Serious, Affordable Sport Sedan Performance
To say the automotive world was eagerly anticipating the debut of the 2018 Kia Stinger is a mild understatement. Expectations were high for an automotive brand not known for building sporty cars. Kia showed a concept car at the Frankfurt Motor Show that was unlike anything they had shown before; car enthusiasts buzz starts.
The all-new 2018 Kia Stinger GT is Kia’s first entry into the five-passenger, four-door sportback GT world. This sharp-looking, powerful and affordable (base MSRP $31,900) gran turismo has a place in both around town and open road driving. The Stinger is available in five trim levels of Stinger, Premium, GT, GT1 and GT2, with choices of two engines and either rear-wheel or all-wheel drive.
Clean Fleet Report spent 10 days in the fully optioned, top-of-the-line Stinger GT2 AWD Twin Turbo V6. The base Stinger is equipped with an inline four-cylinder with a twin-scroll single turbocharger. The 3.3-liter twin turbo V6 puts out 365 horsepower at 6,000 rpm with 365 pounds-feet of torque powering all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters.
The strong acceleration and impressively smooth twin turbos took our Stinger GT 0-to-60 in runs of 4.4 and 4.7 seconds. Anything under five seconds gets your passenger’s attention, really, really fast. The power comes on aggressively and easily, with potent acceleration that grows as the smooth eight-speed transmission seamlessly goes through the gears. There was no reason to use the paddle shifters as they would not have improved upon the performance of this polished transmission.
Fuel economy for the Stinger GT2 is EPA rated at 19 city/25 highway/21 combined mpg. Running on 91 octane, I drove 549 miles and averaged 23.2 mpg. However, in a 287-mile, almost exclusively freeway run using the smart cruise control set at 64 mph, we averaged 28.7 mpg.
Clean Fleet Report doubts anyone is buying the Stinger GT2 AWD Twin Turbo V6 for its fuel economy, but it is nice to know that on a long haul getting close to 30 mpg is a possibility. However, getting that economy and keeping your foot out of it are incongruous thoughts. If fuel economy is important when considering purchasing a Stinger, opt for the I4 that is rated at 29 miles per gallon on the highway. We are confident, with judicious driving techniques, that you will easily exceed 30 miles per gallon.
There are five driver-controlled drive modes–Eco, Smart, Comfort, Sport and Custom. Each of these modes are fully integrated with Kia’s in-house engineered AWD system, which monitors driver inputs and road conditions, and automatically distributes power in real time based on the driving situation. With the dynamic torque vectoring, the differential can vary the torque to each wheel as necessary. When in the Sport mode (where Clean Fleet Report liked to hang-out) the torque is biased to the rear wheels. The Stinger GT2 comes with electronic stability control and traction control, which can be turned off for even a more seat-of-your-pants driving experience.
Driving Experience: On the Road
The Stinger GT2 AWD Twin Turbo V6 is easy to drive and is a true GT. The front and rear suspensions get electrically-controlled shocks, with front MacPherson and rear multi-link suspensions. It was shod with 19-inch, five-spoke alloy wheels and 255/35R Michelin Pilot Sport summer tires.
The ride is never harsh, even on Southern California’s grooved concrete freeways. One way to ensure a comfortable ride is to select the Comfort drive mode setting. Going from Sport to Comfort delivers a noticeable change in ride feel, but doesn’t compromise normal handling situations in traffic. Wind noise is unnoticeable, helped by the 0.30 Cd.
The 2018 Kia Stinger GT2 AWD is nicely balanced and spirited, building confidence the more you take advantage of the AWD. The Stinger GT2 AWD can be driven hard into corners, with the car hunkering-down the faster and tighter you go. You can’t feel it directly, but the torque vectoring did exactly what it was designed to do. There is no pushing or drifting on high-speed corners, only sure-footed grip. With all this at-speed cornering ability, the car is very civil tooling around town. It is an accomplished piece of engineering.
Stopping comes from Brembo four-wheel disc brakes that were vented front and rear, with ABS and brake fade compensation and cornering brake control. All-in-all, a very well-manned 4,032-lb. sports sedan.
Driving Experience: Exterior
Chief design officer Peter Schreyer, and his team in Kia’s Frankfurt, Germany design studio, first teased the auto world at the 2011 Frankfurt Auto Show with the GT Concept. Teased and concept are the key words, as most times, if the concept car is eventually put into production, it doesn’t carry-over much of its design look and feel. This was not the case going from the GT Concept to the Stinger, as the concept is close to the finished design.
A true GT seats four, has ample luggage storage space and provides comfortable and spirited long-distance driving. A Porsche 911 is a sports car, the Stinger GT is a gran turismo. A GT won’t have the outright grunt power or handling dynamics of a sports car, but it will have better driving attributes for taking a long road trip. The trade-off of comfort over ultimate performance is a good thing in the Stinger.
The Stinger GT has a classic design with a long hood and short overhangs, giving it a sleek and modern visual. The front, GT-specific twin grilles are restrained in size, and are framed by bi-function projection LED headlamps and positioning lights. The front fascia has working, large air intakes on each corner. However, the sculpted hood has faux air inlets that break-up a smooth continuous plane. They could be eliminated, which would enhance the look. From the side, the sculpted doors have functioning vents and the red Brembo brake calipers pop from behind the tasteful wheels.
The roofline’s high-point is just over the front doors, with the power sunroof offering a bit of the great outdoors into the cabin. The short-as-can-be power trunk lid has a subtle spoiler with LED tail lights wrapping onto the quarter panels as reflectors. The rear valance houses quad, chrome exhaust tips.
Driving Experience: Interior
Clean Fleet Report’s Stinger GT2 AWD Twin Turbo V6 came fully optioned, which is standard for this package. Therefore, you can get everything Kia has to offer on a Stinger for about $51,000. This cannot be said for the German competitors Kia was benchmarking when designing the Stinger.
The Nappa leather-trimmed driver seat was 16-way power adjustable, heated, ventilated, had side bolster extensions and memory. The heated and ventilated passenger seat was 12-way power adjustable. The seats were wide, supple, soft and comfortable. The heated and leather-wrapped, flat bottom, multi-function steering wheel (with a power tilt and telescoping column) included controls for the audio, telephone and voice commands.
The cockpit design is driver friendly, featuring large gauges for easy reading and easy access to controls. The head-up display was especially helpful and is becoming a sure-would-like-to-have feature. The interior has a dual-zone automatic climate system with rear vents, power windows, door locks and mirrors, carpet mats, electronic parking brake, remote access with push button stop/start, folding heated power side mirrors, smart cruise control and multiple cup holders. The interior multi-color mood lighting was a nice, calming touch.
The 720-watt, 15-speaker Harmon Kardon Quantum Logic surround sound infotainment (entertainment and information) system was accessed through an eight-inch color touchscreen with navigation. The sound was wonderful and included FM/CD/HDAM radio with iPod/MP3 auxiliary audio jack and USB ports. The SiriusXM service is included for 90 days. Music streaming is via Bluetooth wireless technology, and the hands-free phone and voice recognition worked perfectly.
The 2018 Kia Stinger GT is well-equipped with active and passive safety features, including seven air bags, tire pressure monitoring system, rain-sensing wipers, anti-theft alarm and engine immobilizer. Driving aides include forward collision avoidance and warning, hill-start assist control, rear view camera, blind spot collision warning with lane change assist, rear cross traffic warning and lane departure warning systems.
The 2018 Stinger has not been rated by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the US Government’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
The base model 2018 Stinger, with the four-cylinder engine and rear-wheel drive, has a MSRP of $31,900. Clean Fleet Report’s Stinger GT2 AWD Twin Turbo V6 had a listed price of $51,400. All prices exclude the $900 freight and handling fee.
The 2018 Kia Stinger comes with these warranties:
- Powertrain 10 years/100,000 miles
- Basic Five years/60,000 miles
- Roadside Assistance Five years/60,000 miles
Observations: 2018 Kia Stinger GT2 AWD Twin Turbo V6
Kia set a high bar introducing the Kia Stinger, aiming to compete with well-established German sporty cars.
So the question is—Did Kia get it right? Universally, automotive journalists agree that Kia can lay claim to a piece of the sports sedan world with the highly respected Stinger, an opinion with which I concur.
As Kia’s luxury and performance model, there was much that could have gone wrong. With strong competition from Audi, Infiniti, Alfa Romeo, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar and Porsche, the Kia Stinger had to come out strong and make people-in-the-know take notice. Kia successfully, did just that.
So, if the thought–”Would I buy a $50,000 Kia?”–ever crosses your mind; if you’re after a state-of-the art, affordable sports sedan–this is the right car.
Whatever you end up buying, Happy Driving!
Photo Gallary by Lex Adams (except Kia Stinger concept photos; also all Stinger exterior shots in the road test)
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Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition, we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.
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