There was a curious car on the Kia stand at the 2011 Frankfurt International Motor Show. Named the Kia GT Concept, it was a personal project of designers Peter Schreyer and Gregory Guillaume, who wanted to re-create an elegant gran turismo capable of crossing Europe with style and pace. And while we could see a nod to the Porsche Panamera and the soon-to-be-released Audi A7, concepts come and concepts go. Kia wouldn't really build something like that, would it?
When the 2014 North American International Auto Show rolled around, Kia again had a concept wearing the Stinger moniker, but this time prefaced with a "GT4." It was a coupe, and while it also looked like a hatchback, it was so far removed from the Stinger GT concept that we more or less forgot that idea even existed. Unbeknownst to us, and pretty much everyone outside of Kia, the Stinger GT was already on its way to becoming a reality.
To call the five-door sedan an oddity would be an understatement. Mazda's been the only company brave or crazy enough to try to convince Americans of the inherent practicality of an affordable midsize hatchback, first with the 626 (way back when) and more recently with the Mazda 6. Both variants vanished after only a few years. Sure, Porsche has the Panamera and Audi has the A7, but those are luxurious curiosities.
Kia is aiming for the mainstream with a starting price under $35,000, but it has also pointed its finger directly at the Panamera and cars such as the BMW 440i Gran Coupe and the Audi A5 Sportback. We were interested in getting one for our long-term fleet even before Kia made those comparisons. Now we had to get one.
What Options Does It Have?
The 2018 Kia Stinger comes in five trim levels: 2.0L, Premium, GT, GT1 and GT2. All-wheel drive is available on every one. The 2.0L and Premium trims get a potent 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine good for 255 horsepower, and the GT, GT1 and GT2 trims come standard with Kia's saucy 3.3-liter twin-turbo V6.
We went nearly whole hog with our Stinger, opting for the GT2 but skipping all-wheel drive. It's a $2,200 option and not readily beneficial in Southern California. All Stingers throw power around via a paddle-shifted eight-speed transmission, power that reaches the ground — or goes up in smoke — courtesy of 19-inch wheels wrapped in Michelin Pilot Sport 4 rubber. Stopping power comes courtesy of Brembo brakes, with 13.8-inch rotors up front, 13.4-inch rotors in back. The GT2 package also includes electronically controlled suspension and multiple drive modes.
Inside, there's black leather (red is an option, even on a red car), heated and ventilated seats, a heavy-hitting Harman Kardon sound system, Kia's Uvo infotainment system, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, a head-up display, and mood lighting, which some of our editors will no doubt constantly change. Oh, and it's got a sunroof, too.
On the safety front, there's the usual suite of safety features with forward collision warning and avoidance, lane keeping and lane departure warning systems, a drowsy driver warning system, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert. With any luck, we won't need to use those systems very often, but we're certain we'll use the Stinger's adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go almost daily. Be sure to follow the long-term blog if you want to read our take on how Kia does it.
Other than the aforementioned optional all-wheel-drive system, the GT2 package offers no other options and stickers at $49,200. Add in destination fees and a $50 cargo net, and the total for our Stinger is $50,150. That's not a cheap Kia, even when you remember the K900 can be had for well over $60,000.
Why We Got It?
We've generally liked the eight (eight!) previous Kias we've had in our fleet, so the Stinger was certainly going on the short list as soon as it hit showrooms. We're attracted to its uniqueness, practicality and promise of serious performance, especially from a brand that's done a good job of producing reliable companion vehicles. Kia's taking a bit of a chance with the Stinger, and we absolutely think it's worth a look.
But that was before Kia went and called out Audi, BMW and Porsche by name. No doubt the carmaker is trying to stir the pot, but the Stinger does have a lot going for it, undercutting similarly equipped versions of those high-end rivals by several thousands of dollars with similar performance across the board. Not only are we pulling up a chair for this fight, we're also going to pack on the miles and see if the Stinger is the real deal.
The manufacturer provided this vehicle for the purpose of evaluation.