The headrests. I don’t love the headrests. If you keep the backrest of your seat more on the vertical, the headrests will push on the back of your head. They should really have some back and forth adjustment. Everything else about the Kia Stinger GT is excellent. It looks great. It goes and handles as good as it looks. It’s a world class car that should put every automaker on notice. Go buy one, you’ll love it.
That’s it. That’s the review.
Edit: The headrests are adjustable forward and back as per the owner’s manual, page 3-16. But, even in the rear-most position they can still tap he back of the driver’s head.
Fine. Let’s talk about the exterior. Pictures do not do it justice. Obvious Audi-esque side shape is obvious, that’s because the guy who designed it used to work at Audi. But look closer. I see some Alfa Romeo or otherwise Italian influence in the rear, specifically the taillights. In the front I see some Fisher Karma. I not a fan of the fake vents but they work. And there is even some typical Kia design, if there is such thing, in the rear door. Most importantly, it reminds me of the FSO Polonez, itself a remarkable vehicle, which set that standard for a five-door hatchback design. Put all together, it looks good enough for people to approach it for a closer look and take pictures.
The inside is modern minimalist. It works for Land Rover, it works for Mercedes, and it sure works here. Good quality materials everywhere you touch. Everything is easy to find and use. The audio system sounds great. The sound of the blinking blinker could be louder and the automatic wipers could be a bit smarter. I wish the center screen could fold and disappear into the dash. I’m really reaching here.
The 3.3-liter twin-turbo V6 in the Stinger GT makes 365 horsepower at 6000rpm and 376 torques ay 1300rpm. The power delivery is linear and there really isn’t any noticeable turbo lag. It’s a good amount of power, enough to pull the Stinger in low 13-second quarter mile times, and 12s have been recorded. If anything, the figure seems unfairly low in the days of 700-horsepower Jeeps. It’s delivered to either the rear wheels or all wheels, as in the case of the pictured car, via a smooth and quick-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission.
On the street, the ride and handling are great. I never felt any jolts or other un-pleasantries on New England’s post-winter roads. And it handles great, too. There is minimal body roll and dive. This vehicle was equipped with Michelin’s Pilot Sport 4 tires. Except for one instance, I didn’t push this car hard enough to even approach any limits but in spirited driving the chassis and tire combination seemed excellent.
Like most new vehicles, the Kia Stinger comes with a ton of modern safety gizmos that assist the driver. In the Stinger they seemed very transparent until I needed them. I was on a secondary two-lane road, in the left lane, driving around 40mph. As I was entering a tunnel I looked into the passenger side mirror as I wanted to switch lanes. In the exact same time, the vehicle in front of me started braking heavily. The Stinger started buzzing at me and slammed on the brakes by itself. But that wasn’t enough. My so-called “racing instincts” took over and I cut the wheel to the right, a lane I knew was free, and avoided hitting the car in front of me probably an inch.
But the most surprising thing was how the Stringer handled in this process. It was totally drama free. I cut the wheel under full braking, suddenly switched lanes, and then quickly straighten the car. Aside from those basic functions, there was no need for me to do anything else. There was no need for me to remain in control or stabilize the vehicle – it just remained shockingly composed throughout the process. This kind of amazed me. I have driven a ton of vehicles near their handling limit and this one was one of the smoothest. The combination of the active safety equipment, chassis tuning, big brakes, and great tires totally saved my ass.
The 2018 Kia Stinger starts at $31,900. The V6-powered Stinger GT starts at $38,350. The fully-loaded GT AWD model seen in these pictures had the manufacturer suggested retail price of $52,300, with destination. This loaded price is about the same as a loaded Audi A5 Sportback or starting price for the Audi S5 Sportback, which the Stinger GT is clearly targeting.
Aside from the headrests, which is an extremely minor complaint, I can’t find anything I don’t like about the Stinger. It completely surpassed all of my expectations. This is the vehicle that shows that Kia can be competitive with the top brands of the world. All they have to do is apply the Stinger philosophy to all of their other models.
[Disclaimer: Kia Motors America Inc. provided this vehicle for the purpose of this article. All images copyright Kamil Kaluski/Redusernab 2018]
Edit: from the owner’s manual: