TEST DRIVE REVIEW: The New Sedan Animal That Could Save the Species – The Kia Stinger

Stinger LA Auto Show blk side
The Stinger growling at those who dare, at the 2017 Los Angeles Auto Show.

By Michele Spencer

In the sedan world, which has been crushed by the sports utility vehicle segment in sales lately, there have been three types that roamed the plains.  The economical (Camry, Accord), the sporty (BMW, Audi), and the luxury (Mercedes, Jaguar).  In 2017, Honda introduced the all-new 2018 Accord at the same time that Toyota unleashed the all-new 2018 Camry, with new styling and features focused on what those companies are known for:  producing dependable and economical sedans.  In the midst of all of this industry-rattling mid-size sedan news, Kia burst on the scene with a brand new mid-size sedan model named the Stinger, and singlehandedly managed to shake up the segment by bringing together all three elements in one sedan.  Somehow no car maker was able to manage that before the Stinger.

The Kia Stinger is economical, sporty in looks and performance, and has high-class cabin amenities that we dare to call luxury.  It’s a bargain price for the amenities, and then there’s the industry topping warranty to control future costs of ownership.  Despite the PR efforts of Kia, somehow people are still not widely aware of this groundbreaking new sedan beast which has been overshadowed by the Accord and the Camry since late 2017, even though they started showing up in dealerships in November 2017.

 

Be among the enlightened.  There is no reason why the Stinger can’t do a bit of crushing of its own in sales against the mid-size sedan segment competitors.  On horsepower alone, with 365 hp and 376 feet-pounds of torque coming from the 3.3 liter twin turbo V6, and 255 hp from the 2 liter twin turbo scroll cylinder version, it’s a roaring, howling, challenging beastie.  Aggressive 19 inch wheels in a sporty design are there, as they should be.  Adding to its sport cred is the hatch for the rear trunk instead of a typical sedan lid.  Need more?  Just check out the red brake calipers – yup, Brembos.

Where does all of this sporty goodness come from?  James Bell of Kia explains it this way.  It started off as the GT4 Stinger concept in 2011, and was shown off as a four door sedan with a hatch that had 40 cubic feet of capacity with the rear seats flat.  It was engineered with a wing built into the hatch.  The chief engineer on the project, Albert Biermann,  was picked off from BMW, where he was the legendary leader of the M division for many years.  He was put to work for Kia’s parent company Hyundai as Head of Vehicle Test & High Performance Development.  Because of this move, the Stinger is  Korean, but the German influence is undeniable and palpable.

Bell says that when the company came stateside, the goal was vehicle reliability.  Once that was achieved, Kia moved in to conquering design, then to increasing fuel economy.  Now, with the advent of the Stinger, the company is hitting its goal of producing a vehicle with superb world class handling and performance.

 

Another sign of attention to premium detailing on the Stinger is Kia’s decision to equip it with the Harman Kardon premium sound system. All the other interior design concepts echo the notion that this is an upscale sedan, including embossed “GT” lettering on the leather seats, a gorgeous dash, heated and ventilated seats, and the heated leather wrapped and straight bottom steering wheel with a GT logo.  I appreciated that it had a power sunroof and shade that extended back into the passenger compartment, as well as the very comfortable seats with a wonderful dial-operated seat bolstering system for the seat back and cushion.

The ride is heavenly smooth, no matter what speed.  Consider yourself warned.

GT seat detail
Leather seat inscription detail

We experimented with all five drive modes.  Most interesting is Custom, which allows you to select how you want various elements to perform.  I programmed all of them to be at sport level, which I suppose made it the same as sport mode.  The car is fine in comfort mode, but it’s really clipping its wings and feels sort of wrong.  The Stinger really belongs in Sport mode.  The Eco mode is not an oversell.  I was easily able to beat the EPA rating in Eco mode.  Overall, my favorite mode was Smart, because I got a lot of power (but not at the top performance level), with decent fuel economy.

Even when equipped with every possible trim package, the price tops out at $52,000, making the Kia Stinger “the performance buy of the year,” according to U.S. auto journalist Brian Armstead.  He’s right, but I’d go a bit more specific, and say it’s the sedan buy of the year.

 

2018 Kia Stinger Specifications

5 trim levels – base, Premium, GT, GT1, GT2

Engine, Base and Premium trim:  2.0 liter twin turbo scroll four cylinder DOHC D-CVVT 16V

Engine, GT trim: 3.3 liter twin turbo V6 DOHC D-CVVT 24V

  • 114 in wheelbase
  • Length 190.2 inches, Width 73.6, Height 55.1
  • Passenger capacity 93.8 cubic feet
  • Cargo area capacity, rear seats up: 23.3 cubic feet
  • Cargo area capacity, rear seats down: 40.9 cubic feet

Transmission:  8 speed automatic

5 Drive Modes: Eco, Smart, Comfort, Sport, Custom

EPA Fuel Economy ratings: 19 city, 25 highway, 21 combined.  I got 24.6 highway in Sport mode and 26.2 highway in eco mode.

Other:  Engine shut off at idle for fuel economy. Front cross traffic and object detection alert, with audible signal. Head-up display that can be disabled. Tilting and telescoping steering wheel. Lane keep and departure warning system which is very sensitive.  Blind spot collision warning that isn’t sensitive enough.  Backup camera and very sensitive rear cross traffic alert. Two USB ports and two 12-volt plug in ports, one each front and back seat areas.  Made in Korea of 87% Korean parts.

Base price for GT2 V6:  $51,400, plus $900 destination charge.

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