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FIRST CAR REVIEW: 2018 Kia Stinger GT

Don’t be blinded by the logos on the car. Look at the car. What do you see? Hang on, I’ll tell you. The 2018 Kia Stinger GT is the result of a hard-working brand putting their best foot forward. Actually, it’s more than that. Kia’s put roughly six years of work into the Stinger since the unveiling of the GT Concept in Frankfurt back in 2011 and created their best car ever.

You’re thinking: “It’s a Kia… Couldn’t have been that hard!” Ah, but this is not an Optima with a hatch and bigger engine. It does share its platform with the equally new Genesis G70 but the Stinger is a different car. Very different from anything that’s ever left a Kia assembly line as it is the first AWD halo performance Grand Turismo car for the Korean carmaker.

Peter Schreyer, president and chief design officer of Hyundai and Kia, said about the Stinger that it is an unexpected car from Kia but one that only Kia could do. These words ring true as there’s no ceiling at Kia, no hierarchy. A 4 series BMW could not be this good and thus better than a 5 or 6 Series, much like a Mercedes C-Class to an E-Class and so on. The Stinger bridges the gap between the big guns and the smaller ones.

Styling and a name

They say: “if the shoe fits…” and with Kia’s new car, the Stinger name certainly does fit. Styling-wise, the name makes sense; no explanation is necessary. The odd thing is that the moniker was thought up by a paid external think-tank, and I hope they got a big fat cheque.

The Stinger GT is perfectly proportioned with a very long wheelbase, short overhangs and an exceptionally low, long and slopping roofline. This Kia may be one of the most attractive cars for 2018, which shouldn’t really be a surprise. What could be a shocker is the fact that all the air intakes and exhausts are functional, keeping the brakes and engine components happy. The rear diffuser is a nice touch and many points are awarded to the quad tailpipes.

The Tiger Nose sits proudly up front, flanked by LED headlights and punched out flared fenders. The Stinger is elegant but carries a very powerful and sporty flare. The interior is subtler, and very German.

The dashboard is clean, devoid of flashy highlights and highly functional. The center-stack mounted touchscreen favours easy navigation regardless if it’s 7” (GT) or 8” (GT Limited). The controls are all straightforward, and ergonomically positioned. Of the many features, Kia includes UVO Intelligence (vast array of services for the car like remote start), Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, navigation and camera displays. There’s also a 9-speaker Harman Kardon audio system that gains another six loudspeakers in the GT Limited.

The front heated leather seats (cooled front and heated rear in the GT Limited) are excellent and proved their worth on the twisty roads in the Angeles National Forest. The lateral support is tops and the many possible adjustments provide a near perfect driving position.

Grand Touring prowess

The ideal GT car is one that provides comfort for its passengers, and pleasure and power for its driver. The Stinger GT fits this description perfectly. With its twin-turbocharged 3.3-litre V6, the Kia is a straight-line rocket that won’t back down from a challenging series of switchbacks.

Where power is concerned, no other car matches the Stinger’s bang-for-buck proposition in its price range. With 365 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 376 lb.-ft. of torque between 1,300 and 4,500 rpm, this GT will puncture the horizon at 100 km/h in only 4.9 seconds. If you’re keeping track, on paper, only the Audi S4 and S5 best it among 4- and 5-door cars under $75k, and by only one tenth of a second.

The Kia-conceived 8-speed automatic is a sharp performer as well and matched the GT’s nature. It will pound away from one gear to another and effortlessly serve the torque swell with its ideal gearing.

2018 Kia Stinger GT Limited

The chassis is also tuned for grand touring, which does not necessarily equate high performance. The adaptive dampers can toggle from Sport to Comfort but are not designed to tackle on-limit driving. They are best suited for cruising, or spirited driving.

In that respect, the AWD GT’s 52/48 weight distribution helps keep the car’s handling predictable. The AWD’s 50/50 torque split (20/80 in Sport and Custom) along with stability control assisted torque vectoring once more create a highly capable and competent handler. To push the Stinger GT harder, say beyond 7/10, is to discover that the adaptive dampers don’t much like dealing with sharp and rapid wheel travel cycles.

The 4-piston front and 2-piston rear Brembo calipers, with fade compensation, do excellent work. The electric steering’s weight changes through the drive modes and is always well served by the Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tires. The front end’s turn-in is quick, with plenty of grip even when the Stinger’s being pushed through an autocross circuit.

The 2018 Kia Stinger GT is a very accomplished automobile.

Flair and performance, but not for a price

At $44,195, the Stinger GT is mere thousands more than a comparably-equipped midsize sedan however with far more panache and performance. At $49,995, it bests the Audis, BMWs and more in the numbers game.

Now, will it bring people in from Infiniti, Acura and convince loaded Accord and Camry buyers to look in Kia’s direction? I think so. The media hype surrounding the car has created lots of curiosity. In fact, it’s compelled a little more than 130 Canadians to put a $5,000 deposit, sight unseen and without ever driving the car or even knowing the price. That is quite an accomplishment. The good news is that these consumers will be VERY happy with their decision.

The cars are trickling into dealerships now. Check it out.

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