2018 Kia Stinger First Review: Kia Chases, and Catches, the Best European Luxury Sedans
What’s more outrageous than Kia trying to challenge the best luxury sport sedans from Europe? How about Kia succeeding, with its all-new 2018 Kia Stinger. The new Stinger delivers entertaining driving dynamics, premium features and advanced technologies, all wrapped in a stunning shell and offered at a value-packed price.
The new Stinger reflects Kia’s ongoing desire to offer more than just solid transportation at a low price. That’s been the brand’s modus operandi for years, but now Kia wants to send a new message. Kia’s President and CEO, Justin Sohn, says the 2018 Kia Stinger “will mark a new era for Kia, dividing our history into ‘before’ and ‘after.’”
Inspired by Europe’s classic Gran Turismo sport sedans, the new Kia Stinger features a long hood, short front overhang, broad shoulders and fastback roofline. The Stinger’s wheelbase and overall length are slightly larger than its European rivals, giving it more interior space and excellent high-speed stability, a good thing given its 167-mph top speed.
The Stinger’s upscale exterior design is matched by a premium cabin with standard leather seats or optional hand-stitched Nappa leather. A wide dash with large, round vents contributes to the interior’s classic design and spacious demeanor.
Driven by Performance
Taking on Europe’s best sport sedans requires more than a shapely body and supple leather. Kia knew it had to go all in with the Stinger, building it on an all-new, rear-wheel-drive chassis composed of 55 percent high-strength steel while leveraging structural adhesives throughout the platform. Both elements contribute to the Stinger’s rigid foundation, improving driving dynamics and passenger protection.
The 2018 Kia Stinger is powered by either a 2.0-liter, turbocharged 4-cylinder engine or a twin-turbocharged 3.3-liter V6. The standard 2.0-liter produces 255 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque, which Kia says will propel the Stinger from zero-to-60 mph in 5.9 seconds. The V6 is good for 365 horsepower, 376 lb-ft of torque and a zero-to-60 time of 4.7 seconds. Both engines send power through an 8-speed automatic transmission to either the rear wheels or all four wheels on Stingers equipped with the optional all-wheel-drive system.
Our driving experience with the 2018 Kia Stinger was limited to models with the larger V6 engine, but we did try both rear- and all-wheel-drive versions on a variety of roads, including a closed-course facility. Under all these conditions the Stinger provided a superb balance of refined ride quality and capable performance. Intuitive steering response and controlled body roll gave us confidence when pushing the car hard at the track. All V6 Stingers come standard with 4-wheel Brembo disc brakes, and these delivered progressive, controlled stopping power even during our most aggressive driving behavior on a hot day in California’s high desert. They feature an anti-fade technology that automatically increases boost when needed.
Personalized Driving Style | Drive Mode Select
The 2018 Kia Stinger is offered in five trim levels, starting with the 4-cylinder “Stinger” and “Stinger Premium” trims and continuing on to the V6-powered “Stinger GT”, “Stinger GT1” and “Stinger GT2” trims. All five trims include a Drive Mode Select system that lets the driver toggle between Smart, Eco, Comfort and Sport modes, altering the Stinger’s suspension settings, exhaust note, throttle response, steering weight, and all-wheel-drive system. There’s also a “Custom” mode for adjusting each of those components individually. For performance-oriented driving we found “Sport” worked well for every setting...except steering, which felt unnecessarily heavy. Using the Stinger’s “Custom” drive mode to put steering in Comfort, while leaving everything else in Sport mode, created the perfect blend of throttle, suspension, all-wheel drive, and steering response. This setup also gave full voice to the V6’s rewarding exhaust note.
Rear-Wheel Drive | All-Wheel Drive
With all-wheel drive (AWD) offered on every trim of the Kia Stinger it’s easy to configure the new sport sedan to your personal preference. We tested rear- and all-wheel-drive versions extensively and enjoyed the driving dynamics provided by both. While all-wheel drive will consistently generate greater cornering grip, along with higher confidence in slick road conditions, it’s not uncommon for AWD to give cars a heavier, less-responsive nature. The Kia Stinger avoids this with a rear-biased AWD system that includes dynamic torque vectoring. By constantly altering which wheel(s) power flows to, based on steering input and available traction, the Stinger retains the nimble nature of a traditional rear-wheel-drive sport sedan while adding additional front-wheel grip when it benefits traction and driver control. For rear-wheel-drive Stingers, an optional limited-slip differential is available on V6 models.
High-Performance Wheels and Tires
Kia Stingers equipped with the 4-cylinder engine ride on 18-inch alloy wheels with Michelin Pilot Sport 4 225/45 performance tires engineered specifically for the Stinger. All V6 models come standard with 19-inch alloy wheels wearing the same Michelin Pilot tires sized 225/40 in front and 255/35 in back. Buyers looking for a softer ride from their V6 Kia Stinger can opt for the same 18-inch wheels from the 4-cylinder Stingers.
Advanced Driver Assistance Systems
Kia supplements the Stinger’s driving dynamics with a wide range of standard and optional driver assistance technologies. Every Stinger comes standard with traction and stability control, hill-start assist, front and rear park-distance warning sensors, and a rearview camera. Optional technologies range from forward-collision and pedestrian warning to lane-keeping assist, lane-departure warning, blind-spot monitoring, and driver-attention warning. Other advanced features, including automatic high beams, rear cross-traffic alert, radar cruise control, and a head-up display are also available.
Roomy and Upscale Interior with Plenty of Cargo Space
The Kia Stinger’s svelte exterior envelops a roomy, premium interior with standard leather seats and LED lighting. Legroom is plentiful in the front and rear seats, though the Stinger’s sloping roofline might make headroom tight in the back for those over six feet tall. Cargo space is also impressive because of the Stinger’s rear hatch that hinges above the glass. With the rear seats up, there’s 23.3 cubic feet of storage space. That number jumps to 40.9 cubic feet with the rear seats folded down.
Standard luxury features include a 12-way power driver’s seat, 8-way passenger, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats, a 7-inch touch-screen display, and a heated, leather-wrapped steering wheel. Additional standard features, like steering wheel audio controls, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, push-button start, and keyless entry give even base-model Stingers genuine luxury chops.
Buyers seeking additional luxury can specify a 16-way driver’s seat and 12-way passenger seat, both of them ventilated and covered in Nappa leather, but only on top-trim Kia Stinger GT2s. All V6 models come with aluminum pedals and door sill plates, “GT”-embossed headrests, a flat-bottom steering wheel, and a 180-mph speedometer (4-cylinder Stingers have a 160 mph speedo). Other features, available on mid-grade Stingers, range from an 8-inch touch screen with navigation to an upgraded 9-speaker audio system.
Premium Harman Kardon Audio System
A 15-speaker, 720-watt Harman Kardon audio system comes standard on the Kia Stinger Premium, GT1 and GT2 trims. This system features door-mounted tweeters, dual underseat subwoofers, a 12-channel external amp, 5.1 channel surround sound processing, and Harman Kardon’s propriety “clari fi” signal-enhancing technology. The latter is designed to fill in the signal gaps from compressed digital audio. Our experience with clari fi confirms it works as advertised, giving MP3 and satellite radio a richer tonal quality. If the Harman Kardon or mid-grade 9-speaker audio system are too rich for your blood, the base Kia Stinger audio system still includes HD and satellite radio with 6 speakers.
Kia’s UVO3 Infotainment System
The new Stinger features Kia’s latest connected-car technology in the form of UVO3. This system includes the aforementioned Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard features, but it can also integrate with a smartphone app to provide vehicle location tracking, geo fencing, over-the-air vehicle diagnostics, and voice-operated controls for making phone calls or controlling the audio system. The system can also contact emergency services automatically, to request help.
Stinging the Competition
Kia regularly referenced cars like the Audi S5 Sportback, BMW 440i Gran Coupe, Lexus GS, and even the Porsche Panamera when discussing the Stinger’s target competition. As we sat in the technical briefing prior to driving the Stinger, it was tough to reconcile those comparisons. After experiencing the Kia Stinger those references to established, benchmark sport sedans made sense. The 2018 Kia Stinger rivals those cars in styling, premium features and interior space. It even matches or beats most of them in terms of driving performance, though the Panamera remains a step ahead of the Stinger (as it should, given its more than double starting price).
Kia’s Value Equation Remains Intact
The 2018 Kia Stinger will go on sale in late November for a starting price around $33,000 for the 4-cylinder version and $40,000 for the V6. That’s substantially less than the sport sedans Kia targeted with the Stinger. Despite Kia’s lack of history in this segment the company is confident buyers of traditional European and Japanese luxury sedans will be intrigued by the Stinger’s combination of style, performance, features and price. All Kia really wants is an opportunity to speak to these shoppers. Buyers willing to give the Stinger a test drive could very likely abandon their original purchase plan, going with this upstart sport sedan instead.
Photo Gallery: 2018 Kia Stinger
Numbers and Details
How much legroom does the Stinger have? Which trim offers the 19-inch wheels? Does it really have Nappa leather? Some of those questions can be answered below, others will require further research.
$33,000 est. (all prices listed include $895 destination charge)
255-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-Cylinder
8-speed automatic transmission
12-way power-adjustable heated driver seat
8-way power-adjustable heated passenger seat
Heated steering wheel
Dual-zone climate control
Steering wheel mounted shift paddles
7-inch touch-screen display
Auto-dimming rearview mirror
HD/Satellite/MP3 6-speaker audio system
18-inch alloy wheels
Bi-function projection headlights
LED daytime running lights
LED bi-function projection headlights
LED rear turn signals
Power tilt/slide sunroof
Power tilt/telescoping steering wheel
Auto-dimming rearview mirror with HomeLink
2-position memory for driver’s seat
8-inch touch-screen display with navigation
15-speaker, 720-watt Harman Kardon Audio System
3.3-liter twin-turbocharged V6
“GT” headrest logo
Flat-bottomed steering wheel
Aluminum dash trim
Aluminum door sill plates
HD/satellite/MP3 9-speaker audio system
19-inch alloy wheels
Body-colored outside door handles
Black chrome power-folding heated outside mirrors
“GT” grille emblem
Black-chrome side vents
High-gloss hood vents
Dark-chrome window trim
7-inch TFT gauge cluster display with G-meter, oil temp, torque, turbo boost, chrono lap timer
Auto-dimming outside mirrors
Premium Nappa leather seat trim with unique shape and pattern
16-way power-adjustable driver’s heated and ventilated seat
12-way power-adjustable passenger heated and ventilated seat
Shift-by-wire gear selector
Forward collision avoidance with pedestrian warning
Forward collision warning system
Rear cross-traffic collision warning
Smart cruise control
Dynamic low-beam headlight assist
Smart trunk with power opening
2018 Kia Stinger Specs
Engine: 2.0-liter Turbo 4 or 3.3-liter Twin-Turbo V6
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Drivetrain: Rear-wheel drive, All-wheel drive
Horsepower: 255 hp @ 6,200 rpm (2.0-liter), 365 hp @ 6,000 rpm (3.3-liter)
Torque: 260 lb-ft @ 1,400-4,000 rpm (2.0-liter), 376 lb-ft @ 1,300-4,500 rpm (3.3-liter)
Fuel Economy: N/A
Zero-to-60 MPH: 5.9 seconds (2.0-liter), 4.7 seconds (3.3-liter)
Curb Weight: 3,800 lbs (rear-wheel drive) to 4,000 lbs (all-wheel drive)
Wheelbase: 114.4 inches
Length: 190.2 inches
Height: 55.1 inches
Width: 73.6 inches
More Luxury Sport Sedans
The 2018 Kia Stinger enters the hotly-contested luxury sport sedan segment, going up against established models from Audi, BMW, Lexus and Mercedes. The Audi S5 Sportback and BMW 440i don’t have as much legroom, but they do offer established luxury badges and their own European charm in terms of styling and driving dynamics. Check out our Small Luxury Sedan Buyer’s Guide and Midsize Luxury Sedan Buyer’s Guide to fully research all your options.