As the Korean automakers continue to blaze new paths into luxury and performance, Kia’s taking their first shot at a rear-wheel drive enthusiast’s car engineered to mix it up with the best of them. So get the Epipen ready – this is the all-new Stinger GT.
With the exception of a pickup truck, Kia is a full line automaker offering a broad range of vehicles ranging from economical to extravagant. But the addition of the Stinger now makes them a player in the performance arena, as well; a grand touring car, if you will, that aims to be nimble and fast while also being luxurious and quiet. These types are designed for spirited long-distance driving with enough room to handle up to 5 and their gear. And with its Sportback body styling and an accommodating back seat, the Stinger delivers on the GT ethos, bolstered by a 3.3-liter twin-turbo V6 producing 365 horsepower and 376 pound-feet of torque.
A 4-cylinder engine and all-wheel drive are available, but this one here is the purest and most lavish – the Stinger GT2 priced at $50,100 including destination. A base model starts at about $17,000 less.
In their advertising, Kia shows the Stinger drifting around race tracks and performing similar acts of heroism so I was anxious to see if it was all that. Its resume has the goods: 5 distinct driving modes, a suspension system that continuously adjusts to road conditions and driving style, an 8-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters, stop-dead Brembo brakes and ultra-high performance 19” Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tires, wider at the rear. Off the line it turns in a 0-to-60mph performance of 4.7 seconds – a number Kia likes to point out would smoke a Porsche Panamera with its turbo V6. And with launch control to help things along, it does feel very quick with a brilliant gear box eager to do as it’s told and smart enough to choose the right cog when left to its own devices. The driving positon in general is GT appropriate with long trip comfort fortified with the right amount of side bolstering to hold you in place, but it does sit low so getting in and out can be a bit challenging.
Once settled in and dialed into sport mode, the Stinger GT can feel like a backroad hero with that driving precision and eagerness to dance enthusiast types will crave. The limited slip differential effect on the rear wheels is often at work – the perfect tool for harnessing the Stinger’s noteworthy power output, helping to keep curve exits on the straight and narrow. And the GT’s variable ratio steering improves high speed stability and comes with a lot of feedback baked-in so that the driver knows what’s happening at all 4 tires. But when we were playing with the Stinger out here with its stability control and traction control disabled, the cruder side of the Stinger GT showed up where its long wheelbase and big turbo boost make it difficult to drive with the precision demonstrated in its TV spots.
I generally don’t consume other car reviews but I’m aware of the hype the Stinger has received so my expectations going in were naturally raised. The twin turbo V6 is lusty, this thing is really quick – the 8-speed automatic is a great match with on demand paddle shifts and smart logic, and it plays the role of a grand touring car exceptionally well with mild manners on request. But it’s once you get into Sport mode and start to push the Stinger to its limits that my admiration comes down several notches. This is a difficult car to control and with all of the electronic nannies turned off it takes a light right foot to keep from completely losing the back end. And on public roads the Stinger has a surprising penchant for understeer which can quickly manifest into white knuckle oversteer. Finding the sweet spot has proven to be elusive.
At about 70% the Stinger GT feels like the rear deal. Beyond that, I could see this car being ripe for some cringe worthy YouTube videos. Perhaps all-wheel drive is the better way to go here…just food for thought. Gas mileage checks in at 21mpg on recommended premium.
When you’re taking it easy, the cabin is a little louder than I’d prefer but not from the pleasing sounds of engine or exhaust – the Stinger GT doesn’t produce much those – but more from tire noise. Still, in Eco and Comfort this is a soft-riding, easily manageable daily cruiser. I only wish the Driving Modes would default to Smart on startup and not Comfort – a bit odd. We all know Kia’s technology side is solid and this touchscreen makes life easy and packs in all of the latest goodies. I’m just surprised the 15 speaker Harman/Kardon audio system with it seat-mounted subwoofers and all of its music restoration tricks didn’t blow me away…perhaps the high level of ambient noise dinged my experience.
A new first for Kia is the Driver Attention Warning system that can detect a drowsy driver and warn them to pull over. I love the head-up display, too. In general, the soft leather-trimmed cabin mostly feels the part of a $50,000 car, is stocked with lots of accouterments and is spacious and versatile. Looking sharp in HiChroma Red, the Stinger GT isn’t the laser-focused drive I had envisioned but a creditable foray for Kia nonetheless.