Full Review: 2018 Kia Stinger GT2 AWD!

Kia’s public image has evolved greatly over the last 10 years or so. Long gone are the days of inexpensive, might I say even disposable cars from the Korean auto maker. The latest offering from Kia is a Grand Tourer, a rear wheel drive based one at that.

My press car this week is a Stinger GT2 all wheel drive, which denotes the lack of any boxes left to check on the order form. It’s 3.3L twin turbocharged V6 produces a more than ample 365hp and 376lb/ft of very accessible torque. Expect an EPA rated 19 miles per gallon city, 25 highway, with a combined of 21 with a 15.9 gallon tank. In my few days with the Stinger I saw as high as 26.5mpg on calm open roads, and 23.5 on a spirited run through the Adirondack mountain range while plotting the route for a road rally in the fall. They say a 2.0 liter turbo charged four cylinder is available, with or without all wheel drive, but I’ve yet to see a reason to go that route.

Not to sound cliché, but the Stinger is not a Kia we’ve ever known before. If it wasn’t for a few items like the corporate tiger nose grille, the Kia badging and a other bits and bobs I’d be inclined to say it was a product of one of its more upmarket rivals.

As equipped Kia has absolutely stuffed this with my preferred level of niceties from adaptive LED headlamps to a nappa leather trimmed 16 way adjustable drivers seat. The drivers seat adjustability includes an extending thigh support and adjustable side bolstering that releases when you prepare to exit the car. A very nice touch to help make this more tolerable day to day without the sacrifice of having to double yourself over to enter and egress. The Kia Drive Wise suite of advanced safety tech works rather harmoniously, with the rogue exception of the active Lane Keep Assist System. I found myself disarming the lane keeping feature in instances of unfavorable weather and uncertain lane markings to avoid erroneous abrupt steering wheel movements. This task is taken care of very easily via a button above your left knee, or through the steering wheel mounted menu controls.

Never before have we seen a Kia with such an eagerness to please a driver! Four corner Brembo Brakes and staggered 19″ wheels wrapped in Michelin Pilot Sport 4’s paired up to adaptive damping make short work of mountainside roads. We would have liked to experience a slightly firmer feel from the rear of the car in its firmest setting.

The Stinger manages to blend an aesthetically pleasing four door lift-back configuration, while still managing muscular lines and a daunting presence.

Photo Credit: Randy Stern

Heated and ventilated nappa upholstery kept me quite comfortable with the broad range of temperatures we experience here in Upstate New York this time of year. Tackling 550 miles in a single day of driver engaged terrain was quite easy. A very notable attribute is that Kia went the extra mile to heat the entire steering wheel rather than select portions. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also standard on the Stinger across all trim levels, yet another thumbs up!

Aside from the ever so unsightly rear side marker/reflector setup that protrudes forward from the tail lamp assembly into the rear quarter panel there aren’t many exterior angles or features that I dislike! A bit of a double edged sword is that the front bumper and fender vents are functional for brake cooling and relief of front end air pressure; unfortunately that allows for an unwanted collection of road debris.

While on the topic of filth management, the very attractive headlamp setup on the Stinger has this very peculiar valley beneath the headlamp that I removed kamikaze bugs from on very frequent occasion. The black chrome finished grille and associated bright work shows very well on the Stinger, and the polished face honeycomb style grille appears very Germanic in nature. The exterior mirrors continue the darkened chrome finish, and both feature heating, auto dimming, power folding and curb tilting!

Outside of the drivers position the comfort levels remain quite high. My very average sized friends all felt quiet comfortable, and the cargo area had no issue handling my gear for the week. The rear seats 60/40 fold, but do not offer a release from inside the trunk itself, specifically when the cover is in place.

Photo Credit: Randy Stern

With a Stinger entry point of $31,900 and an as-tested of $52,300 there’s a broad range of choice in how you wish to receive your Kia GT car. In the spirit of streamlining production and cost saving measures there is on the other hand less ability for individualization than with its German competitors. The Stinger gets two very enthusiastic thumbs up, but my underlying question is if the Kia network of dealers are truly ready to handle the premium buyers Kia Motors America is hoping to conquest.