Automotive development is a field of dreams, full of mouth-watering fantasy rides that embody some designer’s idea of perfection. Most are drawings or computer images that go no farther. A few, a very few, become actual auto show properties—dream cars—used to gauge public response for possible production, then all-too-often disappear, tabled and consigned to history.

Making its world debut at Detroit’s North American International Auto Show, the Kia Stinger had just such a history before getting the green light for production as a 2018 model, slated to go on sale next fall.

Started life as Kia GT

Unveiled at the 2011 Frankfurt auto show as the Kia GT, the concept car—a slick rear-drive sports sedan unlike anything from any Korean design studio—drew rave reviews and looked like a sure bet for production. Then it was sequestered, forgotten, and presumed dead.

But being on the backburner is not the same as dead. Though the concept soon faded from public memory, a small design and engineering team was at work on a development mule. Progress was, to be kind, deliberate, but persistent, leading to a test-worthy car that logged many test track miles, including hot laps on the fabled Nurburgring in Germany.

The car unveiled in Detroit differs from its concept ancestor in a number of details. The rear-hinged suicide rear doors have given way to conventional front-hinged doors, the copper exterior trim and copper-finished brake calipers are gone, as are the side-view cameras and one-piece bucket seats.

But the sexy coupe-like fastback shape survives—Kia product planning exec Orth Hedrick calls it “stunning,” an opinion that’s hard to fault—and the performance credentials look promising indeed.

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Rear-drive layout

As noted, the chassis is rear-drive and educated guesses figure its structure originates in the Genesis parts bin at corporate overlord Hyundai. The wheelbase is 114.1 inches, overall length 192.2 inches, and width 73.6, dimensionally similar to the Mercedes-Benz CLS, another sleek fastback sedan. But it’s a little bigger than other sports sedans that Kia targets—Audi A4/S4, BMW 3- and 4-series, and Alfa Romeo Giulia, to name just a few.

To justify the oft-abused GT (for gran turismo) label, a car should have plenty of power, and the Stinger’s specs suggest an abundance, at least as an option. There are two engine choices—a standard 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder (255 horsepower, 260 pound-feet of torque) and an optional 3.3-liter twin-turbo V-6 with preliminary ratings of 365 horses and 376 lb-ft of torque. Kia forecasts 5.1-second 0-to-60 mph times with the turbo V-6.

Both engines are paired with Kia’s homegrown 8-speed torque converter automatic transmission, which features shift paddles for manual operation. All-wheel drive is optional, a first for a Kia sedan, and features torque-vectoring. Rear-drive Stingers will have a limited slip differential.

The suspension employs MacPherson struts up front, a multilink arrangement at the rear, and includes adjustable dampers (Kia calls it Dynamic Stability Control) with five driver-select modes—Personal, Eco, Sport, Comfort, and Smart.

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The Inner Stinger

Inside, the Stinger is luxurious and roomy, thanks to the longish (for this class) wheelbase. A color TFT screen between the tach and speedometer relays performance data such as lap times and g-loading, as well as operating information—navigation, trip computer, driver settings, and diagnostics.

A large color touch screen dominates the upper dash, with HVAC controls just beneath. As today’s consumers expect, there’s a comprehensive array of infotainment and connectivity features, as well as contemporary safety technology. Kia calls its collection Multiple Driver Assistance Systems.

Developed in Frankfurt, the Stinger represents a departure for Kia. The company calls it “the highest-performance production vehicle in the company’s history.” With the on-sale date still many months away, Kia wasn’t discussing pricing at the Detroit show. As a rough index, MSRPs in the Stinger’s target segment typically range from about $35,000 to a little over $50,000. 


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