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2018 Kia Stinger

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2018 Kia Stinger Expert Review

By Keith Buglewicz

The 2018 Kia Stinger is an all-new model from the Korean automaker, and its mission statement couldn’t be simpler: Change everything you think about Kia. This svelte 4-door liftback targets no less than the BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe and our Best Buys-winning Audi A5 Sportback, lofty goals to be sure. Yet the Kia Stinger comes equipped for the fight, with rear- or all-wheel drive (RWD, AWD), turbocharged engines boasting either 255 or 365 horsepower, a sport-tuned suspension, sharp steering, and the kinds of road dynamics we associate with, well, BMW and Audi. Whether the public is ready to accept a full-fledged sports sedan from Kia is unclear, but for those buyers willing to take a chance, they're going to be very satisfied.

You'll Like This Car If...

If you want a sports sedan because you love driving and are less concerned about impressing valets with a fancy badge, then the 2018 Kia Stinger may be just what you're looking for. With excellent handling, plenty of power and sharp steering, the Kia Stinger is the real deal.

You May Not Like This Car If...

While prices for a base rear-drive 4-cylinder model start reasonably enough in the low-$30,000 range, those prices climb quickly, and can break through the $50,000 barrier. That's BMW and Audi territory, and it may be hard to justify spending premium money without a premium brand to show for it.

How It Ranks

#10

out of 15

Fuel Economy

#5

out of 15

Horsepower
View all rankings
What's New for 2018

The 2018 Kia Stinger is all-new, from where it touches the pavement to the roof panel. Beyond that, the Stinger represents a new philosophy for Kia, with Justin Sohn, Kia's North American president and CEO, going so far as to say it will "divide our history into before and after."

Driving the Stinger
Driving Impressions

From the moment you pull away from a stop, it's obvious that the 2018 Kia Stinger is something special. From the growl of the 365-horsepower V6, to the sharp steering,...

... to the bite of the suspension, this Kia means business. Best of all, it's not an illusion: this is as legit a sports sedan as you could hope for. The engine pours out power seamlessly, and the 8-speed automatic transmission snaps off shifts quickly and smoothly. In corners, there's just enough suspension travel to keep the Stinger from being upset when it encounters bumps, but not so much that it leans too far. Different driving modes range from Smart, Eco, Comfort and Sport; the last of those would seem like the default, but we thought it made the steering unnecessarily heavy. Instead, switch to Custom and program the steering to Comfort and you'll find just the right balance. Dial it back from those extremes and just cruise, and you can appreciate the upscale interior accommodations, comfortable seats and quiet cabin. Yet even when relaxed, the Stinger provides just enough feedback through the steering wheel and suspension to remind you that at a moment's notice it's ready to play.

CHASSIS DYNAMICS
Key to any sports sedan is well-developed chassis dynamics, something the Stinger absolutely nails. With an ideal balance between ride and comfort, the 2018 Stinger feels every bit the European sports sedan it hopes to emulate.

LIFTBACK BODY
There is a rebellion against crossover SUVs quietly beginning, and as proof we submit the recent availability of liftback-bodied cars like the Kia Stinger. Offering nearly as much utility as a crossover SUV but in a sleeker shape, the Stinger doesn't sacrifice usefulness for sport.

2018 Kia Stinger Details
2018 Kia Stinger photo Interior

The Stinger's interior looks like Kia ran its standard layout through a Mercedes-Benz filter. The familiar layout reminds us of the Forte, Cadenza, Sedona minivan, etc., yet everything feels and looks nicer. We like the exposed speaker grilles and Mercedes-Benz S-Class-style eyeball center vents. We even like the metallic finish on the infotainment controls, even though it makes reading the lettering on the buttons difficult. There's plenty of room in the front and rear seats for four, although anyone in the center position in back will likely feel cramped. Lift that big hatch and you have tons of cargo space, with foldable seats providing even more.

Exterior
2018 Kia Stinger photo

The 2018 Stinger offers classic rear-drive proportions, with a long hood and short rear deck, the latter part of its useful liftback design. While the design incorporates many of the cues we've come to expect from Kia, such as the "tiger-nose" grille treatment, it's not like any Kia before it. The silhouette could be mistaken for an Audi A5 Sportback, for example, or maybe a BMW 4 Series Gran Sport. Yet the surface details are notably different. In fact, some think maybe the exterior is trying a bit too hard, and if you think its various vents, winglets and elongated taillights all come across as fussy, rather than sporty, you're not alone.

Notable Equipment
Standard Equipment

True to its role as an alternative to premium European brands, even the base Kia Stinger comes nicely equipped. Consider leather upholstery that includes the steering wheel and shift knob, push-button ignition and keyless entry, power driver and passenger seats, dual-zone climate control, and a 7-inch touch-screen audio system that includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The base engine is a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder driving the rear wheels through an 8-speed automatic transmission with steering-wheel-mounted paddles for manual shifting. On the safety side, in addition to multiple airbags and the usual array of stability controls, the Stinger comes with front and rear parking sensors, a rearview camera with dynamic guidelines, and a cool Brake Fade Compensation, which increases brake boost when it detects the brakes overheating.

Optional Equipment

The most notable options are all-wheel drive and the V6 engine, which is available in GT models. Like most modern cars, options are divided into trim levels for the most part; as you work up from the base model through Premium, GT, GT1 and GT2, you get more stuff. At the top, the GT2 gets a standard limited-slip differential, launch-control system, 19-inch wheels, LED headlights, black chrome trim and high-gloss hood vents. Inside, there's soft Nappa leather on the 16-way driver's seat, and other exclusive trim. We're particularly fond of the 720-watt harman/kardon audio system, which is also standard on Premium and GT1 models. Option packages include a driver-assist package that bundles forward-collision avoidance and warning, smart cruise control, lane-keep assist and warning, blind-spot and cross-traffic warning. Note those features come standard on GT2 models.

Under the Hood

Two engines are available in the 2018 Stinger. Base and Premium models get a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder with 255 horsepower. That's a good helping of beans, and it certainly gets the Stinger moving, but unfortunately, it's not a particularly refined-sounding engine when it comes to smoothness and engine note. A better option is the 365-horsepower twin-turbo V6. Smooth, seamlessly powerful, and with an excellent engine note, this is definitely the powerplant for this car, and worth the premium you'll pay for it. Both engines come connected to an 8-speed automatic transmission. While a manual would be fun, we have no complaints about how quickly this automatic shifts, both on its own and when using the steering-wheel-mounted paddles. With up to 29 mpg, the 4-cylinder gets better fuel economy, but the V6's 25 mpg isn't bad; Kia recommends premium fuel for both engines.

2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4
255 horsepower @ 6,200 rpm
260 lb-ft of torque @ 1,400-4,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 22/29 mpg (RWD), 21/29 mpg (AWD)

3.3-liter twin-turbocharged V6
365 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
376 lb-ft of torque @ 1,300-4,500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 19/25 mpg

The Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) on the base Stinger model with rear-wheel drive is a reasonable $32,800, including the $900 destination charge. Still, we suggest at least stepping up to the Premium model, which at $38,000 offers upscale items like LED headlights, power tilt/telescope steering wheel, seat memory, and more. The base V6 GT starts at about $39,200 and ranges up to a bit more than $50,000 for the GT2. All-wheel drive adds about $2,200 to any model. That's a lot for a brand normally associated with lower prices, but considering the Stinger is as capable as an Audi A5 Sportback or a BMW 4 Series Gran Turismo costing thousands more, it starts to look like a bargain. Check the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price tool to see what others in your area are paying for their 2018 Kia Stinger. Resale prices haven't been determined yet.

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