While the likes of BMW, Audi, and Mercedes-Benz have been at work on their venerable sports sedans for decades, churning out multiple generations of the 3-Series, A4, and C-Class, Kia hasn't been doing it for long at all. Their Stinger GT is its first bonafide sports sedan, and it's positively mindblowing how good it is, and not just for a freshman model. It holds its own (and even beats) some of the best sports sedans the world has to offer. This is why we've chosen it as our 2018 Car of the Year.
First of all, just take a look at the Stinger GT. Kia and sister brand Hyundai used to be accused of building derivative-looking vehicles that came across as lesser copies of the Germans. They'd only be mentioned in the same breath when saying what the Korean models lacked when it came to styling. The Stinger GT, however, pulls off an original look that makes the Germans look a bit boring. The slender tiger nose grille on the Stinger GT has just the right amount of aggression without being oversized. The sloping hood and wraparound headlights are perfect mates for the grille, and the lower intakes are simple but noticeable.
We're not even huge fans of fender vents, but the Stinger GT's are very well done, dressing up the smooth body with just the right amount of visual drama. There are no huge creases along the doors, and there's no chrome to speak of on the window trim, instead using flat black to evoke sportiness. It's just the way a sports sedan should look. BMW has been dialing up the opulent look a bit too much, and we think that's anathema to how a sporty four-door should come across.
Even the wheels are very original with a bit of complexity in the design to dress things up just a little. They're perfect for letting the powerful red Brembo brake calipers peek through just right. The sizing is just right for the car's look, as well. Not too big and not too small. Kia didn't copy anyone with these wheels, either, and the results are excellent.
Step inside the Stinger GT, and you'll find a handsome interior that's a great match for the car's exterior. When we drove our tester, the black interior was properly contrasted with the right amount of brushed aluminum trim and textured surfaces throughout. A huge aluminum dead pedal with rubber grips and the same effect on the gas and brake pedals equate to purposeful driving. The Stinger GT also has space for five, ample room for luggage and gear, so it's not wanting when it comes to daily use. It's brilliant in ways you don't expect from a car that's supposed to nail the apexes.
No one does infotainment as good as the Koreans these days, either. Sure, there are better-looking systems like BMW's iDrive or Mercedes Comand, but when it comes to ergonomically great controls on the dash and on the steering wheel, Kia takes the podium. It's all within the driver's reach, and there's minimal distraction. The linear controls look and feel great, and finding anything on the touchscreen takes no time at all. The focus is on the driving, as it should be.
But the proof that this car is worth its salt for a COTY award is in the driving experience. The powerful engine is responsive with virtually no hint of lag. The twin turbos spool up quickly, and the thrust is effortless. There's no jerkiness from the 8-speed automatic transmission, and the paddle shifters work harmoniously with the engine's power. We would've loved to see a manual transmission, but that by no means says the Stinger GT's shifter is lacking. Steering is quick with the right effort, too. The car is balanced, agile, and its ride is never jarring for everyday commuting.
It's tragic that sedans aren't selling because the Stinger GT makes one of the strongest cases in the industry today for the survival of the sedan. It's not just a great sports sedan, it's an everyday capable four-door for the family that wants to break from boredom and convention. It's also missing that pretentious factor that the Germans can't get rid of. For all these reasons (and more), we've given it top honors this year.