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No one on Kia’s Stinger team has ever taken the phrase “choose your battles” to heart. If they had, a Kia-badged Audi A5 Sportback/BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe fighter would never have seen the light of day. Why would a mass-market Korean brand go toe to toe with the established German luxury princes over a sliver of a segment?
But here we are, writing a verdict of a yearlong loan of just such a vehicle. To review before we render a final judgement, this particular Stinger is the GT model, so instead of a pretty much OK 255-horsepower 2.0-liter turbo I-4, we got the big-daddy 365-hp 3.3-liter twin-turbo V-6 that stonks up a wonderful 376 lb-ft of torque. Zero to 60 mph in 4.7 seconds, baby.
Better still, our Stinger was a rear-drive GT2 model, giving us better handling, better steering feel, and essentially every option available as standard. Total price: $50,100. A good chunk of change for anything badged Kia but less money than the autobahn stormers it competes against. Check that—I should say less cash than cars the Stinger GT is better than.
Although performance is key, if there were one standout feature that continued to impress about the Stinger, it was the extra-large rear seat. As you learn on the first day of MBA school, your product needs to have a USP (unique selling point), and the spacious accommodations found behind the driver impressed from day one through 365.
Remember that the Stinger shares a platform with the slightly sportier Genesis G70 (the 2019 MotorTrend Car of the Year) and that aside from suspension tuning and sheetmetal, the big difference between the two is wheelbase: The Stinger’s is 3 inches longer, and all of it goes to the back seat. Do you have young children? Thinking about having one or more? The Stinger’s large rear quarters makes it an excellent alternative to a (snooze) SUV because even monster-sized car seats are easy to install. This same cannot be said for many cars in this segment. Additionally, the fact that the Stinger is a hatchback instead of a sedan means big strollers can fit back there, no problem. Just ask my lumbosacral.
As for the two things people (probably) care the most about when it comes to cars—mileage and reliability—our Stinger GT was mixed. First up, mpgs. The EPA rates the Stinger at 19/25/21 mpg city/highway/combined. But as all longtime readers of MotorTrend know, the EPA’s method isn’t exactly real world, which is why we employ Real MPG to measure a car’s true mileage. Our Stinger got 16.7/29.0/20.6.
It’s interesting that the combined number is basically the same. That said, if you do more city than highway driving, you will experience what I did—a gas gauge that’s seemingly always below half. Not only does the GT have the big twin-turbo V-6, but the car is also heavy, weighing in at 4,004 pounds. Opt for all-wheel drive, and the Stinger GT gains another 143 pounds. Also, because of the fancy V-6, this Kia requires premium gas.
Reliability was great, with a big caveat. First the great. We covered 22,562 miles in our year with the Stinger GT, and nothing went wrong. Total cost out of pocket was $1,348. That was $1,185 for a new set of Michelin PS4s and the remaining $163 for two oil changes, plus tire rotation, etc. (In comparison, a $52,325 2017 Audi A4 cost $561 for two scheduled service stops over 19,419 miles, and a $46,140 2015 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 cost us $181 in regular maintenance over 18,525 miles in our care.)
That’s not bad at all, especially considering the way we (and I’ll just go ahead and admit, I) treated this high-performance family vehicle. For instance, the tires were toast at about 12,000 miles. Sorry not sorry. Now, the caveat. This specific Stinger was actually an early-build vehicle that was on the press launch. We know this because not only was the VIN XXX, but for the length of the loan there was also a vinyl cut “12” sticker affixed to the bottom of the windshield (and when confronted with our theory, Kia admitted, yeah, it was one of the launch cars).
Two issues related to that. One was an intermittently creaking window frame. One dealer lubed the window seal, but the issue persisted throughout the life of our loan. The other issue concerned the shifter. If you pulled it into drive too hard, it would bounce forward into neutral. This was both annoying and potentially dangerous. Now, most Stingers don’t have shift-by-wire—it comes with the GT2 package. Moreover, I’ve driven three other more recent Stingers so equipped, and it’s simply not an issue. Kia assured me only early-build cars (which will never be sold to the general population) had this issue.
So to wrap it up, the car is great, the badge is wrong. Now there are—lucky for Kia—people out there who don’t care about brands (hi, Mom!) and instead are focused on product. For those people, Kia has built a no-brainer. Sexy, great to drive, quick by any measurement, and priced incredibly well, the Stinger GT has few downsides. The biggest knock against the car is that its Genesis G70 sibling has better suspension and body control. And, you have to admit, a better badge. The lease on my wife’s Audi Allroad is coming to its end, and I mentioned to her that a Stinger GT would make a fine replacement. “I don’t know if I want to drive a Kia,” she replied. The engineers did their job; now it’s up to Kia’s marketing peeps to do theirs.
|SERVICE LIFE||15 mo / 22,562 mi|
|OPTIONS||GT2 ($10,850; includes all items from Premium and GT1 trim levels, plus a limited-slip differential, a hands-free trunklid, a head-up display, premium leather upholstery, ventilated front seats, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning and intervention, a driver attention monitor, automatic high-beams, and blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert.|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$50,100|
|AVG ECON/CO2||20.4 mpg/0.95 lb/mi|
|MAINTENANCE COST||$163.06 (2-oil change, inspection, tire rotation)|
|NORMAL-WEAR COST||$1,185 (four new tires)|
|3-YEAR RESIDUAL VALUE*||$28,800 (57%)|
|*IntelliChoice data; assumes 42,000 miles at the end of 3-years|
|2018 Kia Stinger GT (RWD GT2)|
|DRIVETRAIN LAYOUT||Front-engine, RWD|
|ENGINE TYPE||Twin-turbo 60-deg V-6, alum block/heads|
|VALVETRAIN||DOHC, 4 valves/cyl|
|DISPLACEMENT||203.9 cu in/3,342cc|
|POWER (SAE NET)||365 hp @ 6,000 rpm|
|TORQUE (SAE NET)||376 lb-ft @ 1,300 rpm|
|WEIGHT TO POWER||11.0 lb/hp|
|SUSPENSION, FRONT; REAR||Struts, coil springs, adj shocks, anti-roll bar; multilink, coil springs, adj shocks, anti-roll bar|
|TURNS LOCK TO LOCK||2.2|
|BRAKES, F; R||13.8-in vented disc; 13.4-in vented disc, ABS|
|WHEELS, F;R||8.0 x 19-in; 8.5 x 19-in cast aluminum|
|TIRES, F;R||225/40ZR19 93Y; 255/35R19 96Y Michelin Pilot Sport 4S|
|TRACK, F/R||62.8/63.7 in|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||190.2 x 73.6 x 55.1 in|
|TURNING CIRCLE||36.9 ft|
|CURB WEIGHT||4,004 lb|
|WEIGHT DIST, F/R||52/48%|
|HEADROOM, F/R||38.3/37.0 in|
|LEGROOM, F/R||42.6/36.4 in|
|SHOULDER ROOM, F/R||56.4/54.8 in|
|CARGO VOLUME, BEH 1ST/2ND||40.9/23.3 cu ft|
|ACCELERATION TO MPH </strong|
|PASSING, 45-65 MPH||2.3|
|QUARTER MILE||13.2 sec @ 106.4 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||110 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.92 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||24.8 sec @ 0.79 g (avg)|
|TOP-GEAR REVS @ 60 MPH||1,500 rpm|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$50,100|
|AIRBAGS||8: Dual front, front side, f/r curtain, front knee|
|BASIC WARRANTY||5 years/60,000 miles|
|POWERTRAIN WARRANTY||10 years/100,000 miles|
|ROADSIDE ASSISTANCE||5 years/60,000 miles|
|FUEL CAPACITY||15.9 gal|
|REAL MPG, CITY/HWY/COMB||16.7/29.0/20.6 mpg|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB ECON||19/25/21 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY||177/135 kW-hr/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||0.91 lb/mile|
|RECOMMENDED FUEL||Unleaded premium|