2018 Kia Stinger GT2 AWD Review

A premium sports sedan from a non-premium brand


Amos Kwon, Editor-In-Chief



Positives: Powerful engine, strong brakes, great handling, attractive exterior, practical space, good ergonomics.
Negatives: No manual transmission available, lacks brand cache.
Bottom Line: The Kia Stinger GT2 AWD is easily one of the best performance cars for the money, and it proves that Kia can do a proper sports sedan that's both, thrilling, handsome, and great as a practical daily driver. What a phenomenal first effort and one the Germans and Japanese should take note of.
 View Our 2018 Kia Stinger Overview
Not that long ago, Kia represented the kinds of cars the financially challenged had to consider. They were affordable, a dumpy-looking, and no one with any sporting intentions would ever give them a second look, much less even a first. But times have change, and now Kia sells some seriously good automobiles, including the Optima, Sorento, Cadenza, and even the affordable Rio5, which is a hoot to drive. But the new Stinger GT takes Kia to an altogether new level, and it's a bona fide sports sedan that rivals the Germans and Japanese for much less money. We drove it for a week to see how truly good it is. Read on for our full review.
 

Driving Experience

8.9

 

Not only does the Stinger look good, it sounds and drives at a higher level than its price tag warrants. This is a seriously exciting car for everyday driving and will do wonders at the track.

Ride Quality: The Stinger GT's ride quality is on the firm side, but it handled bumps and gaps very well. We never felt jarred or unsettled.

Acceleration: The 0-60 time is 4.6 seconds, seriously fast. The twin-turbo V6 exhibits virtually no lag, and power is strong all the way through. The 8-speed auto matic transmission with paddle shifters works well with rev-matching downshifts.

Braking: The Stinger GT has some seriously strong Brembo brakes that bring it to a stop quickly and progressively. Pedal feel is firm and progressive. Excellent.

Steering: Steering is quick, and effort is good. We just didn't get as much communication back from the road as we would've liked.

Handling: For everyday rapid exit ramps or esses, the Stinger GT with AWD manages body roll well, but there's definitely understeer. It's still fantastic to drive, and everything feels well-controlled. You can even shut the stability control completely off if you wanted to.

Technology

8.9

 

We admire Kia because they don't try to make their in-car tech look much fancier than the level of utility requires. The system is straightforward and easy to use. We think it's one of the best in teh industry.

Infotainment System: Very little to be distracted by here. The floating 8-inch touchscreen is clear, and the font is very legible. Menus are easy to understand, and responsiveness is good.

Controls: The two rows of buttons for audio and climate, along with physical knobs are well laid out. The triple circular HVAC vents prevent the buttons from being positioned higher and better located for driving, though.

Styling

8.8

 

It's no easy feat to make a sports sedan that looks different from BMW, Audi, Mercedes, and Lexus, but Kia manages to pull it off and for far less money. They Stinger GT looks very original and also tosses in a very practical hatchback.

Front: The fascia is aggressive but not overstyled like so many cars these days. We love the mesh in the tiger-nose grille, and the vertical and functional intake vents add to the menace.

Rear: The Stinger GT's taillights might look like they were stolen off a Maserati Granturismo, but they sure look fetching here. We also love the ovular quad tailpipes.

Profile: The long, sloping roofline gives it a sleek look, but the rear overhang seems a bit long. We like the functional fender vent that cools the brakes, taking a design cue from the BMW 4-Series.

Cabin: The interior isn't as schmancy as BMW or Audi, but it's well-made. The overall aesthetic is sporty, and we like the fact that there's no gauche wood trim or faux carbon fiber. It is dark, though, and we would've like some contrasting red or white stitching throughout to brighten things up a bit.

Comfort

8.8

 

Count on Kia to build a sports sedan that's actually very practical and more form-follows function than most of the competition. It's a sedan that works for spirited driving and for daily commutes. Kia thought this one out well.

Front Seats: Good sport seats that provide a solid level of comfort, as well as bolstering. The Nappa leather feels good, too. It's not BMW quality but still pretty good.

Rear Seats: There's good room for adults in back, though the middle position is tight. It surpasses the BMW 3-Series and Audi A4 in terms of legroom and slots more with mid-size luxury sedans.

NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): Aside from the pleasurable piped in engine noise, the cabin is pretty quiet and well made. There were no rattles or squeaks.

Visibility: The driving positionjand overall visibility is very good. It's easy to place the Stinger GT where you want.

Climate: The automatic climate controls system works well and warms up quickly, as do the heated seats. Standard ventilated seats are a huge bonus.

Safety

6.5

 

The Stinger hasn't been crash tested yet, but the GT2 trim level does come standard with some pretty great safety technology that's optional on competitors.

IIHS Rating: Not tested

NHTSA Rating: Not tested

Standard Tech: The Stinger GT2 AWD comes packed with head-up display, forward collision avoidance and warning system, Smart Cruise Control with Stop & Go, lane keep & departure warning system, Driver Attention Warning, High Beam Assist, Blnd Spot Collision Warning, and Rear Cross-Traffic Collision Warning.

Optional Tech: None

Storage/Cargo

8.7

 

In addition to a wealth of power and seriously good looks, the Stinger is truly practical with a useful cabin and great hatchback space.

Storage Space: The center console has great storage options, including a deep and long armrest binnacle, a compartment tray right in front of the armrest that's deep enough to prevent your change and keys from flying out, and a nice retractable door compartment just below the center stack. All very useful. We're not sure why doing this right seems to be so hard for some automakers.

Cargo Room: The cargo section in the hatch has 23.3 cubic feet, which isn't massive, but fold down the rear seats, and you get a solid 40.9 cubic feet. The access via the rear hatch door beats any sedan, too.

Fuel Economy

7.8

 

It's hard to drive this sucker conservatively, but we didn't doo too poorly given our heavy-footed driving habits. It's not as fuel efficient as the less powerful BMW 340i, but the Stinger GT is quicker.

Observed: 19.3 mpg

Distance Driven: 211 miles

Driving Factors: We drove in Sport mode most of the time on dry pavement with a mix of local and highway travel.

Audio

8.6

 

The standard audio system on the GT2 is pretty premium in our book. The Harman Kardon premium audio with Clari-Fi delivers excellent sound, bass, and clarity. It's no Mark Levinson, but it's pretty damned good.



Final Thoughts

Everyone's comparing the Stinger GT to the likes of BMW, Audi, Mercedes, and Lexus. The thing is, dollar-for-dollar, the Stinger GT is a better car. Not only is it truly thrilling to drive, it also looks upscale and comfortably seats four full-sized adults and has a hatchback, to boot. What Kia hath wrought is something truly worthy as a sports sedan. It may not have the same composure as a Cadillac CTS V-Sport at the limit, but it also costs about $15K less when they're similarly outfitted. The Stinger GT2 is also a huge value, given that all the bells and whistles come standard, and the safety features are deep. It's just a phenomenal car for the money, and despite the fact that you can't get it with a manual transmission, it's a huge achievement for the brand.

Check out our quick video review below:

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