2018 Kia Stinger first drive review: an upscale, sporty bargain Page 2


Biermann's team made sure those parts were tuned correctly by extensively testing the Stinger GT. They subjected the car to more than 6,000 miles on the Nürburgring; performed braking runs on the Grossglockner, the highest mountain in the Austrian Alps; did winter testing in the Arctic Circle in Sweden; and conducted validation testing at the company’s California Proving Ground.

The Nürburgring testing revealed the car needed an engine oil cooler and an external transmission oil cooler to handle the rigors of track duty. It also got plenty of aero tweaks to make it work at its top speed of 167 mph. Among the aero elements are wheel air curtains with functional vents, gills behind the front wheels to reduce wake turbulence, a rear diffuser, a ducktail rear spoiler, and a belly pan. The result is a 0.30 cd. The horizontal ducts that flank the grille cool the brakes.

2018 Kia Stinger GT

2018 Kia Stinger GT

Enlarge Photo
2018 Kia Stinger GT

2018 Kia Stinger GT

Enlarge Photo
2018 Kia Stinger GT

2018 Kia Stinger GT

Enlarge Photo

Challenging giants

You may have heard that the Stinger is a BMW 3-Series rival, but it’s bigger than that. At 190.2 inches long and with a 114.4-inch wheelbase, it’s larger than an Audi A5 Sportback. In fact, it’s just two inches shorter than the Lexus GS sedan but its wheelbase is two inches longer, and that makes it a mid-size car in our book.

But it’s not a sedan, either. It's a hatchback in the molds of the A5 Sportback, the Audi A7, or the Porsche Panamera. Kia counts all those cars among its competitors, along with cars like the BMW 4-Series Gran Coupe, the Lexus GS, and the Infiniti Q50.

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It may be bigger than the 3-Series, but it’s priced like it. In fact, it’s a bit cheaper with a starting price of $32,795 for the base model and $39,895 for the GT.

Kia’s test drive of the Stinger GT included a drive from West Hollywood west to the twisty Angeles Crest Highway and on to the company’s California Proving Ground in the Mojave Desert. At the proving ground, we did high-speed runs, an autocross with competitive vehicles, and laps around a road course.

How well does it compete with those cars, many of them giants of the luxury industry? From a value standpoint? It’s compelling. Dynamically? It’s in the ballpark, but there’s room for improvement.

Biermann's team got the basics right. Drive the Stinger GT hard into a corner on a track or a canyon road and it reacts well, with neutral, predictable handling. Get the speed under control with the strong Brembo brakes, and the Stinger rotates nicely through corners. The available limited-slip differential helps the car put down its prodigious power quite well coming out of turns, and the Sport mode lets the tail step out a bit.

However, there is room for improvement. While the steering is direct and predictable and the small, flat-bottom steering wheel feels appropriate for a sporty car, the Stinger GT’s turn-in isn’t especially immediate. A comparison drive on the autocross with the BMW 4-Series Gran Coupe revealed that the BMW is quicker to react. The Kia also doesn’t shift its weight that well from side to side when the turns get tighter. That’s likely due to carrying a bit too much weight and/or conservative damper tuning. The AWD system adds a bit more weight and exacerbates the issue. It feels like there is room for a more aggressive version of the Stinger than we get with the GT.


 
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