NORTH HOLLYWOOD, Calif. — Game-changer. They didn’t use those words, but that’s what Kia officials expect the 2018 Stinger to do for the brand.
Already one of the most successful carmakers in the industry for the past five years, Kia has pressed the pedal to the product metal again. What they’ve done is develop a fastback sedan in the Grand Turismo tradition of European four-door sports cars.
I have no doubt that the Stinger is a head-turner and onlookers will be duly impressed when they ask what it is and the answer comes back it’s a Kia Stinger. That’s the point of this car. It transcends Kia from a practical cost efficient purchase to an aspirational plateau.
The Stinger had presence. It doesn’t matter whether you see one parked or rolling down the street you’ll notice. It had a long hood, short front overhang, an extended wheelbase and a steeply raked windshield.
It had a wide track, recessed contours along the doors, a high shoulder line and a fastback silhouette. There were large functional air intakes and air curtains in the front and a smooth underbody, which I took their word for, and a rear diffuser on the GT trim models and quad exhaust pipes. And of course the tiger nose grill was flanked by LED headlights.
On sale now, there are five trim lines: Stinger, Premium, GT, GT1 and GT2. There are two engine offerings. A 2.0-liter turbocharged four cylinder makes 255 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque from 1,400 to 4,000 rpm that will move the Stinger from a standstill to 60 mph in 5.9 seconds. That’s swift.
However, the dual turbocharged V6 made 365 horsepower and 376 pound-feet of torque from 1,350 to 4,500 rpm. It can get to 60 mph from zero mph in less than five seconds. Both engines are mated to eight-speed automatic transmissions. And every trim line can be outfitted with all-wheel-drive or rear-wheel-drive.
Not that it matters with a car of this ilk; but the Stinger’s EPA rating was 22 mpg in the city, 29 mpg on the highway and 25 mpg combined for the rear-wheel-drive four-cylinder and 19 mpg in the city, 25 mpg on the highway and 21 mpg combined for the RWD V6. It’s the same for the AWD V6 and for the AWD four- cylinder it is 21 mpg in the city, 29 mpg on the highway and 24 mpg combined.
But the most impressive aspect of the Kia Stinger was from behind the wheel. They only brought GT models so we didn’t get a chance to test drive the four-cylinder. We ended up in a top of the line Kia Stinger GT2 with all-wheel-drive.
Inside, the cabin was low to the ground but I never felt like the car was overwhelmed by other traffic. All trim lines of the Stinger come with leather interiors. This one had Nappa leather. The seats were comfortable, contoured and they had air-cell bladders and width adjusting bolsters.
They described the dashboard as winged-shaped. I couldn’t see it. But it was bold with a perpendicular infotainment touchscreen and three large turbine (round) air vents beneath. There was something about the layout that made it look simple yet active.
There was a slender piece of silver satin that framed the bottom of the dash and spanned its width. It widened slightly in the middle and that’s where they put the audio controls. Beneath that were the climate controls.
The center console had some girth. It held the gear shifter as well as two cupholders and the electronic parking brake, the auto hold and the switch to turn off the traction control. Farther back on the console were buttons for the heated and cooled seats, the heated steering wheel and the switch to turn off stop and start.
This Stinger had a 16-way power driver’s seat and a 12-way power passenger seat. It had a heads up display, a 720 watt 15 speaker audio system, blind spot detection, a navigation system (which we had to use), a front camera, a rear camera and rain sensing windshield wipers.
Of course there was the usual equipment: satellite radio, voice controls, USB and auxiliary jacks. There were a lot of creature comforts but this car was about the driver. It had a D-shaped steering wheel and paddle shifters. Two large gauges, the odometer and the speedometer, were ringed with metal and had red needles. The TFT screen on our vehicle was color and could give performance data like cornering G-forces, lap times and engine-oil temperature, along with ancillary information such as the trip computer, driver settings, navigation and diagnostics.
This was a lot of car. There were five drive modes. It had a top speed of 167 mph. The Stinger was built for long highway drives. There was plenty of leg and head room, the seats were very comfortable but this car could get through the twisty, winding and undulating two-lane highways like Angles Forest Hwy, Sierra Hwy and Hwy 14 here with ease.
These roads had tight turns that could twist the chassis and put some wear on brakes. But half of the Stinger frame was comprised of 55 advanced high strength steel. The MacPherson front suspension setup featured large diameter shock absorbers, high-strength wheel bearings, and an aluminum strut brace, while the reinforced five-link rear suspension was mounted to a stiffened rear sub frame. In other words, this was not a bumpy ride.
The electric power steering motor was mounted directly to the steering rack. Kia said feedback was quicker because of direct mounting and it provided improved high speed stability. I can’t argue with that. I pushed the car through tight turns on narrow two lane roads. Steering was spot on, the Stinger stuck to the road like it was flypaper and whenever I approached a tight turn too fast, which was too often, the Stinger’s four-piston Brembo brakes slowed us down smartly. It didn’t matter who was driving, not once did we squeal a tire.
A blogger represented what the 2018 Stinger can do for Kia. We stopped for lunch at Six Flags Magic Mountain and she was thrilled with the car and said she wanted to buy one. And she added that was the first time that she has felt that way about any car that she had tested. That’s a new type of customer for Kia and there will be more like her, men and women, as the advertising and marketing campaign hits full speed.
And there’s another pragmatic characteristic for the car. It’s a fastback which means it had 23 cu. ft. of the cargo space. Fold the second row seats and that almost doubles to 40.9 cu. ft.
The 2018 Kia Stinger starts at $31,900, for base model, the Premium starts at $37,100, the GT starts at $38,350, the GT1 starts at $43,250 and the GT2 starts at $49,200. All-wheel drive is a $2,200 option and the freight charge is $900.
Frank S. Washington is editor of AboutThatCar.com