REVIEW: 2018 Kia Stinger GT2 AWD V6 – A Much-Needed Wake Up Call

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The Kia Stinger is an exciting new sports sedan with all the right moves.

What is it? 

Kia’s new Stinger is a midsize/large sports sedan built on a rear-wheel drive platform with optional all-wheel drive. About the same size as the more mainstream Optima sedan, Kia’s new Stinger is intended to draw customers for whom an exciting driving experience is a top priority.

Pricing and trims

The Stinger has five trim levels, each of which has optional AWD. Prices start at about $33,000 for a base Stinger, and rise to $52,300 for the top-trim GT2 AWD. Given the Stinger’s content, quality craftsmanship, and performance, this Kia is an attractive option to more expensive models from Audi, BMW, Lexus, Mercedes, Cadillac, and Infiniti.

We tested the top-trim Stinger GT2 AWD with the most powerful engine and every option. From the moment we saw this car in person, sat inside, and took a quick drive it was clear that Kia had created a winner.

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Safety

The Stinger has not yet been tested by IIHS or NHTSA. Commonplace active safety systems like automatic emergency braking are optional on all but the top trim. Our GT2 AWD came with adaptive cruise control, automatic headlights, a backup camera, blind spot monitoring, lane keep assist, and rear cross traffic alerts. We suspect, based on Kia’s commitment to safety and its recent scores, that the Stinger will do just fine on all its safety tests.

Performance

In the real world, this Kia Stinger is absolutely perfect in terms of performance. 0-60 MPH in the twin turbo V6-equipped trims comes in the mid-four-second range, right where cars like the Audi S5 fall. Around town it is a pleasure to drive as well, with no unnecessary harshness, even on its 19″ low-profile tires. Steering is sharp, and with AWD, most launches are quick. We did find that the traction control would occasionally spoil the fun and slow the car on wet streets and in slush, but perhaps the car saved us from trouble on those rare occasions.

The Stinger GT2 AWD’s twin-turbo V6 has 375 lb-ft torque at just 1,300 RPM. The upshot of all that spec talk is this thing launches like a cannonball if you want it to. Floor the gas and “BOOM!” you rocket forward. Highway passing, on-ramps, stoplight starts, it doesn’t matter, the Stinger GT2 AWD has incredible real-world performance. We have not tested the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder Stinger yet, but we sure hope to. That 2.0-liter engine is one of our favorites, and we bet that car is also quick.

Kia picked a perfect transmission match for the Stinger. The 8-speed automatic always seems to be in the right gear for quick bursts of speed but doesn’t need to be placed into Sport mode in order to operate the way drivers of sports sedans like a car to feel. We never once felt the Stinger hunting for gears or caught it sleeping in a tall gear saving fuel. Unlike many dual-clutch cars, it is also easy to live with in the real world. The paddle shifters are there if the driver wants more involvement. If you’re the type of person that wants a stick shift in a 190-inch long, four-door, 4,000-pound car, you will have to look elsewhere. Good luck with that.

 

We loved the Stinger’s various drive modes. It is late winter in New England and our roads are destroyed. Potholes too big to be left alone are now paired up with cones and signs, but the new ones can still damage a wheel or rim.

 

We loved Comfort Mode. It softens the ride a bit. However, sometimes we want that Sport Mode for its sharper steering inputs, throttle tip-in, and transmission settings. Kia thought of that and allows the driver to set up a custom mode that keeps the suspension from being too firm but allows all those other settings to sharpen up.

Seating & Interior

The front seats in our Stinger GT2 AWD were perfect. The typical power adjustments were all there, but so too were movable side bolsters that can hug you, or give you room. There is also a thigh extension adjustment and lumbar that moves up and down as well as in and out. The Nappa leather seats are both heated and cooled. There is a heated steering wheel -standard. All of these extra goodies will be rolled up into a “Driver’s Preference Package 11” on many of the Stinger’s competitors and add $4,500 to the price.

The dash of the Stinger is covered in a premium material that looks and feels of high quality. Thankfully, there was no ridiculous wood anywhere to be found. Kia uses a handle for Drive, Neutral, and Reverse, and Park is a button. The center console is well designed and has room for two cupholders and a phone.

Rear seats are roomy and comfortable and there is ample legroom. Here the Optima may have a slight edge on the Stinger, but rear-drive cars always have that center tunnel. It is well worth the trade-off.

Cargo

We have been calling the Stinger a “sedan,” but it is really a sort of hatch/sport back design. When the rear cargo cover, or trunk, is opened, the Stinger has a very long cargo area. It is quite large, and under the cargo floor is a compact spare. The Stinger can easily accommodate multiple golf bags, or two hockey bags side by side.

Infotainment and controls

Kia makes one of the simplest to operate infotainment systems on the market. We love the touch-screen operation, and the menus are very logical. The steering wheel controls operate everything you will normally need, so you don’t actually have to touch the screen after your audio presets and drive mode settings are put in. The center gauge cluster is easy to operate and the Stinger will display the pressure in every tire for you if you like that information (we sure do in our area with the roads so bad).

We found the audio of our Stinger GT2 to be very interesting. In every test car, we always turn up the bass and enable the subwoofer if one is provided. However, with the Stinger, we had to turn down the bass a lot. The Stinger has a good audio system, but it is unique. If you love deep bass, you will love this system.

Like all modern Kia and Hyundai products, the Stinger has Apple Car Play and Android Auto compatibility.

Ownership Experience

Enthusiast car magazines will compare the Stinger to its “peers,” all of which will cost ten to twenty grand more when comparably equipped, and declare a winner. To us, the Stinger is the winner without the comparison. Why? Because Kia has earned top quality rankings on J.D. Power and other surveys, has looks that are equal or better to Audi, Mercedes, and BMW, and offers a dramatically better warranty. It is always important to keep in mind that writers with the sketch of the mid-engine Corvette on the cover of their publication don’t have to live with the cars they choose as the “best.” To them, a tiny difference on a skidpad, or in top speed tips the balance. If you’re that kind of driver, go ahead and spend more to get less car. If you live in the real world, and things like reliability and cost of ownership matter to you even a little, this is the sports sedan you should be driving.

Overall

Kia’s new 2018 Stinger GT2 AWD makes a strong impression. It is a great-looking vehicle inside and out. Its performance is everything a good sports sedan its size should be. The Stinger’s quality is apparent when one sits inside or drives the car, and that feeling is backed up by an industry-leading quality ranking by JD Power. With the best warranty in the industry to back up this new model, Kia is offering buyers a way to escape the high costs of entry and high costs of ownership that those who want a premium sports sedan have had to endure in the past. From our point of view, the new Stinger is an important model. It is likely to shake up the sports sedan segment the same way that the Acura Legend once shook up the luxury sedan segment.

 

 

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John Goreham

John Goreham