2018 Kia Stinger GT2 -- Long-Term Departure

by Michael Harley on February 18, 2019

Our year with the 2018 Kia Stinger GT2 passed surprisingly quick, which is a testament to how much we enjoyed the Korean automaker’s first true sport sedan. Unlike the automaker’s own Cadenza and Optima, which are performance limited by their front-wheel drive platforms, the Stinger shares its rear-wheel drive platform with its cousin, the Genesis G70. With driving enthusiasts in its crosshairs, the Stinger is right-sized, optioned, and priced to battle heavyweights such as the Audi A5 Sportback and BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe — those are worthy challengers.

Glancing at the numbers shows that we handed the keys back with 21,451 miles on the odometer. This means we put 16,597 miles on the sedan over the past 12 months (remember, we took delivery of a test vehicle that already had 4,853 miles on its clock).

Overall, we averaged 21.6 MPG in terms of fuel economy — our best tank returned 26.91 MPG and our worst delivered 17.62 MPG. Our Stinger was out of service for 16 days this past year (that works out to a 96 percent reliability rate) with total out-of-pocket costs of $231.19 for services such as oil and fluid changes. The tires — especially the rears — will need replacing within the next 2,500 miles (blame our heavy right feet), but the brake pads should last another 10,000 miles, or so.

Our Stinger was mostly reliable – we only had to replace an axle and the power steering unit, both of which were covered under warranty.

What we liked about the Kia Stinger

Kia promised us a sport sedan, and by all subjective measurements the company delivered. We touted the five-passenger hatchback’s near-perfect steering feel and straight-line stability. The Brembo brakes never faltered or let us down, regardless of how hard we pushed them. And the Michelin tires delivered tenacious grip. Even the adaptive suspension, which allowed a bit too much body roll for our tastes, kept the chassis planted and secure in the corners.

In November, we compared it to one of our all-time favorite classic sport sedans. “I am reminded of the E39 M5 when I drive the Kia Stinger GT2. Both rear-wheel-drive vehicles have very similar power-to-weight ratios, acceleration numbers, and performance specifications.”   

The Kelley Blue Book editorial team also had nothing but compliments for the Stinger’s powertrain — a muscular twin-turbocharged 3.3-liter V6, which is rated at 365 horsepower, mated to a silky 8-speed automatic transmission.

Kia offers the vehicle with all-wheel drive, which is great for low traction situations, but our confidence in the mild Southern California weather led us to choose the rear-wheel-drive variant. It genuinely satisfied the driving enthusiasts on our team. “The engine starts with a throaty roar, throttle response is fast, and mashing the accelerator pedal to the floor delivers immediate sideways action — ear-to-ear grins are the norm,” I remarked during one of my updates.

Mixing luxury with performance is a sport sedan character trait. The Stinger’s passenger cabin is roomy, upscale, and comfortable for passengers in both rows. Most of the time the Kia was asked to drive us around alone – we dropped the second row of seats and loaded bicycles, wood, and even a load of recyclables into the cavernous hold. Everything fit when we asked the Stinger to carry gear.

Yet it was equally as competent when we loaded it with people, noted our video host: “Viewed as a family wagon, our long-term Kia Stinger certainly sparks joy,” remarked Micah Muzio after toting his wife and three-year-old around.

What we didn’t like about the Kia Stinger

There were a few nagging issues with the Stinger, which is almost expected of a first-year vehicle.

Nearly immediately, we noted numerous squeaks and rattles in the cabin — blame a mostly steel chassis that is a bit more flexible than most other late-model vehicles. Kia replaced the headliner after we complained about the noise, which was right in our ears, but it eventually came back. We learned to ignore it. And we learned to live with the incessant small noises each time we drove over broken pavement.

Fuel economy was never a complaint, but a smallish fuel tank was. We averaged only about 225 miles on each tank. “However, my greatest complaint to date is that its 15.9-gallon fuel tank is too small for its fuel consumption (the EPA rates the 3.3-liter turbo at 19 city/25 highway),” was our report in April. We mentioned it again the following month, “That’s frustratingly low, considering that the industry average is more than 300 miles on a tank. A 20-gallon fuel tank would make the Stinger GT a genuine long-range tourer,” read our update in May.

We brought up our greatest frustration in July when we noted that “moving the Drive Mode selector while using Apple CarPlay causes a glitch – best described as an electrical ‘pop’ in the speakers and static on the phone.” The ‘pop’ would cause static on our phone calls, which was very noticeable by the party on the other end of the line. We mentioned the distortion and static to the dealer on more than one occasion, yet they were never able to duplicate the problem. Finally, we solved the issue ourselves – we’d unplug Apple CarPlay during phone calls and use good old-fashioned Bluetooth. Using the traditional wireless connection worked.

Resale value and our overall verdict – impressed

Overall, Kia’s new Stinger left us impressed. And not just for its power and joyous behind-the-wheel dynamics — financially, it held its value well, and although the Stinger is still somewhat rare you can still find some "pre-owned" Stingers for sale.

New, the 2018 Kia Stinger GT2 carried a sticker price of $50,100. A glance at today’s Kelley Blue Book trade-in value pegs it at $35,315 — bump that to $38,042 for a private party sale. That represents solid resale value that aligns very well with its targeted German counterparts, which says volumes about how far Kia has come in the automotive marketplace, and how smart it can be to find a 2018 Kia Stinger that's right for you.

While the 2018 Kia Stinger GT2 was far from perfect, it never failed to deliver on its sport sedan promise. The keys were always in someone’s pocket — not the drawer — because it was fun to drive, which always made the journey to the destination very enjoyable.


Family Wagon-ish

by Micah Muzio on January 26, 2019

Current Odometer: 21,198 miles
Latest MPG: 21.20 mpg
Lifetime MPG: 21.64 mpg
Maintenance/Service Costs: $231.19
Days out of Service: 16

Let it be known that a front-facing car seat fits just fine in the back seat of our long-term 2018 Kia Stinger. Installation was a bit tricky, as the LATCH hooks require an odd, near-horizontal attachment angle for car seat anchors. Nonetheless, with some minor fenagling the car seat was installed and our family speedily ventured to our favorite Ramen shop. HiroNori in Long Beach, if you’re interested.

The real revelation from this car seat test is that Kia’s Stinger could honestly work for my small family’s needs. My 3.5 year-old daughter fit with plenty of leg clearance between her light-up princess shoes and momma’s seat back. The Stinger’s hatchback design and cargo space further elevate its pragmatism. Meanwhile, our car’s optional 365-horsepower V6 utterly delights both me as the driver and my daughter. She’s quite the adventure seeker.

Is a Kia Stinger the smartest, most practical way to haul a family? No. But as Marie Kondo has rightly wondered, if an object fails to “spark joy” is it worth keeping? Cars are objects too. And viewed as a family wagon, our long-term Kia Stinger certainly sparks joy. 


Pushing My Buttons

by Micah Muzio on January 11, 2019

Current Odometer: 20,730 miles
Latest MPG: 17.65 mpg
Lifetime MPG: 21.66 mpg
Maintenance/Service Costs: $231.19
Days out of Service: 16

This is one of those trivial complaints that reveals my exceptional privilege. When gassing up Kelley Blue Book’s long-term 2018 Kia Stinger GT I discovered that, to release the fuel door, a button must be pressed prior to leaving the cabin. Most cars I drive these days have fuel doors that conveniently release when pressed and which automatically lock themselves when the vehicle is locked. Simple!

Is having to pre-plan my fueling activity by 5-10 seconds an unreasonable burden? Not really. But humans judge their afflictions and successes by comparison with others. If every other car I drive features a simple press-to-release fuel door, why can’t our Stinger? I’m working to make peace with this grave injustice but it’s hard when…the Stinger…also features…an old school cap rather than a capless fuel filler. Don’t even get me started. 


Crisis Plus Opportunity

by Micah Muzio on December 31, 2018

Current Odometer: 20,219 miles
Latest MPG: 22.28 mpg
Lifetime MPG: 21.74 mpg
Maintenance/Service Costs: $231.19
Days out of Service: 16

In motivational speaking lore, the Chinese word wēijī means both “crisis” and “opportunity. Schlocky or not, this inspiring mistranslation helped reframe a recent crisis. You see, after driving 1.5 hours from Julian, California to San Diego following a video shoot, I discovered my backpack was missing. Ah, classic crisis.

The “opportunity” emerged when I realized the only possible path to retrieving my bag, and its pricey electronic contents, was to hastily venture back to Julian aboard Kelley Blue Book’s long-term Kia Stinger. Driving between San Diego and Julian is perfectly varied, morphing from urban city slog, to high speed freeway cruise, to serpentine mountain attack. With minimal seat time in KBB’s 2018 Stinger GT this presented a proper reintroduction.

Drivers in downtown San Diego tend to drive slowly and with maximum distraction. Damn tourists. For those of us with somewhere to be, the Stinger’s 3.3-liter V6 is tops. Spot an opening in traffic? Mash the rightmost pedal and you’ll rocket right through. Later, Camry! It’s always a Camry.

Merging with highway 8, I let the Stinger stretch its legs. Note: “stretch its legs” is the kind of phrase that might also mean “break the speed limit to retrieve one’s backpack”. Not in this case obviously. Anyhoo, at high speeds the Stinger exhibits comfortable stability. She cruises with real grace and a sense of effortless speed. When casually overtaking slower traffic, the 8-speed transmission rarely chooses a downshift, instead leaning on the engine’s ample torque. Later, Camry! It’s always a Camry.

Just east of highway 8, the microscopic town of Descanso links to Julian via a thin, smooth ribbon of tarmac. Assuming the path is clear this is a wonderful stretch to see how a vehicle turns. No wonder car makers send reviewers like me up this path with Groundhog Day-like regularity.

Gifted several unobstructed miles, KBB’s long-term Stinger charmed me. Firmer dampers might impart racier reactions from the chassis but the steering feels direct and nicely weighted. Plus, there more than enough grip from the 19-inch Michelins to keep pace with…well, pretty much anyone. As is in many modern cars, the true limiting factor when piloting the Kia Stinger GT is one’s own sense of self-preservation. 

Arriving at the campground where we’d earlier shot video felt like a true cliff hanger. Would my backpack be where I assumed it must be? For proper tension, I played Smashing Pumpkins’ oft-forgotten album Adore. Cranked through the Stinger’s 720-watt, 15-speaker premium Harmon-Kardon audio system “Appels + Oranjes” echoed with a moody power.

Creep, creep, creep along the narrow one-lane road leading to the campsite. Past a tree. And. Slow reveal. Holy hell, my backpack is sitting atop a bench. Leap from Stinger, inspect contents. Everything is there. WHEW!!! Did kind citizens decide to leave it unscathed? Or did it simply go unnoticed? In the battle of explanations, the optimist in me chooses the former.

Flashback to 2 hours prior. I’m standing backpackless in San Diego at the Hotel Pendry valet pickup curb. The day could’ve taken a joyless turn. Confronted with possible loss, a speedy jaunt to the wilds of Julian could’ve been sullied by impotent worry. Man, that would’ve been a waste. Instead, I relished the vehicular wonders of our long-term Stinger GT, retrieved my wayward backpack, and rewarded myself with pie at the Julian Pie Company. Wēijī. Mistranslated or not, it pays to find the opportunity in a crisis.


The 20,000-mile report

by Michael Harley on December 21, 2018

Current Odometer: 20,000 miles
Latest MPG: 22.28 mpg
Lifetime MPG: 21.69 mpg
Maintenance/Service Costs: $231.19
Time out of Service: 16 days

Even after 20,000 miles, everyone on the KBB team finds the Kia Stinger GT an absolute blast to drive. The engine starts with a throaty roar, throttle response is fast, and mashing the accelerator pedal to the floor delivers immediate sideways action — ear-to-ear grins are the norm. We continue to be impressed with the powertrain, interior room, and styling, which are all near-perfect in our eyes.

On the other hand, the chassis is starting to show a bit of age. There are numerous squeaks and moans in the platform when we go over large undulations in the road (or turn into driveways), which do make us question how the Stinger will sound after another 20,000 are put on its odometer.

Fuel economy remains the same — figure 20 mpg around town, with highway averages of about 30 mpg — and the engine isn’t burning a drop of oil. The brakes look great at all four corners (plenty of pad left), but the rear tires are beginning to show their wear bar indicators — blame the 365-hp engine for that!


Four Ways to Improve the Kia Stinger GT

by Michael Harley on December 10, 2018

Current Odometer: 19,729 miles
Latest MPG: 25.08 mpg
Lifetime MPG: 21.67 mpg
Maintenance/Service Costs: $231.19
Time out of Service: 16 days

It’s challenging to find substantial faults with the Stinger GT, but there are a few changes I’d suggest if Kia’s engineers choose to make a few updates at the vehicle’s mid-cycle update in a year or two. Three are tweaks to improve the Stinger’s appeal to driving enthusiasts, while the last one would make every owner’s life easier:

Wider tires – While standard 4-cylinder Stinger models arrive with 18-inch wheels with 225/45-18 tires, performance-tuned Stinger GT models are upgraded with 19-inch wheels wrapped in staggered-size 225/40-19 (front) and 255/35-19 (rear tires). While those narrow front tires reduce aerodynamic drag, lessen rolling resistance, and lower weight, they don’t provide a significant amount of lateral grip. Floor the throttle on the 365-hp Stinger GT and the rear tires immediately spin. Dive into a corner while trail braking and the Stinger GT rolls over on its front tires and understeers (significantly). I have no complaints about the tire compound (Michelin Pilot Sport 4S), but there should be an option for 245’s up front, and 275’s in the rear, as the 4,000-pound sedan could use a much larger contact patch.

Firmer suspension – Kudos to Kia for using a continuously damping electronically controlled suspension (the automaker calls it Dynamic Stability Damping Control) on the Stinger GT2. Most of the time the ride is sporty and comfortable, but I feel that the dampers aren’t firm enough in Sport mode — the vehicle is still floaty and there is far too much body roll when pushed above 8/10ths in the corners. My suggestion is that Kia engineers take a drive in the Audi RS5. Set the German vehicle’s dampers to Dynamic and teeth rattle — that’s what enthusiasts expect from a Sport mode.

Enthusiast-tuned gauges – Scroll through the various screens on the primary instrument cluster to find “Gauges” on the display — there are lines for Oil Temp, Torque, and Boost. Unfortunately, there is only a bar graph that is difficult to see and decipher while driving. I’d suggest that Kia put several round digital gauges on the display with readouts of the precise temperatures and boost level. That’s the way nearly all other automakers do it. 

Larger fuel tank – Kia fits the Stinger models with a 15.9-gallon fuel tank, which has been delivering an average of 233 miles between fill-ups over the past 18 tanks. Compare that to our long-term Mazda6 (270 miles) and Infiniti QX50 (261 miles) and it’s obvious that the Korean sport sedan could use a few more gallons of fuel capacity to bring it up to an average per-tank range for a combustion-only vehicle. Keep in mind that most of today’s latest EVs (electric-only vehicles) are delivering 250-300 miles on a full charge. The Stinger needs an 18-gallon fuel tank in the worst way, which would give it 16 useable gallons in each tank. 


Rear Axle Failure and Replacement — Back in Service

by Michael Harley on December 3, 2018

Current Odometer: 18,888 miles
Latest MPG: 20.73 mpg
Lifetime MPG: 21.55 mpg
Maintenance/Service Costs: $231.19
Time out of Service: 16 days

Our long-term Kia Stinger GT is back in service, and I couldn’t be more pleased. While I originally diagnosed the odd sounds and vibrations as a rear differential issue (it was most noticeable at low speeds), Kia of Irvine diagnosed it as an issue with the left axle — it was replaced under warranty. (In the picture, the axle is the clean black tube with the white barcode sticker.) The two other complaints (Apple CarPlay interference with the drive mode and the transmission selector not engaging on the first try) were not verifiable, according to the service technician. While the Kia was being repaired, I also asked for an oil change with synthetic. The bill was $144.27 — steeper than expected — because the Stinger GT uses “eight liters of oil instead of six,” explained the service department. Surprisingly, Kia of Irvine used Total Quartz 900 NFC 5W-30 oil in the Stinger’s twin-turbocharged 3.3-liter V6. “Total” was new to my ears, but a bit of research indicates that the company, which is based in France but has a U.S. facility, is a reputable manufacturer of quality lubricants and chemicals (you can purchase Total oil online).

It’s important to mention something about the Kia service experience, which I feel falls short of what someone who buys a $50,000 vehicle expects. While the dealership wasn’t inattentive, I waited much longer than expected, there were confusing questions about the bill, and the entire process never felt personal – I was part of an assembly line, not treated like a valued customer. Much of this may be attributed to a low standard — Kia owners don’t expect a premium interaction. With that in mind, a glance at Kelley Blue Book’s October 2018 transaction reports indicates that Kia had an average transaction price of $24,857 per sale, which is very low considering the industry average is $36,807. Kia dealerships simply haven’t had to worry about coddling to an affluent clientele. 


Rear Differential Problems Put the Brakes on our Stinger GT

by Michael Harley on November 30, 2018

Current Odometer: 18,667 miles
Latest MPG: 20.73 mpg
Lifetime MPG: 21.55 mpg
Maintenance/Service Costs: $86.92
Time out of Service: 16 days

About three weeks ago, I started to notice an odd noise emanating from the rear of the Stinger GT while making a hard turn – sounded like the rear differential was whining. Rather rapidly, the sound grew increasingly worse and soon passengers in the back seat were commenting about odd noises and vibrations. Seeking the issue remedied – and needing a fresh oil change based on the mileage – I took it into Kia of Irvine for a service on November 19.

Unlike our service back in May, which was an exercise in efficiency and courtesy, just dropping the Stinger off took nearly 30 minutes – even though we had an appointment. The service writer seemed confused when writing the work order (it appeared that someone was standing-in for the actual service writer), and they questioned my suggestion that the rear limited-slip differential was the culprit. Today is the 10th day it has been at the dealership, with very little communication about the status of the repair. This is a shame, as I genuinely miss driving it.  


Kia Stinger GT is a Modern Reincarnation of the Famed BMW E39 M5

by Michael Harley on November 12, 2018

Current Odometer: 18,531 miles
Latest MPG: 18.37 mpg
Lifetime MPG: 21.57 mpg
Maintenance/Service Costs: $86.92
Time out of Service: 6 days

The beloved BMW E39 M5, sold between 1998 and 2003, earned praise as the high-water mark for the brand’s 5 Series because it did everything a BMW was supposed to do – it embraced enthusiast drivers as a four-door sedan that was fast, fun, and practical. On that note, I am reminded of the E39 M5 when I drive the Kia Stinger GT2. Both rear-wheel drive vehicles have very similar power-to-weight ratios, acceleration numbers, and performance specifications. The M5, with its early-generation stability control disabled, was a rocket ship when prodded with a heavy foot, and tail happy if tossed aggressively into a corner. The same can be said about the Stinger GT, except you can leave the modern electronic nannies engaged on the Korean. Think all of this is just an imaginary stretch? Consider that Albert Biermann, the gentleman who is today in charge of Stinger GT chassis engineering, also played a key role in the engineering of the E39 M5. I wonder if some of the enthusiast DNA has been carried forward. 


“Fuel Saving” Engine Start-Stop System is Maddening

by Michael Harley on October 31, 2018

Current Odometer: 17,786 miles
Latest MPG: 18.31 mpg
Lifetime MPG: 21.60 mpg
Maintenance/Service Costs: $86.92
Time out of Service: 6 days

Kia, like nearly all automakers these days, utilizes an engine start-stop system to shut down the engine when propulsion isn’t needed — sitting at a stoplight or waiting to pull onto a busy street, for example. While these systems are nearly seamless on hybrid vehicles with instant-on electric motors, combustion-only vehicles typically suffer from a delay as the engine fires to life and the transmission re-engages into gear. Automotive engineers claim the delay is only about a half-second, but in the real-world that is a lifetime — the delay is frustrating when we are trying to pull across a busy intersection, especially when you consider that oncoming traffic moving at 60 mph is nearly 45 feet closer to you by the time the engine reacts and the vehicle moves (more than once, we have changed our minds and panic-jammed the brakes to stop as the delay causes a dangerously small gap for us to merge). And, only adding to the frustration, the air conditioning compressor shuts off when start-stop engages, leaving us sitting in the blazing Southern California sun as the HVAC immediately stops cooling. That said, we hit the start-stop DEFEAT button nearly every time we climb into the Stinger GT. 


Little Touches Make Living with the Stinger GT Effortless

by Michael Harley on October 15, 2018

Current Odometer: 16,527 miles
Latest MPG: 20.65 mpg
Lifetime MPG: 21.71 mpg
Maintenance/Service Costs: $86.92
Time out of Service: 6 days

Kelley Blue Book’s long-term Stinger gets washed once a week, which is more frequently than most privately-owned vehicles. In addition to the exterior wash, a routine that includes pressure-washing the wheels and using a foam cannon to coat the red paint in soft suds, we wipe down and vacuum the interior. While this generally leaves the Kia looking showroom ready, we’ve gotten into the habit of doing some deeper cleaning every few months. Part of that process includes vacuuming out the cup holders and other storage compartments within the cabin. Thankfully, Kia puts small rubber liners in each, which are easy to pull out and wash (we dump them into the sink with warm water and dish detergent). When dropped back into place, they look brand new. While Kia is certainly not the only automaker to use the rubber liners, out experience is that some automakers make them impossibly hard to remove, or they don’t use them at all – and that’s maddening. 


Kia Stinger GT Rear Seats are Comfortable and Roomy

by Michael Harley on October 4, 2018

Current Odometer: 16,173 miles
Latest MPG: 20.82 mpg
Lifetime MPG: 21.74 mpg
Maintenance/Service Costs: $86.92
Time out of Service: 6 days

I spend most of my time roosted in the incredibly comfortable driver’s seat of the Kia Stinger GT, but occasionally I do find myself sitting in the second row. That said, it’s worthy of a closer look. Unconventionally, but more commonplace today than ever before, the Stinger is a five-door sedan – it is configured with four traditional doors and a rear liftback. While this often means rear headroom is compromised (designers slope the rear deck so low that the roofline is shallow), this isn’t the case with the Kia. Rear headroom is just fine, even for people up to six-foot three-inches tall. I’m six-foot two-inches tall, and with the driver’s seat slid back to my comfortable “cruising” setting, I can sit “behind myself” with an inch or two of kneeroom to spare. And, there’s even toe room under the front seats. Rear passengers are also offered amenities that include a 12-volt power outlet, a single USB port, and a pair of HVAC vents that may be adjusted for heated or cooled air. Many automakers still consider the rear seating positions “second class,” with limited comfort and conveniences. However, Kia has ensured that Stinger’s second row is a splendid place to watch the miles pass by. 


Five Blinks is Better than Three

by Michael Harley on August 30, 2018

Current Odometer: 15,073 miles
Latest MPG: 23.47 mpg
Lifetime MPG: 22.04 mpg
Maintenance/Service Costs: $86.92
Time out of Service: 6 days

Most automakers have adopted the “one touch three blinks” turn signal, which is a trend started by the Europeans years ago. To activate, the operator simply taps up or down on the turn signal stalk and the blinkers will flash three times. While I consider this an effective tool, Kia has raised the bar by allowing the Stinger operator to customize the blinker action even further. There are four settings (off, three flashes, five flashes, and seven flashes) all configured in the primary instrument cluster. I’ve tried all of them and concluded that five flashes – about five seconds of blinker action – is the best setting for use in Southern California. This configuration allows me to wait for a couple of “warning” flashes before I begin my lane change. Brilliant move, Kia. 


Is the Stinger Fitted with the World’s Best All-Around Performance Tire?

by Michael Harley on August 21, 2018

Current Odometer: 14,360 miles
Latest MPG: 21.74 mpg
Lifetime MPG: 21.77 mpg
Maintenance/Service Costs: $86.92
Time out of Service: 6 days

Straight from the factory, Kia fitted our GT2 with Michelin’s excellent Pilot Sport 4S tires. The high-performance summer compound complements the Stinger’s engineering dynamics beautifully – quick steering turn-in, tenacious grip in the corners, and short stopping distances. While I’ve never driven the Stinger in the rain (it literally won’t rain in the LA Basin for another couple months), my experience with this type of tire says they are equally as competent when the weather goes south – if the temperatures are above the mid-60s. I applaud Kia’s choice.

That said, I am concerned that owners will balk at the cost of replacing the tires. A quick glance at Tire Rack puts a new set of the OE-spec Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires about $1,250 installed – that’s not cheap, even for sports car drivers. I am hoping that owners don’t choose to save some money, compromising performance, and go elsewhere (a set of Firestones, Generals, and Falken tires are about $600). If you want to keep your Stinger running as well as Albert Biermann and the rest of his engineering team planned, my suggestion is to stick with the Michelin rubber.  


Power Steering Repair: Back in Commission

by Michael Harley on August 8, 2018

Current Odometer: 13,487 miles
Latest MPG: 21.63 mpg
Lifetime MPG: 21.75 mpg
Maintenance/Service Costs: $86.92
Time out of Service: 6 days

Kia dove into our Stinger GT with curiosity, as this isn’t an issue frequently plaguing the model (I did a search on the forums and I couldn’t find another reporting the problem). After several days out of service, the hatchback was returned with a brand-new steering rack, a front-end alignment, resurfaced front rotors, and a fresh synthetic oil change – seems that Kia did quite a bit on its own, as we didn’t ask for any of that (and all of it was covered under warranty). Of course, now it drives as well as it did on our first day – the steering feels perfect. The whole team is looking forward to getting behind her wheel again – she was genuinely missed. 


Power Steering Failure: Out of Commission

by Michael Harley on July 16, 2018

Current Odometer: 13,682 miles
Latest MPG:  22.19 mpg
Lifetime MPG: 21.75 mpg
Maintenance/Service Costs: $86.92
Time out of Service: 3 days

I loaded my family into the Stinger GT, intending to head to a picnic, about three hours ago. Upon depressing the start button, the Kia ran through its standard checks… and a red light illuminated on the dashboard – a steering wheel. While the engine was running, it was nearly impossible to move the steering wheel in any direction. Basic reasoning says the electrically assisted power steering failed. I opened the hood, looking for any tell-tale signs of a cause (rodents, leaking fluids, etc.), but nothing appeared out of the ordinary. Deciding to try one more thing, I parked and locked the vehicle for an hour and then restarted it again. As before, the same red light illuminated and it was impossible to move the steering wheel. I called Kia, who took the vehicle in for service. 


Apple CarPlay and Drive Mode Interference?

by Michael Harley on July 12, 2018

Current Odometer: 13,487 miles
Latest MPG: 21.63 mpg
Lifetime MPG: 21.75 mpg
Maintenance/Service Costs: $86.92
Time out of Service: 3 days

As noted during an update in May, moving the Drive Mode selector while using Apple CarPlay causes a glitch -- best described as an electrical “pop” in the speakers and static on the phone. It doesn’t happen all the time, thankfully. Yet unfortunately, when it does occur the only remedy is to pull over, shut off the engine, and re-boot the infotainment system -- several times I’ve had to leave the highway and go through the full procedure, which is maddening. And don’t think that this is only happening to my iPhone 7 Plus as Lyn Woodward, our video host extraordinaire, has experienced the identical thing. We will have the dealer take a closer look during our next service.


“Wow, I really like your car,” says Everyone

by Michael Harley on June 22, 2018

Current Odometer: 11,743 miles
Latest MPG: 24.98 mpg
Lifetime MPG: 21.76 mpg
Maintenance/Service Costs: $86.92
Time out of Service: 3 days

One continuing theme, as I daily drive the Kia Stinger GT, is how many people take notice of it. Every single time I hand the keys to a valet, I receive a prompt, “Hey, is this the new Stinger?” or “I like your car, sir.” I’ve been questioned at the airport, yelled at across intersections, and chased through parking lots (“Sorry, I was just trying to get a better look at your car”). And, the red Kia attracts attention at the fuel station too – about every other fill-up I have a brief conversation about the Stinger with a random stranger at another pump. All the attention, and comments, are very positive – I have yet to have anyone tell me that they don’t like the styling (a hat tip to Gregory Guillaume and Peter Schreyer, the Kia team responsible for the five-door’s sleek shape). Most want a closer look. A few ask who makes the car – of course, they are genuinely surprised by the answer (“Kia? Really?”). Without question, the Stinger is a real head turner. Even after several months with the sedan, I still peer over my shoulder each time I walk away. It’s a looker.


Kia Stinger GT Likes/Dislikes

by Michael Harley on June 8, 2018

Current Odometer: 11,286 miles
Latest MPG: 21.26 mpg
Lifetime MPG: 21.44 mpg
Maintenance/Service Costs: $86.92
Time out of Service: 3 days

I’ve put about 6,000 miles on our Kia Stinger GT2 over the past several months – that’s an impressive amount of seat time:


  • Engine – The twin-turbocharged 3.3-liter V6 never fails to disappoint. Gobs of buttery smooth power, low-end torque, and plenty of thrust for passing. It's relatively efficient too, delivering about 30 mpg on the open highway.
  • Driver’s Seat – The operator’s seat, covered in soft Nappa leather and with 16-way, power-operated, controls, is immensely comfortable. Hip-holding bolsters, heating and cooling, and generous lumbar support only add to its appeal (the passenger has a 12-way seat).
  • Roomy Interior – Four passengers will find first class accommodations within the cabin of the Stinger GT, five will find it comfortable in a pinch. Drop the rear seats and open the hatch for crossover-like utility and cargo capacity – luggage, boxes, and even bikes fit with ease. 


  • Fuel Tank – With a 15.9-gallon capacity (only about 14 gallons are useable), and an average fuel economy of about 18 mpg around town, the driving range of the Stinger GT is limited to about 250 miles around town – most every vehicle delivers 300 miles per tank.
  • Weight – Tipping the scales at just over 4,000 pounds, it’s difficult to dismiss the mass of the Stinger when most of its competitors are a couple hundred pounds lighter. The additional weight is felt as body roll and sloppiness in fast corners.
  • Sport Mode – Of the many drive modes, Sport is an absolute letdown. The suspension remains too soft and the exhaust too quiet – if a driver hits a ‘Sport’ button they expect drastic changes in both, but the Stinger GT doesn’t deliver. 


Our First Service, at our Local Kia Dealership

by Michael Harley on May 23, 2018

Current Odometer: 10,037 miles
Latest MPG: 24.68 mpg
Lifetime MPG: 21.60 mpg
Maintenance/Service Costs: $86.92
Time out of Service: 1 days

The Stinger GT2 alerted me of a necessary service about 300 miles ago, so I placed a call to Kia of Irvine for an appointment. I was warmly greeted when I arrived and the service advisor walked me through the maintenance – a simple oil change. No pressure or upsell, which was nice, but I did choose an upgrade ($35) to 0W-20 Castrol Edge synthetic oil. I asked the dealer to investigate an issue with Apple CarPlay (it occasionally crashes when I choose a different vehicle drive mode) and to inspect the digital shifter (I continue to have issues getting it into drive from reverse) – they couldn’t find any faults, even after keeping the vehicle overnight. After I picked up the vehicle and paid the $82.42 bill, I noted a new white sticker on the inside glass with a reminder about the next oil service at 15,037 – a 5,000-mile interval. That’s 20 percent more aggressive than the owner’s manual, which calls for 6,000-mile oil change intervals (also interesting to note that the sticker called for 5W-30, not the 0W-20 weight that the dealer had just used). This isn’t the first time dealers have asked for more frequent services, as a similar thing happened with the long-term Mazda CX-9.  


The Kia Stinger Needs a Bigger Fuel Tank

by Michael Harley on May 16, 2018

Current Odometer: 9,535 miles
Latest MPG: 21.20 mpg
Lifetime MPG: 21.29 mpg
Maintenance/Service Costs: $4.50
Time out of Service: 0 days

Kia fits the Stinger with a 15.9-gallon fuel tank, which is larger than that on the Audi A5 Sportback (15.3 gallons) and BMW 430i Gran Coupe (15.8 gallons). That sounds acceptable until you realize that its combined EPA rating is only 21 MPG — about 25 percent lower than the 27 MPG combined EPA rating for the Audi and BMW. In real world practice, I’ve noticed that there is only about 12.5 useable gallons of fuel in the Stinger’s tank (the picture shows the tank down 12.22 gallons), meaning that I am averaging only about 225 on each tank before a fill-up. That’s frustratingly low, considering that the industry average is more than 300 miles on a tank. A 20-gallon fuel tank would make the Stinger GT a genuine long-range tourer. 


Creaks and Squeaks Eliminated with a new Headliner

by Michael Harley on April 27, 2018

Current Odometer: 8,274 miles
Latest MPG: 21.83 mpg
Lifetime MPG: 21.52 mpg
Maintenance/Service Costs: $4.50
Time out of Service: 0 days

I had been noting a strange creak (squeak?) from the Stinger’s headliner each time I turned into a driveway or drove over a speedbump. I mentioned this to Kia, who replied that they had never heard of anything similar — they asked to see the vehicle. Upon further inspection, it was determined that our vehicle was “pre-production,” meaning it wasn’t equipped with the same headliner as the vehicles in today’s showrooms. Long story short, Kia kept the vehicle for 16 days and replaced the headliner. This apparently worked, as the vehicle is now as tight as a drum – no creaks or squeaks evident anywhere.

While they were swapping headliners, Kia lent us a standard Stinger GT, with a sticker price nearly $10,000 lower. While we missed many of the creature comforts from our GT2 (cooled seats, upgraded audio, and premium seats), the standard GT is a performance bargain — every bit as enjoyable to drive. 


The Derrière Report: A Seat Review From the Backside

by Michael Harley on April 16, 2018

Current Odometer: 7,577 miles
Latest MPG: 21.83 mpg
Lifetime MPG: 21.52 mpg
Maintenance/Service Costs: $4.50
Time out of Service: 0 minutes

My commute puts me in the driver’s seat for several 90-minute stretches each week — and I’m the guy with a very sensitive vertebra. That said, I’m pleased to report that the Stinger GT2, with the premium Nappa leather and 16-way adjustable driver’s seat, is impressively comfortable. It provides plenty of lumbar support to my lower back with its 4-way air cell system, it grips my hips with its width-adjustable side bolsters, and the lower seat cushion keeps my thighs from sagging. Did I mention that the GT2 is also fitted with active ventilation and heating in the seats? The only disappointment is that the front passenger doesn’t get to enjoy the same seat – they are relegated to a 12-way seat that does without the air lumbar support and the thigh extension – that’s a bit frustrating (and a common occurrence with Korean automakers, who tend to offer the driver a better seat than the front passenger).


Fuel Economy Ramblings, and Observations

by Michael Harley on April 6, 2018

Current Odometer: 7,364 miles
Latest MPG: 26.15 mpg
Lifetime MPG: 21.48 mpg
Maintenance/Service Costs: $4.50
Time out of Service: 0 minutes

I’ve been piling the miles on the Kia Stinger GT, and it continues to impress with its power output — it’s a strong engine mated to an excellent automatic transmission. However, my greatest complaint to date is that its 15.9-gallon fuel tank is too small for its fuel consumption (the EPA rates the 3.3-liter turbo at 19 city/25 highway). Looking at the fuel log, I am only getting about 280 miles out of each tank, which means there is about 12 ‘useable’ gallons before the fuel gauge dips precariously low. The Audi A5 Sportback and BMW 430i Gran Coupe also have 15-gallon fuel tanks, but they are both EPA rated at 24 city/34 mpg highway — using the identical 12 gallons of fuel, they would cruise nearly 400 miles on each tank on the open road. My latest MPG, of 26.15 mpg, was 100 percent highway driving. I literally filled up at the on- and off-ramps to see how well it would do. (Note: I added a half-quart of synthetic oil to the engine, which explains the maintenance cost.)


A Turbocharged V6 That Promises, and Delivers

By Michael Harley on March 19, 2018

Current Odometer: 6,397 miles
Latest MPG: 22.12 mpg
Lifetime MPG: 20.33 mpg
Maintenance/Service Costs: $00.00
Time out of Service: 0 minutes

Kia knew that a powerful engine was imperative, so it reached into the corporate parts bin and pulled out a wondrous twin-turbocharged 3.3-liter V6 (which is shared with the Genesis G80). Punch the accelerator and rear wheels fight for traction–powerslides are effortless off the line. The only downside to the thrust is that fuel economy is nothing extraordinary. Despite plenty of highway travel, we find it a challenge to squeak beyond 22 mpg on a tank of fuel. 


The Detonator Key

By Michael Harley on March 12, 2018

Current Odometer: 5,751 miles
Latest MPG: 19.80 mpg
Lifetime MPG: 20.52 mpg
Maintenance/Service Costs: $00.00
Time out of Service: 0 minutes

I’ve come to expect that remote key fobs have their button controls on either flat side, but that’s not the case with the Stinger. Kia’s engineers have placed all the buttons (unlock, trunk release, and panic) on the side. The lock button, arguably the most used of all four, sits at the top — just like a detonator switch. While it does take a few days to get used to it, I’ll admit that it allows effortless locking of the Stinger while the keys are still in my pocket as there is no mistaking the location of the button. Well done, Kia. 



By Michael Harley on March 5, 2018

Kia bravely dove head-first into the highly competitive mid-size sport sedan segment when it announced that an all-new competitor, called the Stinger, would arrive to market for the 2018 model year. With styling loosely based on the well-received Kia GT concept that was shown at the 2011 Frankfurt Motor Show, and a stout rear-wheel drive platform shared with the Genesis G80, the automaker promised BMW-rivaling performance. Theoretically, this is not a stretch considering that Kia stole Albert Biermann, formerly of BMW’s M division, to head its engineering efforts.

While critics questioned Kia’s ability to execute such a grand plan, speculations were silenced by several early invite-only drives of pre-production prototype models at Kia’s development track in Korea, cold-weather testing in the Arctic Circle, and laps on Germany’s demanding Nürburgring to test it. Initial impressions were very favorable.

Stylish five-door hatchback delivers more room

When the new Kia Stinger arrived in showrooms in late 2017, it indisputably opened eyes. A Korean automaker, synonymous with low-priced economy vehicles, had delivered a five-door hatchback with a legitimate performance flair.  Aggressively styled, the design leads with the automaker’s signature "Tiger Nose” front grille and ends with quad tailpipes (on GT trims). Overall, it is impressive work by Kia chief designer Gregory Guillaume. The cabin is spacious, thanks to a long wheelbase (longer than the Audi A5 Sportback, Infiniti Q50, Lexus IS, BMW 4 Gran Coupe and Lexus GS), and adult passengers enjoy plenty of room in both rows. Cargo capacity is enhanced with the large rear liftgate and split-fold second row seats.

New powertrains emphasize power

Supporting its performance mission, the Kia Stinger arrives with new engines. Base vehicles are fitted with a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder rated at 255 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque, which promises a 0-60 mph sprint in the mid-6 second range. Enthusiasts are targeted with the performance-tuned GT models, which debut with a twin-turbocharged 3.3-liter V6 rated at 365 horsepower and 376 lb-ft of torque–the 0-60 mph sprint plummets to just 4.7 seconds. A standard 8-speed automatic, and a choice between rear- and all-wheel drive, completes the powertrain matrix.

While a Kia Stinger in standard trim is well equipped with full power accessories, leather upholstery, smart phone integration and 18-inch wheels, the range-topping GT2 is upgraded with Nappa leather, Brembo brakes, high-performance Michelin tires on 19-inch wheels, and an electronically controlled suspension. Other convenience features include Kia’s UVO infotainment system with 8-inch touch-screen, premium Harmon-Kardon audio with 720 watts and 15 speakers, and a head-up display.  Safety technology hasn’t been ignored either, as the Kia Stinger arrives with rear parking cameras, blind spot collision warning, rear cross traffic alert and a forward collision avoidance assistance system with pedestrian detection.

We opt for the enthusiast configuration–because Southern California

Our Irvine headquarters, with year-round mild climate, meant that we could forgo the all-wheel drive option and configure the Kia Stinger to whet our enthusiast tastes. With that our primary objective, we opted for a very specific model: Kia Stinger GT2. That trim, with a base price of $49,200, is literally loaded with all the options (except AWD). To add some zest, we decided on HiChroma Red paint over Black Nappa Leather—it looks simply spectacular. As configured, and with destination included, our as-tested price is $50,100. Not willing to wait several months for our configuration to be built from scratch, we accepted a GT2 with 5,000 miles already on the odometer, accelerated aging at the hands of other journalists. Kia graciously replaced the brakes, wheels, and tires, so they start fresh).

We anticipate the next year will be quite enjoyable as we wring the all-new 2018 Kia Stinger GT out on our favorite challenging roads. Stay tuned.

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