You're not alone in scratching your head at the idea of a high-performance Kia, especially one that looks as good as the 2018 Stinger. One look through the spec sheet should get your attention: a choice of turbo-4 and twin-turbo V-6 engines, rear- or all-wheel drive, and an 8-speed automatic transmission.
Forget the hamsters, this one's taking on Germany's giants.
Does Kia's new performance sedan has the goods to take on stalwarts like BMW and Lexus?
The Stinger is the last thing we expected from Kia—well, short of a pickup truck. This five-door GT features a sloping roofline inspired by the Audi A7, and it's sized somewhere between the BMW 3-Series and 5-Series. We like its sloping silhouette, even if there's some muddiness to the details penned by former Audi designer Peter Schreyer's studio in Germany. Inside, the Stinger is a mish-mash of German design precision and Kia switchgear that mostly works. It's more intuitive than any sedan that leaves a factory in Germany, but the back seat is a little tight for the taller among us and the Stinger's materials remind us that its price tag starts in the mid-30s.
And it's in Germany where the Stinger was engineered—specifically, the legendary Nurburgring race track. That's where former BMW M engineering head Albert Biermann's team put the Stinger together, subjecting the Stinger to about 6,000 miles of Green Hell testing.
And they used all the right ingredients.
Underneath, the Stinger sends its power rearward. If you're in a snowy state, consider popping for the optional all-wheel drive. It's $2,000 more. A 2.0-liter turbo-4 is standard, but the Stinger is at its best with rear-drive and the optional 3.3-liter twin-turbo V-6 that cranks out 365 horsepower and shuttles power to the wheels via an 8-speed automatic transmission. That's enough for a 0-60 sprint of just 4.7 seconds.
The Stinger's details are just right, too, with available Michelin Pilot Sport 4 rubber, Brembo brakes, electrically adjustable dampers, and a mechanical limited-slip rear differential.
It's not a light car since there's no aluminum in its structure, but the Stinger belies its size. Its handling is neutral and balanced, with a traditional rear-drive feel. It's not an E39 BMW 5-Series with Kia badges, but the Stinger is far more engaging than most of its German rivals. It's the kind of sporting car that can be brought up in conversation with the Porsche Panamera.
Viewed as a freshman performance sedan effort, the Kia Stinger hits the bullseye. It gives up a little in terms of precision and finish compared to its more established rivals, but the Stinger represents the democratization of performance sedans that enthusiasts have cried for.
It's a fantastic hatchback that gets so much right. Watch out, BMW... and Porsche.