to fit a set of long shelves so there’s good utility here.
I’m loving this twin-turbo V6. I loved it in the Genesis G80 Sport and I love it here. Power takes a second to come on but once you’re going the Stinger seems strong whenever you press the pedal. It was wet during my drive so there was some tail-sliding action. Speaking of, in sport mode the traction control lets you hang the back end just a little, enough to feel fun but not enough to get completely sideways. It sounds great too. It’s not boy-racer loud (this is a Kia after all) but I heard a nice bassy growl inside. The eight-speed never got hung up and the braking feel and modulation were good, though the pedal traveled a little further than I would have liked. Note that this Stinger GT trim comes with Brembo brakes.
The steering is quick with just a little deadspot on center. Feel is lacking, but the quick ratio is appreciated. The effort it takes to turn is about right too. The tire/suspension combo is a good mix of a tight-ish ride without crashing over the medium-to-big potholes. I did wince once when I hit a sewer-cover-sized hole, but the tires and rims were fine.
Kia’s Stinger GT2 trim is the most expensive, and it doesn’t offer any additional option packages, just a few extras like puddle lights and paint protection. Remote start is $495. So for $50K, could you drive a Kia? I think that’s the question. The two people I told the price to were flabbergasted, but they were also floored by the power output. And consider the Audi S4 starts at $51K and goes up from there. I guess the Hemi-powered Charger might compete; that comes in at $35K or so, but it doesn’t feel as refined, nor does it really play in this Euro-style sport sedan market. The Stinger is hard to pin down, but if you’re not a slave to a badge and are looking for a RWD sports sedan you HAVE to drive it.
–Jake Lingeman, road test editor
If you’d told me that Kia was going to build this car a decade ago, I’d have thought you were nuts, and you would have been right there with me. 2011’s GT Concept, and 2014’s Stinger concept, didn’t do much to change my mind — those had to be examples of the old “we’re not planning on building these, but look at them for hints as to where our minivan styling is headed!” concept car bait-and-switch, right?
Well, I was wrong and I’m happy to have been wrong. In the case of the Stinger GT, at least, driving is believing.
It’s not that this is the best looking or best driving rear-wheel drive sedan on the market. I prefer the Alfa Romeo Giulia on both of those fronts, though I understand why some of you may be hesitant to take that particular leap (whatever you want to say about their historical enthusiast followings, Kia and Alfa are diametrically opposed when it comes to their reliability reputations).
Nor is it really a true luxury vehicle. Interior feel-wise, I’d put it up there with, perhaps, a very nice Volkswagen or a less-primo entry-level Audi. But it is, like the more humble Kias it is sold alongside, solidly assembled inside.
What it is, is completely unexpected. A sedan built on a new-ish rear-drive platform? From Kia, of all places, and while standbys like the Charger ride on ancient underpinnings, and solid contenders like the the Chevrolet SS bow out? I am not sure what internal calculus steered the automaker toward building this thing, but I am ecstatic that it is here.