Kia is taking on giants with the Stinger. Priced below a BMW 3-Series and sized like a Lexus GS, the Stinger is aimed squarely at European sport sedans, and it has the European roots to back it up. Penned by former Audi design boss Peter Schreyer and developed by the former head of BMW M engineering Albert Biermann, the Stinger combines European sport sedan handling with Korean value.
Only it isn’t a sedan. It’s a hatchback in the mold of the Audi A5 Sportback or even the Porsche Panamera, a car that Kia has on its radar.
The Stinger is offered with a 255-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder, but the car that makes our finalist list is the Stinger GT, the 365-horsepower brute that draws its power from a twin-turbocharged 3.3-liter V-6. Backed by an 8-speed automatic transmission that can be shifted manually, and offered with a choice of rear- or all-wheel drive, the Stinger GT is capable of a 4.7-second 0-60 mph sprint and a top speed of a 167 mph. Those are numbers worthy of the Audis, BMWs, and Mercedes this upstart Kia is attempting to challenge.
Biermann has also made sure the Stinger GT has what it takes to compete dynamically. Among its go-fast goodies are electrically adjustable dampers, Brembo brakes, Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tires, a mechanical limited-slip rear differential, and enough cooling to handle the rigors of track duty. To make sure it all worked as planned, Biermann and his team put the car through more than 6,000 miles of testing at the Nürburgring.
And it does work as planned. The Stinger GT's strongest point is its willing acceleration, but it is also a fun car to drive. The handling is neutral. This car will do what you tell it to in a turn. Drive hard into a corner, get the speed under control with those 13.8-inch front and 13.4-inch rear Brembos, and it rotates nicely. Without the benefit of aluminum in the structure (Hyundai-Kia is also a steel company), the Stinger isn't particularly light, so it doesn't gather its weight to head back in the other direction as quick as it could, though. The dampers also leave room for a more aggressive tune, perhaps in an even sportier model to come.
The Stinger balances its sporty dynamics with a measure of utility. It has plenty of space up front, and the rear seat has good leg room, though rear head room can be tight due to the sleek roofline. The hatchback body style gives it more cargo capacity than any sedan with the rear seats up or down.
It all comes wrapped in an interior that looks upscale and comes with a lot of equipment at a bargain price, especially when compared to the Stinger's more established rivals. A base Stinger starts at $32,795, while the Stinger GT starts at $39,895 and tops out just over $51,000.
Will that formula be enough to take our Best Car To Buy award? Check back with us on November 13 when we announce our winner, as well as the Best Car To Buy winners from our sister sites, The Car Connection, and Green Car Reports. At the same time, The Car Connection will also announce the best choices in 15 vehicle categories to help buyers pick the car that's right for them based on specific criteria. Finally, we'll also reveal how you, our readers, have voted in our annual Driver’s Choice awards at that time.