Wednesday, April 18, 2018

2018 Kia Stinger GT2 RWD: The Brand’s Breakout Muscle Car

Highlight: The Stinger shares a platform with the upcoming Genesis G70, Hyundai’s luxury brand.

Test Vehicle’s MSRP: $32,800 (base model $50,100)

Seating Capacity: 5

Standard Safety Features: air bags; ABS; an electronic stability control system; a hill start assist control system; a traction control system; a tire pressure monitoring system; parking distance warning system (front and rear); and a rearview camera

Standard Equipment Base RWD Model: 18-inch wheels; 8-speed automatic transmission; a 160-mph speedometer; high performance dampers; a manual tilt/telescopic steering; leather seats; power front seats; heated front seats; 60/40 rear seats; a leather wrapped steering wheel; a heated steering wheel; cargo net hooks; front seat back pockets; a leather shift knob; a dual zone automatic temperature control system; a 7-inch infotainment screen; Apple CarPlay; Android Auto; a push-button ignition starter system; a keyless door lock system; and a driver mode selection system

Standard Equipment RWD GT2 Model: 19-inch wheels; 3.3-liter, 6-clyinder engine; 365-horsepower engine; a launch control system; variable gear ratio rack; limited slip differential; a shift by wire gear selector; bi-function projection headlights; a power panoramic sunroof; body color outside door handles; black chrome heated power folding mirrors with turn indicators; auto dimming outside mirrors; exclusive GT grille with matching lower trim; an aluminum center fascia; dynamic low beam assist light; keyless trunk; a power tilt/telescopic steering wheel; an automatic dimming rearview mirror; an electric parking brake; 180-mph speedometer; aluminum door scuff plates; aluminum pedals; a two position memory system for driver’s seat, steering wheel and outside mirrors; a flat bottom steering wheel; Nappa leather seats; 16-way power seats; ventilated front seats; a 720-watt Harmon Kardon, 15-speaker audio system; a forward collision pedestrian warning system; a forward collision warning system; a lane keep assist system; a lane departure warning system; a driver assist warning system; a high beam assist system; a rear traffic collision warning system; a radar-activated cruise control with a stop-go function; and a heads up display system

Optional Features On Test Vehicle: None

Standard Audio On Test Vehicle: a 6-speaker AM/FM/HD with SiriusXM

Bluetooth Connectivity: Yes

USB Connectivity: Yes
Bumper-to-Bumper Warranty: 5 years or 60,000 miles

Powertrain Warranty: 10 years or 100,000 miles

Standard Engine/Horsepower: 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder/255-hp

Recommended Fuel: Unleaded

Standard Fuel Mileage:

What’s New: This all-new rear wheel drive performance vehicle is the newest addition to Kia’s portfolio of vehicles.

Why: The stunning new Stinger is available in several trims in a front wheel drive or an all-wheel drive configuration.

In many instances, the vehicle straddles the fence in terms of outward appearance, interior space and pricing.

While the sporty interior space of the Korean vehicle is not quite a compact nor is it considered a midsize vehicle, it somewhat straddles the fence. And while the outward appearance looks like a hatchback (or fastback), the folks from Kia (and the higher end luxury makers too) would probably prefer, if we refer to this mean looking machine, as a sportback, since that term conjures up both status and performance.

Styling and performance are two of the lane the Stinger leans toward, when pitted against such higher end models as the Audi A7 and Porsche Panamera. Kia’s Stinger outfitted in the higher end trims are powered by a spirited 365-horsepower engine. This is right in line with the base engines of the German sedans, although the price point plays in a different category. In fact, when we mean different, just think of saving, at minimum, a cool $20,000, when shopping against the A7. As one can imagine, the savings are higher, when pitted against the Porsche.  

In fact, the base non turbo, six cylinder engines in both the Porsche and Audi A7 only spews out 310-horsepower. Yes, by stepping down (or over to the Kia, depending upon ones perspective, no pun intended, car enthusiasts can garner an additional 55 horses. Unlike the German models, the Kia only requires regular fuel, whereas its German competitors require the thirstier premium fuel.

Yes, the folks at Kia are eager to say that the Stinger is in a class of one. By all accounts, its hard to disagree with them. On the lower end of the spectrum, the Stinger in terms of performance, when outfitted with the twin turbo, four-cylinder is more in line with the Nissan Maxima, Dodge Charger, BMW 3-series and Audi A4. Note all of these are sedans. With that said, the Koreans first performance vehicle appeals to and is quite capable of playing to a number of car buyers, while still avoiding being a ‘me-too’ vehicle.

As it relates to the exterior design, the Stinger's elongated vented hood and protruding side skirts are a car designers dream project. The vehicle just screams excitement. The rear wheel platform allowed the Stinger’s design team to create this work of art on wheels.

Even in terms of the layout of the instrument panel, it is quite obvious that this vehicle just radiates performance. From the circular vents to the iPad-like infotainment screen to the higher gear shifter to the racing orange interior light, which illuminates a night, the vehicle is well thought out.

Moreover, the layout of the instrument panel is user friendly and does not require an advanced degree to operate. While Kia has stepped up both the performance, the ride and the handling aspects, the price, as well as the ease of operation of all of the features, falls right in line with the Kia brand.

But: With this being a true performance vehicle, we found that the driver’s seat needs more back support. Additionally, the whiny, six-cylinder engine we reviewed was literally begging for a manual shifter. Unfortunately, an automatic transmission doesn’t do justice for the vehicle. 

And, while we’re not sure if we had our hands on a pre-production model, the fuel filler door gauge indicator was mislabeled. While the fuel filler door was located on the left side of the vehicle, the instrument panel gauge indicator revealed it was on the right side. Added to that, we couldn’t locate the indicator light on the instrument panel to activate the heated steering wheel. Although we referenced the Stinger’s owner manual, we were still unable to locate the activation button in our review vehicle. Again, this further supported our theory of being in a pre-production car.

Moreover, rear passengers will find the seating in the rear wheel drive sports sedan to be a tight squeeze, even if the front occupants decide to slide the seats forward.

Lastly, Kia has stepped into a segment that has literally been foreign to an automaker that was known at one point for building uneventful, bland economical vehicles that were not known for being dependable. So, initially when one notice the eye popping $50,000 price tag, it might take a moment for skeptical buyers to move beyond the past into the future.

Verdict: While this is Kia’s first attempt to push into the performance segment, in our opinion, they have nailed it. The only drawback for some might be the Kia name. However, once behind the wheel that notion quickly fades. Beyond that, this sportsback, which is available as either a rear wheel drive or an all wheel drive, will make folks ditch their SUVs, crossovers and trucks for a vehicle that is both stylish and engaging!

Like with Ford's iconic Mustang, expect Kia to bring out different variations of the Stinger to keep the vehicle fresh.

Competition: Depends on the price point.