2018 Kia Stinger GT First Drive: It’s Here With Some Venom

“It’s a Kia though” is not fair anymore. Almost a decade ago, the push to a new Kia and Korean Motor industry was initiated. A push to compete where they had previously just sold price conscious cars. It started with the Forte, but when the Stinger was announced (we were there), the world knew that Kia was serious. The Stinger was a Kia that could optioned over $50,000 and it showed that the Koreans meant business.

2018 Kia Stinger GT

Inside

The Stinger GT has surpassed expectations of pretty much everyone that has been near one in real life. Higher quality materials give the feel of a true luxury automobile. Leather, metals and soft plastics abound. Upon further examination, the nice materials did not come across as all that durable, but time will tell. Miles on a press car are very hard, but areas of our loaner car looked as if they had nearly 10x more than the 5000 miles indicated. Minor rattles and some obvious damage to interior pieces were easily noticeable, but ideally nothing to worry about overall. In general, I appreciated the overall feel of the cabin, especially coming out of last week’s Prius.

2018 Kia Stinger GT

Piano black trim pieces are still the bane of my existence as they show dust east and scratch worse than an alley cat, but the thought was definitely there from the design and engineering side. The buttons look nice, but to the touch they can be a bit flimsy and cheap feeling.  The Stinger is one of contrasts though and the overall appearance of the interior felt luxurious, and the infotainment screen was actually quite good. The main problem arose when trying to actually use the screen, as the general consensus among those that sat in the driver’s seat was that the screen was too far to comfortably reach. It made me appreciate the mouse and trackpads of the new Lexus line even more.

2018 Kia Stinger GT

The other issue was the resolution of the screen when in Apple Carplay. I absolutely love Carplay, Apple does set a certain bar for what you expect. Switching from the high definition screen of my iPhone to the somewhat pixelated icons on the Kia screen was disappointing. The quality of the seats well made up for it though as they are very comfortable and supportive. The 16-way adjustable driver’s seat is fantastic, especially when two of the adjustments consist of an adjustable side bolster. That bolster makes staying planted in the corners easy no matter a person’s build or frame. Overall, even with the gripes, the interior is very close to what you would be expecting for a $50,100 car.

Driving

Daily driving was quite pleasant in the Kia Stinger. All of the expected tech was present such as radar cruise control, blind spot monitoring, and lane assist, which made commuting near automatic. I was surprised by the heads-up-display, something I have not seen as an option in any of the cars I have tested lately, but it definitely made my life just that little bit easier. Just having the speed (let alone speed limit) radar cruise control display, navigation, and blind spot warnings front and center helped me keep my eyes on the road more as the distractions were reduced to a minimum.

2018 Kia Stinger GT

The real point of the GT is the power train though. With 365hp coming out of the twin turbocharged 3.3L V-6, the Kia starts to really shine when you put your right foot down. When the turbos kick in, the experience is nearly nauseating. On more than one occasion, I found the brute force to give me headaches as the blood was seemingly sucked from the front lobe of my brain. That torque also made for good fun around the corners as the limited slip differential allowed the back end to pop out, but then quickly delivered the power in a linear fashion. The forced induction fun did come at a price, as I saw sub double digit gas mileage numbers throughout the week. Handling was good, but the sheer mass of the Stinger was hard to miss. At over 3800 pounds the Stinger GT spends a lot of it’s time fighting with itself.

The four piston Brembos don’t seem to have quite the guts that would make me feel completely comfortable stopping the sheer speed the engine induces. There is none of the confidence inspiring “bite” I have gotten used to among cars with a performance edge. The other thing that was both underwhelming and lacked “bite” was the exhaust. Turbochargers naturally muffle exhaust notes but the Kia seemed an extra level of quiet for what I wanted. The car felt like it wanted to sing, but the restrictions put on it were just too great. I really enjoyed the Kia’s performance as a whole though; it was a lot of fun and it really shocked many of the people that rode with me.

2018 Kia Stinger GT

Summary

After a great week with the Kia, there is only one problem I could come up with. That is the Genesis G70. Released here in the next few months, and for nearly same price you can get a Genesis (not a Kia) that is shorter, lighter, and again, not a Kia. The Stinger is an amazing car and worth its price, but the problem of it being a Kia is still a problem. Kia did seemingly irreparable damage to their brand in the 90’s and 00’s, but the Stinger is a great first step to making it right. They made a car that can leave a mark on their brand, but now they have to fight with the big boys.

Stay tuned to RFD for a full video review coming soon!

Bonus Pics

2018 Kia Stinger GT

2018 Kia Stinger GT

2018 Kia Stinger GT

2018 Kia Stinger GT

2018 Kia Stinger GT

2018 Kia Stinger GT

2018 Kia Stinger GT

2018 Kia Stinger GT

2018 Kia Stinger GT

2018 Kia Stinger GT

2018 Kia Stinger GT

2018 Kia Stinger GT

2018 Kia Stinger GT

2018 Kia Stinger GT

2018 Kia Stinger GT

2018 Kia Stinger GT

2018 Kia Stinger GT

2018 Kia Stinger GT

2018 Kia Stinger GT

2018 Kia Stinger GT

2018 Kia Stinger GT

2018 Kia Stinger GT

2018 Kia Stinger GT