Review: 2018 Kia Stinger GT

The headrests. I don’t love the headrests. If you keep the backrest of your seat more on the vertical, the headrests will push on the back of your head. They should really have some back and forth adjustment. Everything else about the Kia Stinger GT is excellent. It looks great. It goes and handles as good as it looks. It’s a world class car that should put every automaker on notice. Go buy one, you’ll love it.
That’s it. That’s the review. 
Edit: The headrests are adjustable forward and back as per the owner’s manual, page 3-16. But, even in the rear-most position they can still tap he back of the driver’s head. 

Still here?
Fine. Let’s talk about the exterior. Pictures do not do it justice. Obvious Audi-esque side shape is obvious, that’s because the guy who designed it used to work at Audi. But look closer. I see some Alfa Romeo or otherwise Italian influence in the rear, specifically the taillights. In the front I see some Fisher Karma. I not a fan of the fake vents but they work. And there is even some typical Kia design, if there is such thing, in the rear door. Most importantly, it reminds me of the FSO Polonez, itself a remarkable vehicle, which set that standard for a five-door hatchback design. Put all together, it looks good enough for people to approach it for a closer look and take pictures.
The inside is modern minimalist. It works for Land Rover, it works for Mercedes, and it sure works here. Good quality materials everywhere you touch. Everything is easy to find and use. The audio system sounds great. The sound of the blinking blinker could be louder and the automatic wipers could be a bit smarter. I wish the center screen could fold and disappear into the dash. I’m really reaching here.

The 3.3-liter twin-turbo V6 in the Stinger GT makes 365 horsepower at 6000rpm and 376 torques ay 1300rpm. The power delivery is linear and there really isn’t any noticeable turbo lag. It’s a good amount of power, enough to pull the Stinger in low 13-second quarter mile times, and 12s have been recorded. If anything, the figure seems unfairly low in the days of 700-horsepower Jeeps. It’s delivered to either the rear wheels or all wheels, as in the case of the pictured car, via a smooth and quick-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission. 
On the street, the ride and handling are great. I never felt any jolts or other un-pleasantries on New England’s post-winter roads. And it handles great, too. There is minimal body roll and dive. This vehicle was equipped with Michelin’s Pilot Sport 4 tires. Except for one instance, I didn’t push this car hard enough to even approach any limits but in spirited driving the chassis and tire combination seemed excellent. 

Like most new vehicles, the Kia Stinger comes with a ton of modern safety gizmos that assist the driver. In the Stinger they seemed very transparent until I needed them. I was on a secondary two-lane road, in the left lane, driving around 40mph. As I was entering a tunnel I looked into the passenger side mirror as I wanted to switch lanes. In the exact same time, the vehicle in front of me started braking heavily. The Stinger started buzzing at me and slammed on the brakes by itself. But that wasn’t enough. My so-called “racing instincts” took over and I cut the wheel to the right, a lane I knew was free, and avoided hitting the car in front of me probably an inch. 
But the most surprising thing was how the Stringer handled in this process. It was totally drama free. I cut the wheel under full braking, suddenly switched lanes, and then quickly straighten the car. Aside from those basic functions, there was no need for me to do anything else. There was no need for me to remain in control or stabilize the vehicle – it just remained shockingly composed throughout the process. This kind of amazed me. I have driven a ton of vehicles near their handling limit and this one was one of the smoothest. The combination of the active safety equipment, chassis tuning, big brakes, and great tires totally saved my ass. 

The 2018 Kia Stinger starts at $31,900. The V6-powered Stinger GT starts at $38,350. The fully-loaded GT AWD model seen in these pictures had the manufacturer suggested retail price of $52,300, with destination. This loaded price is about the same as a loaded Audi A5 Sportback or starting price for the Audi S5 Sportback, which the Stinger GT is clearly targeting.
Aside from the headrests, which is an extremely minor complaint, I can’t find anything I don’t like about the Stinger. It completely surpassed all of my expectations. This is the vehicle that shows that Kia can be competitive with the top brands of the world. All they have to do is apply the Stinger philosophy to all of their other models.

[Disclaimer: Kia Motors America Inc. provided this vehicle for the purpose of this article. All images copyright Kamil Kaluski/Hooniverse 2018]
Edit: from the owner’s manual:

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35 responses to “Review: 2018 Kia Stinger GT”

  1. Zentropy Avatar

    I’m insistent that my next vehicle be a stick-shift. My wife insists that it is not (she can’t operate a manual transmission, and refuses to learn). If she wins, I’m getting a Stinger. My real hope is that they bring the manual to the States.

    1. Kevin Curry Avatar

      I thought I was in the same boat, but I just couldn’t live with any of the stick-shift cars I tried. I almost got in a Subaru STI, but my god for the price is that a terrible place to be. Finally settled on an S3 and couldn’t be happier. Sure I don’t get to row the thing, but I can drive it “manual” with the paddles when I want or just throw it in drive when in traffic. And as far as creature comforts, it’s an entirely different experience.

      1. Zentropy Avatar

        To each his own, but I’d completely side with the STI. I’m not much of a “features and amenities” kind of driver– I’d go with the manual even if it meant crank windows. I can “manually shift” my automatic minivan, which admittedly makes it a bit more fun, but it’s nothing remotely close to having a third pedal. Paddle shifters are just another term for automatic, for me.

        1. Kevin Curry Avatar

          I could live with the 90’s era radio and the spartan interior. I could not live with the build quality. That thing was a noisy, rattlebox from hell and listening to the highway drone on long drive just about did me in.
          And manual-imitating automatics are in a whole different world than truly manual double-clutch transmissions.

          1. Zentropy Avatar

            It’s disappointing to hear that the STI is such a penalty box. A friend has a late-model Subaru Outback (last one with an available manual) that I find pretty pleasant, at least from a fit/finish perspective.
            I agree that “manual-mode” automatics and DCTs are distinctly different, and while my experience with DCTs are limited to the Volvo C30 and the Jetta GLI, I still don’t feel they are as engaging as an old-fashioned manual. They are lightning-fast, though.

    2. LeaksOil Avatar

      If your compromise is a Stinger, your doing pretty damn good, haha. Just saying.
      What’s the Genesis that comes in manual with the turbo 4?

      1. Zentropy Avatar

        The Hyundai Genesis Coupe (last model 2016?) was so equipped. I think you could also get the V6 with a stick. It is unfortunately a coupe, though, a body style that I find almost completely useless. Ideally I’d drive a RWD wagon with a manual, but a sedan would do.

        1. Tiller188 Avatar

          Reposting to reply as intended: Also, more recently (which I’m guessing is what LeaksOil was referring to) Genesis, now its own brand, announced that the G70 would be coming over here with a manual option on the turbo-4 model. Apparently the G70 is related to/shares its platform with the Stinger. I’m kinda hoping the 3-pedal G70 sells well enough for Kia to take notice and consider making that an offering on the Stinger, as well; I think I prefer the hatchback and overall style of the Stinger to the G70 (and I’m guessing the G70 will come with more features, and a bigger pricetag, than I’d really be interested in). Even if it doesn’t inspire Kia to follow suit, though, I’m definitely glad to see a manual transmission showing up on another new vehicle.

          1. LeaksOil Avatar

            Yes! Thank you! I should have googled it and shared a link from the start. I think the G70 looks promising. Row your own and a turbo 4, sounds good to me.
            Apologies for being ambiguous.
            Genesis name gets thrown around a bit by the Koreans.
            Either way, if his worst case is a stinger , shoot that’s doing well! I’ve seen a GT in person. Beautiful.

        2. LeaksOil Avatar

          I didn’t say anything about the Hyundai Genesis Coupe. I was speaking of the Genesis G70 sedan. See link.
          My apologies for not being more clear.

          1. Zentropy Avatar

            Sorry, Genesis got its start as the Hyundai Genesis, and when you said “manual with the turbo 4”, I could only assume the old Coupe. I haven’t been keeping up with the Genesis brand (mainly because I think lux brands are kind of pretentious), and hadn’t read the details on the G70. It looks good, though. Not that 260 hp can’t be fun, but it’s too bad the manual isn’t also an option on the 3.3 V6.

      2. Tiller188 Avatar

        Whoops, meant to reply to Zentropy below.

    3. Harry Callahan Avatar
      Harry Callahan

      You will need to get the Genesis G70 (same chassis as Stinger) to get a manual in USA…and then, only with the four pot turbo.

  2. nanoop Avatar

    I have that Recaro, too!

    1. Manic_King Avatar

      I had too, in a A3 SB with the Ambition pack. Headrests were OK though, maybe different looking too. That whole interior looks 50/50 Audi/MB. This Kia seems kinda boy racer-ish, I wonder how toned down I could make it, can I have, say, gray calipers….

      1. Zentropy Avatar

        +1 to the grey calipers. Honestly, red calipers are like walking around wearing a clown nose. Just as everyone expects you can smell, they expect your car can stop. No sense in advertising it.

  3. Manxman Avatar

    Nice car. Can’t find in the specs if the transmission is dual-clutch, but from several road tests the feedback is that you’ll be hard pressed to shift faster or smoother with a manual. You might be able to turn the headrests around to solve that problem.

    1. outback_ute Avatar

      Pretty sure it is a torque converter auto, the right way to do it IMO, still can have fast shifting and TC lockup 99% of the time, but at a slow speed crawl etc a TC is much smoother than a computer-activated clutch.
      It seems to be the current thing to have headrests very close to your head. It is ok to marginal for some/most but not for women with ‘big hair’.
      ps Kamil – “big breaks”

      1. Kamil K Avatar

        I blame Jeff.

        1. outback_ute Avatar

          Hey, why not right?

    2. Zentropy Avatar

      I’d almost guarantee you can’t shift more smoothly or quickly with a true manual. I’m sure I can’t. But I would have MUCH more fun doing so. I don’t take my DDs to the track, so I could care less about shaving off a few tenths. I just like feeling connected to the machine, and I can’t do that with paddles.

      1. Manxman Avatar

        I’ve always had at least one car in my garage that had a manual until recently. But I do ride motorcycles so I get plenty of shifting in the mountains I ride in. It is fun.

        1. Zentropy Avatar

          I keep a BMW E28 on hand when I need my manual fix. I still have younger kids, so my new(ish) car is a minivan. I’m just hoping my next car can be something functional but more fun.

      2. salguod Avatar

        This. I don’t care that it’s faster, I like rowing my own. I’ve daily driven a stick since I bought my 1980 Chevy Monza in 1986 except for about 6 months when I drove a beater 1988 Celebrity to save a few bucks.

    3. Kamil K Avatar

      Torque convector automatic… not autotragic, perhaps automagic.

  4. Zentropy Avatar

    Not to be critical of the author here at all, but I’ve realized the misuse of the word “torque” is a grammatical pet peeve of mine. Yes, Jeremy Clarkson says it often, but stating that an engine has “300 torques” is like saying the interior space is “117 volumes”, or that I’m “6.08 lengths” tall. Torque is described, like other measurements, in units. The Stinger peaks at 276 lb-ft of torque.
    Again, I’m not trying to dig at Kaluski, because I’ve heard many others say it. I just wish it weren’t catching on. To my ears, it’s like nails on the chalkboard.

    1. Kamil K Avatar

      Honestly… I do it because it is so much easier to write and everyone knows what I mean by it. I think this is the second time I’ve done it. I usually use the whole abbreviated term. My engineering professors beat proper notation into me, perhaps this is why I rebel against it. I’m such a badass.

      1. Zentropy Avatar

        Ha! My science education won’t let me adopt it. That, and I honestly think Clarkson says it just to intentionally sound like an oaf.

    2. tonyola Avatar

      As an engineer, I’ve always hated “torques” too. Does an engine have 300 “powers”?

      1. kogashiwa Avatar

        Mine has eleventy billion powers.

        1. theskitter Avatar

          Which can easily be converted to number of llamas.

      2. mdharrell Avatar

        As a geologist, quantitative measurement is okay-ish, I guess.

  5. dukeisduke Avatar

    How was the “shift-by-wire” shifter (manual pages 5-20 through 5-27)? Yes, I downloaded the manual. 🙂

    1. Kamil K Avatar

      Just like any other.
      I don’t know how else to describe it.