- What’s Best: Concept car styling, nearly all-inclusive content and new benchmark abilities in Kia’s new take on the classic Gran Turismo.
- What’s Worst: Minor fastback penalty of reduced rear visibility.
- What’s Interesting: Seeing Kia broach new premium levels with their latest “halo car”.
Any push for progress is bound to bump boundaries that don’t seem relevant anymore.
That’s why Porsche can build four-wheel drive SUVs, why Jeep can occasionally out-lux premium cars and why VW is playing with a pickup concept.
It’s also why Kia, a Korean company once known for its econoboxes, has stunned automotive audiences with the Stinger, a new premium entry in a highly competitive sport sedan market, a performance and handling niche once ruled solely by German manufacturers.
Of course, it didn’t hurt that a collaboration of designers and engineers with pedigrees from Audi, VW and BMW developed the new Kia Stinger in a Frankfurt design studio and on the test loops of Nurburgring.
The Stinger, inspired by either the curvaceous shapes of a Maserati Ghibli or a Coca-Cola bottle, depending on who you ask, evolved methodically through 2011 GT and 2014 GT4 Stinger concepts before production versions of the 2018 Kia Stinger GT started arriving at Canadian dealers late last year.
And it’s made kind of a splash since.
This five-passenger fastback sport sedan is redefining the segment with competent performance and handling, J.D. Power-ranked industry-leading levels of build quality, along with inclusive content wrapped in competitive price packaging.
It looks fast, even standing still, with the long hood stretching back from Kia’s “tiger nose” grille, and with the short front overhang, sloping roofline, raked glass, muscular haunches, short spoilered rear deck, quad exhaust tubes and the longer rear overhang, all hallmarks of a true Gran Turismo.
Okay, the gill slits are slightly Tiburon-esque, and I’ll forgive the boy-racer faux hood vent appliques since some of the other cooling and aerodynamic slots actually work.
Standard 19-inch wheels, accented with beefy, red Brembo brake calipers and mounting Michelin Pilot Sport performance rubber emphasize the Stinger’s aggressive, wide track stance and attitude.
A standard liftback adds a nice touch, opening to 660 litres of cargo capacity or 1,158 litres with the second row folded, more room than the usual trunk space of sport sedans.
My tester came in California Red. It also came in Atomic Blue when Kia Canada wanted the red one back for a photo shoot. Both are eye-catching colours, the brightest shades of an otherwise monochromatic six-paint palette.
Under that shiny skin beats the heart of the Stinger GT’s 3.3-litre twin-turbo Lambda II V6 engine making a burly 365 hp and 376 lb/ft of torque, a gutsy amount of oomph peaking early at anywhere between 1,300-4,500 rpm.
That motive muscle streams through a second-generation paddle-shiftable eight-speed automatic transmission adapted from Kia’s K900 luxury flagship. A drive mode dial allows five varying mode selections to change throttle mapping and shift points.
This one-choice GT powertrain shoots the Stinger from O-100 km/h in less than five seconds and does so to the tune of a baritone moan striking a just right note of aggressive power.
Yes, there are other powertrain choices in other markets.
Kia Canada is currently considering whether there’s enough demand here to bring in the entry-level 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder but I’m pretty sure we can forget about Europe’s diesel versions.
And Canada’s limited market size has also ruled out the rear-wheel drive option, but our AWD versions with Dynamic Torque Vectoring Control will shift up to 80 per cent of power to the rear wheels in Sport mode for a classic sport sedan feel and send up to 50 per cent to the front wheels if needed, while normally sending power to the appropriate wheels for best traction.
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With all this performance, handling and adrenalized brouhaha going on, it might be easy to forget about fuel economy but the V6 manages a respectable 12.7/9.6L/100km (city/hwy).
The Kia Stinger comes in GT or GT Limited trim choices.
The Kia Stinger GT ($44,195) follows Kia’s dollar-value mantra with standards that include leather upholstery, heated 12-way power seats, a heated multi-function flat-bottomed sport steering wheel, auto headlamps, hill-assist, blind spot detection, rear view camera, rear cross traffic alert, rear parking sensors, dark chrome mirrors and trim accents and much more.
The Kia Stinger GT Limited models ($49,995), tested here, add interior upgrades and soft Nappa leather, seat ventilation along with lumbar and bolster adjustments, heated rear seats, a bigger eight-inch multimedia screen with nav, seven-inch TFT/LCD Supervision gauge cluster, Dynamic Bending headlights, 360-degree camera, lane keep assist, head-up display, wireless cellphone charging and a 15-speaker Harmon/Kardon sound system with subwoofers under the front seats.
Whew! And the content list goes on.
It may be hard for some customers to wrap their heads around the concept of a sport sedan without the brand name cachet we normally expect in this segment. Or the concept of a $50K Kia.
But the Stinger GT’s blend of smooth power, touring performance, low-slung sport comfort and long list of included content makes Kia’s newest “halo car” a worthy alternative in the sport sedan segment.
2018 Kia Stinger
BODY STYLE: Midsize four-door GT sportback sedan.
DRIVE METHOD: Front-engine, all-wheel-drive and eight-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters
ENGINE: 3.3-litre DOHC, direct injection, twin-turbo V6 (365 hp, 376 lb/ft of torque
FUEL ECONOMY: 12.7/9.6L/100 km (city/hwy)
CARGO CAPACITY: 660 litres, 1,158 litres behind first row.
PRICING: Stinger GT Limited, $49,995 not including $1,560 destination fee.
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