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Kia Stinger GT Long-Term Test Wrap: Balance Is Key

A year with South Korea’s star sedan shows it to be perfectly balanced, as all things should be.

Conner GoldenWriterBrandon LimPhotographerRobin TrajanoPhotographer

When it comes to stocking our Four Seasons fleet, we seek new cars that are significant, contentious, and interesting—and award bonus points for any overlap. Take our bygone long-term 2018 BMW M550i. That Mediterranean Blue Metallic sled caused a staff standoff between those who found it just the right amount of "M" and those who maintained it was fussy, complicated, and an unnecessary half step. In contrast, the 2018 Kia Stinger GT we recently said goodbye to surprisingly satisfied all three aforementioned parameters, and turned curious curmudgeons into adoring fans in the twelve months and some 19,000 miles it remained under our care.

Despite its stunning good looks and an impressive spec sheet, we didn't quite know what to make of the red four-door liftback when it first rolled up to the front door. After all, this is the Korean company's first serious attempt at a sport sedan, and whereas we knew what to expect from Hyundai's then-new Genesis luxury marque, a premium sporty midsize Kia aimed at the Germans was quite the proposal.

It certainly had the right hardware; forced induction is standard, and the power is sent to either the rear or all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission. We figured if we're going to test this landmark car, we'd better do it big, so we opted for a top-of-the-line, fully loaded GT2-spec, a package that included the 3.3-liter twin-turbo V-6 engine that puts down a meaty 365 hp and 376 lb-ft of torque. Play hooligan, and Kia claims a zero-to-60-mph time of 4.7 seconds and a top speed of 167 mph.

We shouldn't have questioned what the staff's reception to the car would be: Almost as soon as the HiChroma Red sedan rolled up to the office, it was put to work as the go-to choice for road trips, big or small. Immediately, the Stinger's long-legged character and rock-steady road manners impressed. On a 450-mile trip to Northern California, online production editor Eleonor Segura was surprised by the big Kia's poise. "It has a well-appointed and spacious interior, standout performance from the twin-turbo V-6, and outgoing style," she said. "This all made the Stinger an ideal road trip car, and it even proved more comfortable than I expected given its sporty mission. It's surprisingly luxurious and fun to drive."

Even before we took delivery, the Stinger's handsome style, both inside and out, attracted compliments and stares from passersby. Per Segura, "There is no doubt in my mind that one of the strongest features on the Stinger is the exterior. People generally need to take a second look—like the guy at the gas station this morning—to realize that this sexy beast is indeed a Kia."

Jim Marietta and Ted Sutton of the Original Venice Crew, who helped Shelby create his Mustangs, were pretty impressed by the abilities of our twin-turbo Kia.

Senior editor Aaron Gold was one of the first to put some interstate under the tires, and he reckons the Stinger's long-haul capability comes from a not-insignificant amount of German input hiding beneath its Kia badge. "This is a very comfortable and capable road car, and isn't that what a GT car is all about?" he said. "Maybe in 20 years people will look back and laugh at us for calling the Stinger the Korean BMW, but really, it's true. Drive this car at 90 or 100 mph, and you'll see it's the real deal, solid and stable as the proverbial rock. I had a chat with a Hyundai/Kia/Genesis engineer about this, and he said it's pretty simple: Germans engineer for 150-200 kph, Asia engineers for 100-120 kph. Stinger engineer Albert Biermann is German, and his influence shows."

Finding some sauerkraut mixed into this bibimbap is hardly surprising; a good portion of Hyundai/Kia's senior engineering staff were poached from Germany, with BMW serving as the largest feeder team. This is far from disingenuous, because if you're going to emulate someone, the Germans are probably your best bet.

Thanks to one of the aforementioned turncoats—ex-BMW engineering master Biermann—we found the Stinger to be every bit as sharp as some of the sedans rolling out of Munich. In fact, performance was so strong, driving the car with gusto was one of the things our editors couldn't stop doing once behind the wheel of the Stinger. Gold even had a run-in with the long arm of the law while cutting through Nevada; luckily for him, the Kia's good looks and then-newness got him off with a warning. Naturally, he blamed the car's capability. "The Stinger is as stable and comfortable at high speeds through an empty desert as most cars are at 60." Yeah, we're sure that would hold up in court.

We liked the Stinger GT's performance so much, we even called on the help of the Original Venice Crew (OVC)—the team behind some of Shelby's greatest Mustangs of the 1960s—to gain some perspective from the muscle-car side of things. We met up with two members of the trio for a blast through California canyons, curious to see if their back-to-basics approach to speed clashed with our kimchi cannon's new-age tech-heavy approach.

Perhaps surprisingly, the OVC guys had nothing but nice things to say. OVC member Jim Marietta was duly impressed by the 3.3-liter's power. "It's a nice-feeling car, without question," he said. "We were driving it pretty aggressively on a really demanding road. It has a lot of grunt, and it accelerates quickly. I wasn't expecting the low-rpm grunt that it has."

If there was a sore spot to be found, it was predictably with the Stinger's many driving aids and active safety features. "One thing I would change," Marietta noted, "or turn off as soon as I could, is all the stay-in-your-lane, don't-do-this—the 'mommy car' is not what you want, because it really is distracting when you hear those things or feel the little tug at the wheel. I'm here. I know what I'm doing."

They weren't the only ones. During one of his many strange sojourns (as detailed in the car's second update), Gold found the Stinger's lane-departure system to be a bit overactive, though not for the reason you might think. "All of these systems issue a warning if you take your hands off of the wheel for more than a few seconds; most detect torque the driver applies to the steering wheel in the form of subtle corrections. In the Stinger, I found I'd get alerts even when my hands were on the wheel," Gold explained. "The problem, I believe, is that the Stinger tracks so straight and true that you don't need to make many corrections. Looks like the chassis engineers did their job a bit too well for the software engineers."

The Stinger GT may walk the German walk and talk the German talk, but we certainly didn't pay out German levels of money for maintenance. Aside from a costly $220.99 spent at the first service that included an oil change and tire balancing and rotation, the next standard maintenance rang up a more reasonable $55.23. Aside from warrantied work that included a blown fuse for the driver's seat, warped brake rotors, and a repaired flat for free, $276.22 was all it cost us to run a Stinger GT for a year. Well, that and the $3,606.77 spent on 926.956 gallons of fuel, averaging out to 19.97 mpg for all 12 months.

In the end, our time spent with Kia's first sport sedan was all smiles. It's exactly as Seoul advertised—sharp looks, killer performance, premium appointments, and so much more. If more automakers stepped up and made something as well rounded and overtly attractive as the Stinger, the enthusiast market would be the better for it.

Our 2018 Kia Stinger GT
ODOMETER START/END 700/19,210
GALLONS OF FUEL USED 926.96
OBSERVED FUEL ECONOMY 20 mpg
TOTAL FUEL COST $3,606.77
AVERAGE COST/GALLON $3.89

MAINTENANCE

2x Oil change $276.22
1x Fuse replacement $0
1x Tire repair $0
2x Warped rotors $0

RECALLS and TSBs

No service performed

OUT OF POCKET

None $0

 Overview

PRICE $50,100/$50,175 (base/as tested)
ENGINE 3.3L twin-turbo DOHC 24-valve V-6
365 hp @ 6,000 rpm, 376 lb-ft @ 1,300-4,500 rpm
TRANSMISSION 8-speed automatic
LAYOUT 4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, RWD hatchback

Chassis

CONSTRUCTION Unibody
STEERING Electric power assisted
TURNING CIRCLE 36.9 ft
SUSPENSION, F/R McPherson Strut/Multi-link
BRAKES, F/R Four-piston disc brakes (vented)/ Two-piston disc brakes (vented)
WHEELS, F/R 19-inch, aluminum alloy wheels
TIRES Michelin Pilot Sport 4S, Front/Rear 225/40ZR19; 255/35R19

Measurements

L X W X H 190.2 x 73.6 x 55.1 in
WHEELBASE 114.4 in
TRACK, F/R 62.8 / 63.7
HEADROOM, F/R 38.3/37.0 in 
LEGROOM, F/R 42.6/36.4  in
SHOULDER ROOM, F/R 56.4/54.8 in
CARGO CAPACITY 23.3/40.9 cu ft (rear seat up/down)
WEIGHT 3,800 lb
WEIGHT DIST F/R 52/48
EPA MILEAGE 17/25 mpg (city/hwy)
FUEL CAPACITY 15.9 Gallons 
FUEL RANGE 400 miles (estimated)
FUEL GRADE  Premium
0-60 MPH 4.7 sec
TOP SPEED 167 mph

Equipment

STANDARD EQUIPMENT
Harman/Kardon audio w/15 speakers 19-inch aluminum wheels
8-inch touchscreen w/ navigation, voice Recognition and rear-view camera LED headlights and taillights
Bluetooth Power-opening tailgate
CarPlay/Android Auto Integration Head-up display
SiriusXM Satellite Radio Forward collision warning
Dual-zone automatic climate control Automated emergency braking
Heated and ventilated front seats Blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert
Leather-wrapped steering wheel, heated Adaptive cruise control w/ stop and go
Nappa leather seats Lane keep assist, lane departure warning
Front auto up/down windows Parking sensors front and rear
Electric parking brake Power-adjustable front seats
OPTIONAL EQUIPMENT
Rear bumper appliqué $75