Introducing the next GT sedan from…. You probably did not guess which car manufacturer I was talking about unless you are a car enthusiast! This newest Grand Touring sedan comes from South Korea, and it is called “Stinger.” Kia had to make a huge investment to offer a sports sedan to compete with some amazing 4-door hatch/sedan vehicles like the BMW 4-Series Gran Coupe or the Audi A5 Sportback.
They accomplished this in 2014 when they brought Albert Biermann from BMW to create a new design and a new segment for Kia. “I think for the Kia brand, the Stinger is a very special moment in time,” notes Biermann. “Because nobody expects such a car, not just the way it looks but also the way it drives. It's a whole different animal.”
After a week in the 2018 Kia Stinger, I love driving this new animal, growling from the quad-port exhaust. The Stinger is developed around the world in Europe, North and South America, and even the Middle East, in addition to South Korea. This would explain the European styling cues blended with some Kia branding shapes. The drivetrain and suspension are developed for sporty handling, enticing power, and comfortable ride. And yet, more than 6,000 miles on the Nürburgring’s grueling Nordschleife helped hone the production chops of this sporty sedan with a hatch.
If we start by looking at the aggressive front end, Stinger makes a bold statement right up front. The side view shows the length of this sedan (190.2 inches) which soaks up pavement and makes the Stinger very stable in the corners. Stinger has a substantial 23.3 cubic feet of cargo space, which is evident from Stinger’s more full backside (73.6 inches). This car has a wide stance to carry 4.5 adults in comfort and luggage to match.
Thus, the Stinger either suffers or benefits from multiple personalities- for a Grand Touring sedan. I would compare her to the longer and broader Porsche Panamera, which has similar versatility at three times the price.
The suspension on our 2018 Stinger Premium RWD is configured for sharp turn-ins. At the same time, the overall power steering ratio is geared for less stress on longer drives. The steering ratio is adjustable due to Kia’s new electronic motor steering system- no direct connection from the steering wheel to the front wheels! The ratio is controlled by the driver’s selectable modes which include Custom, Eco, Sport, Comfort, and Smart.
These adjustments do not aggressively change the character of the car.
Our Premium Stinger rode on the fixed suspension which is nicely tuned for balanced handling. The GT trims feature Kia’s first continuously damping electronically controlled suspension which automatically senses the road and reacts accordingly. I am not sure consumers need the more expensive and more complicated suspension because Kia engineered a winning set up in the base and Premium Stinger.
The majority of the platform is tightly supported by high-strength steel. There are oversized shock absorbers on the MacPherson front suspension, high-strength wheel bearings, and an aluminum strut brace which feels precise and keeps the tires tracking where intended. The rear-wheel-drive power is delivered through an independent suspension cradled in a reinforced five-link rear suspension. The front end went where I pointed it and the rear end followed with complete compliance, consistently laying down power to the rear tires, even on rough asphalt.
The Stinger comes in a Premium and base model which is anything but basic, with a standard 2.0-liter I-4 turbocharged engine. There is also a GT trim with a 3.3-liter V6 twin turbo which produces 365 horsepower and 376 lb.-ft. of torque. The GT2 adds more bells and whistles with the same engine and transmission. But let us not move too quickly past the 255 horsepower and 260 lb.-ft. of torque from the 2.0-liter powerplant.
Acceleration comes on quickly under the pressure of a small and light turbocharger. It is a high-revving engine that is very entertaining to drive.
Both engines are paired with a new 8-speed automatic transmission (no manual) which quickly and smoothly finds the right gears. Although not a dual-clutch automatic gear-shifter, Kia has again done an excellent job of providing quick shifts under hard acceleration. There is a standard set of paddle shifters on both the regular and flat-bottom sport steering wheels. By the way, even the thick steering was engineered to create a comfortable and confident feeling in the driver’s hands.
I have not driven many miles in the Stinger GT, but others have noted the extra weight in the nose of the higher trim, coming in with a curb weight of 3,887 lbs. [RWD] or 4,182 pounds. [AWD]. Our Premium Stinger was a little lighter in the front and weighed in at 3,649 lbs., adding to the balanced rear-wheel drivetrain configuration. The twin-turbo V6’s extra power is entertaining, but a good power-to-weight ratio produces better vehicle agility. Also, the in-line four-cylinder trim has a much lower price point.
A few more safety features are offered on the higher trims; i.e., Forward Collision Avoidance with Pedestrian Detection (FCA) (optional on Stinger Premium). Kia has included a long list of driver assistance technologies like Forward Collision Warning (FCW); Smart Cruise Control with stop-and-go traffic capability; Lane Keep Assist (LKA); and Lane Departure Warning (LDW). The Stinger also received the newest safety system called Driver Attention Warning (DAW) which is a camera located in the instrument cluster that monitors the driver’s face to see if the driver is getting tired or distracted. Then it wakes you up with a warning of sound and red lights. This is a little too much “assistance” for my taste.
There are nice extras on this affordable sporty sedan like auto-sensing windshield wipers, auto headlights with auto high-beams; and a killer auto system. The interior is a comfortable place to be with a few pleasant surprises. The infotainment controls are located on a BMW style 7-inch high-resolution color touchscreen sitting on the top of the dash, and traditional audio knobs lower on the center stack. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard as well. The rest of the dials and switches are simple to understand and use without a lot of searching around. However, the chrome surfaces make these controls hard to read in the bright sunlight.
Another surprise is ambiance of warm and inviting multi-color LED interior lighting. An available color TFT screen between the gauges includes some fun stuff like a G-force meter and lap time clock. The seats are very comfortable, even in the back under the sloping roofline. Headroom is a little tight but better than the competitors. Legroom is generous for taller drivers and even backseat drivers, thanks to a longer wheelbase. Overall, the Stinger is a true sedan and a car for trips with 4-5 passengers- which makes this Grand Tourer even better.
My “Micro Blue” 2018 Stinger Premium RWD came to $34,800, with the $2,000 advanced safety systems package. What a bargain! The 2019 Kia Stinger starts at $34,000 and adds some performance features like a limited-slip differential on the rear-wheel drive GT. The Premium gets a wireless phone charging, rear outboard heated seats, Surround View Monitor, optional of front ventilated seats.
So can we call the new Kia Stinger a Grand Touring sedan? Yes, we can. Would l like to own one now and not wait for the 2019 model to arrive? Yes, please. I am impressed with the driving dynamics, power delivery, cabin environment, and livability of this 4-door sedan with a hatch. I averaged the advertised 25 miles-per-gallon overall and looked back at this good-looking car every time I parked it. I was kind of hoping that Kia would forget I had the press fleet Stinger for a few more weeks.