LOS ANGELES, CA: At last January’s auto show in Detroit, Kia global president, Peter Schreyer, described the Stinger GT, that had just been unveiled there, as not a “halo” car but a “statement”.
I happened to be sitting beside him, but the significance of what he said only came clear to me a few days later.
What I believe Schreyer meant was that Stinger is a new kind of Kia – one with emotion.
The Stinger has been in the works for more than six years – a surprisingly long gestation period for any Korean car.
It also has been something Schreyer has wanted to do since joining the company in 2006 as chief designer.
Stinger closely follows the lines of the GT Concept car we saw at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 2011, with all the “Grand Touring” car design cues you’d expect, such as a very long hood, stretched wheelbase and short rear overhang.
It’s all there in the 2018 Stinger, as well as power – a must in a true GT car.
It has a twin turbo, direct injection 3.3-litre V6 engine producing 365 hp and 376 lb/ft of torque with an in-house designed eight-speed transmission with paddle shifters.
The rear-biased AWD marks the first non-Kia SUV/CUV to use this form of propulsion.
The U.S. also gets a 2.0-litre single turbo four-cylinder that we may see in the future, but for now we get the two top V6 trim models, starting with the base Stinger GT at $44,195 and the Stinger GT Limited with just about the optional features Kia could cram in at.
Climbing up California Hwy. 2 in the mountains to the east of LA and on the way past the Palomar Observatory, the Stinger we had was U.S. spec closely matching the GT Limited.
Snaking past the 3,000 ft level, the road is all curves and short flats usually with a switchback bend at the end, meaning power on and off is crucial to maintain momentum.
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We had the AWD working overtime and the level of grip was more than reassuring a few times when I feared my co-driver had overcooked it.
It was the same rock solid stability I noticed in February of this year when driving very early pre-production models on a vast frozen lake in Sweden.
We were told to try to put the Stinger into a spin and, as hard as I tired, the stability control and traction control stepped in every time and that was on all-season tires, believe it or not.
And speaking of tires, Canadian Stingers come with performance Michelin Pilot Sports specifically developed for the car. And there is an extra cost Pirelli winter package for our country.
With a car this fast, stopping is important and the Stinger is fitted with 13.8-inch front rotors with four-piston Brembo calipers and 13.4-inch rear rotors with two-piston Brembos.
The electronically controlled suspension reacted very well up in the mountains, but on freeways with decades of ruts, there was an occasional jittery feedback sensation.
An important feature of the AWD/transmission system is its five drive modes – Smart, Eco, Comfort, Sport and Custom. The AWD torque split is normally 50:50 front to rear, but in Sport or Custom that can be 20:80 and the driver also has the benefit of side-to-side torque vectoring, which makes stability in corners ever greater.
Like its high performance competitors, Stinger is equipped with launch control, which allows the driver to increase boost while holding it at optimum engine speed (about 2,200 rpm) so there is maximum traction. There is even a g-force monitor display on the driver info centre to gauge the launch.
And making it all the more fun was the rasp of the exhaust note between shifts with the paddle shifters.
Kia’s slogan is “The Power to Surprise” and it certainly does that with the pricing.
Compared to the base Porsche Panamera
the Stinger’s twin turbo is 35 hp and 45 lb/ft of torque greater while the base Panamera is rear-drive not AWD like Stinger.
The Panamera is longer in length and wheelbase by 2.19 cm and 45 mm respectively, but Stinger edges the Panamera out in cargo room behind the rear seats as 660 litres versus 500 litres.
But where they really differ is the base Stinger starts at $44,195, which is just over half the price of the base Panamera at $97,300.
If you want to compare it to another all-wheel-drive grand touring sedan like the ($75,950) Audi A7 Sportback
, the Stinger has 32 more hp and 51 lb/ft of torque and the Stinger has larger brakes that its two German rivals to boot.
In a clip Kia showed at the press introduction in Los Angeles, Schreyer was shown saying that while he is proud of all the Kias that have gone before, the Stinger is “something special”.
2018 Kia Stinger
Intermediate four-door GT.
front engine, all-wheel-drive and eight-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters
3.3-litre DOHC, direct injection, twin turbo V6 (365 hp, 376 lb/ft of torque
(Premium) 12.7/9.6/11.3L/100 km city/highway/combined
1,158 litres behind first row, 660 litres behind second row
Stinger GT, $44,195; Stinger GT Limited, $49,995