AUTO REVIEW: Kia’s All-New 2018 Stinger Sport Sedan Offers Premium Features, Performance

(Fort Worth Star-Telegram/TNS) —
Kia Stinger
The 2018 Kia Stinger GT2 RWD. (Kia)

Kia vehicles have become more stylish and appealing lately, and now, with the all-new Stinger sport sedan, performance is maximized as well.

About the size of the midsize Kia Optima sedan, the new Stinger premium fastback sedan is lower, sleeker, and more powerful, with an aggressive yet graceful design setting it apart from similarly priced sedans.

The interior is refined and comfortable, challenging similar luxury-brand vehicles. Prices start at $31,900 for the base model with rear-wheel drive and a turbocharged 255-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder.

But the top model is the Stinger GT 3.3, starting at $38,350, which comes with a 365-horsepower twin-turbo V-6. All-wheel drive is optional.

The GT was named one of Wards 10 Best Interiors for 2018. Wards recognizes achievement in aesthetics, comfort, ergonomics, material use, fit-and-finish and user-friendly technology.

Also honored as one of Wards 10 Best Engines, Stinger is dedicated to the thrill of the drive as well as the pampered journey.

Gregory Guillaume, chief designer for Kia Motors Europe, says the Stinger is “a true Gran Turismo, a car for spirited long-distance driving, is not about outright power, hard-edged dynamics and brutal styling, all at the expense of luxury, comfort and grace … this car is all about the journey. It’s about passion.”

Brimming with power, passion, and heart-pounding performance, Stinger is the highest-performance production vehicle in Kia’s history. It’s bold, nimble and fast, luxurious and quiet, and still quite comfortable, at least for four people.

Five trims are available: Stinger 2.0, $31,900; Premium 2.0, $37,100; GT 3.3, $38,350; GT1 3.3, $43,250; and GT2 3.3, $49,200 — the model I drove for this review.

An in-house designed second-generation eight-speed rear-wheel drive automatic transmission is standard. But the Stinger is Kia’s first sedan available with all-wheel drive, for an extra $2,200.

With the 3.3-liter engine, the Stinger GT is capable of accelerating from zero to 60 mph in 4.7 seconds, and has a governed top speed of 167 mph. Paddle shifters allow the driver to manually run through the gears, with up to five modes available (a Kia first) — Eco, Smart, Comfort, Sport, and Custom.

Stinger’s exterior design is both eye-catching and functional, from the long hood and short front overhang to the long rear overhang with strong shoulders.

An extended wheelbase delivers a spacious cabin sitting toward the rear, with steeply raked windshield and rear window creating a fast silhouette. A chrome trim strip flows from the bottom of the front pillar, across the top of the doors, through the rear pillar to the lower edge of the rear window.

Large gloss black and silver air intakes and air curtains in the front are dramatic while providing air for cooling the brakes and reducing front-end lift.

New silver-trimmed “gills” behind the front wheel arches help reduce wake turbulence from air passing over the car’s flanks, and add a sporty flair. And, along with deeply recessed contours along the doors, they enhance the visual power of the shoulder line and sportback silhouette.

Kia’s signature “tiger-nose” grille is outlined with chrome, and the honeycomb insert is edged in chrome. A cluster of small LED lights in the corner of the complex LED headlights (with high-beam assist) echo the “honeycomb” shape.

A smooth underbody flowing into the rear diffuser, along with a “ducktail” shaped rear spoiler, enhances aerodynamics, reducing lift and increasing high-speed stability. The lower height of the rear of the roof enhances the “aerofoil” shape, adding to Stinger’s aerodynamic efficiency.

Gloss black and silver air vents cut into the sculpted hood. Chrome mirror caps dress the front doors, and four oval exhaust pipes peek out of the gloss black rear valance.

My Stinger was the rear-wheel-drive GT2 in bright HiChroma Red, one of five available colors, which also include Ceramic Silver, Aurora Black Pearl, Mica Blue Pearl, and Snow White Pearl.

The interior was Black Nappa Leather, with satin chrome on the door handles, door armrests, across the lower dash, around the spoked circular air vents, on the center console, and on the speaker grilles.

Nineteen-inch wheels had five “Y” spokes with silver machined edges, gray pockets, and gray grooves forming a star around the hub. Staggered ultra-high performance Michelin Pilot Sport tires specifically engineered and tuned for Stinger finished the package.

High-performance Brembo brakes with large-diameter discs designed to dissipate heat quickly delivered short stopping distances.

GT2 has Kia’s first electronically controlled suspension, called Dynamic Stability Damping Control, which can be tuned for more agility by softening the front shocks and firming the rear. Stiffening the front and softening the rear achieve high-speed stability. The system is accessed through the same modes as the paddle shifters.

Entry and exit were easy, with tall door openings and a low, narrow stepover, although taller rear passengers needed to stoop slightly due to the sloping roofline.

The interior was elegant and athletic, thanks to the ultra-soft quilted Nappa leather and soft-touch materials. Air-cell bladders in the seatback and width-adjusting bolsters offered optimal support and comfort.

Piano key controls on the center stack were well-placed and simple, situated low on the stack below three vents, divided into two groups — infotainment incorporated into the chrome dash trim, and climate (with filtration) nestled in a cubby below.

Once the climate controls were set, they rarely required adjustment — even during crazy, up-and-down spring temperatures. Front and rear vents were well-placed, without noticeable hot or cold spots. Warm and inviting multi-color LED ambient lighting softly illuminated the cozy interior.

A telescoping steering wheel along with power multi-adjustable driver’s seat made it quick and easy to find the best driving position. Both seating rows had generous leg room, and a low seating position meant ample headroom front and back — although rear passengers found little space under the front seats for their feet.

Loading the trunk was easy with a Smart Power Trunk lid (actually a hatch) — opened from inside with a button, from outside with a button on the key fob or by pressing the trunk handle. A low liftover height was also helpful.

Inside the trunk is 23.3 cubic feet of space for luggage or golf bags, groceries or gardening supplies. Folding the rear seatbacks produces 40 cubic feet for DIY supplies or sports equipment.

The infotainment touch screen was mounted high on the dash, for easy visibility, and had easy-to-understand menus and sharp graphics. Bluetooth is standard, with many of the vehicle’s subsystems available through steering-wheel-mounted controls.

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also standard and easy to use through the touch screen. Kia’s Uvo infotainment system uses voice commands, but Apple CarPlay allows the user to speak more naturally — a bonus for us Southern speakers.

My Stinger had a premium Harman/Kardon audio system, producing 720 watts through an external amplifier for crystal-clear sound. The system utilized 15 speakers and Kia’s first under-seat subwoofers (driver and passenger), and featured Clari-Fi to rebuild audio signals lost in the digital compression process, and QuantumLogic Surround Sound technology to extract and redistribute signals from original recordings for authentic multidimensional soundstage playback.

A Head-Up Display projected speed, turn-by-turn navigation, audio, and cruise control setting, as well as Blind Spot Collision Warning information onto the windshield. The height-adjustable display was easy to read day or night.

All of the Kia Stinger’s advanced safety features are available across the lineup — standard on my GT2 and a $2,000 add-on on other models. They include Forward Collision Avoidance with pedestrian detection; Smart Cruise Control with Stop & Go; Lane Keeping Assist; Blind Spot Collision Warning with Rear Cross-Traffic Collision Warning; and a Kia first, Driver Attention Warning, which sounds a chime and displays a graphic on the instrument panel if it senses the driver is inattentive and needs a break. Kia’s safety features are smartly tuned to reduce false alarms.

The stylish and powerful Stinger is very easy and fun to drive, easy to maneuver in tight spots, secure and stable in turns, and gets up to speed effortlessly with only a slight delay from a standstill. It shifts smoothly and quickly, rides smoothly over most road surfaces, and brakes quickly and smoothly. The cabin was quiet, thanks in part to the ultra-stiff foundation.

With $900 destination charges and no options, the delivered price for my eye-catching Kia Stinger GT2 with rear-wheel drive was $50,100.

The Stinger delivers a lot of performance for the price, striking a good balance of power, handling, and braking, with room for five and/or lots of cargo, and an air of elegance and athleticism.

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