Got any good Kia jokes? Yeah, I bet you do. You probably have a good horror story or two, or maybe you just have the acronyms lined up and waiting (“Keep it, asshole”). Or maybe you just have some kind of predilection that automatically turns on your rage-meter whenever someone suggests that a Korean car might actually be on-par with whatever brand you align yourself with. None of this is a surprise. Before I drove this car, I confided in a friend of mine about this test drive and his words, verbatim: “I don’t care if it has 1,000 horsepower and corners like a motherf***er, at the end of the day it’s still just a Kia”. Yes, Kia’s reputation for making throwaway cars always steps into play. I’ve dealt with a 1994 Sephia. And numerous Ford Aspires (read: Kia Pride). And Sportages. And Optimas, and the XG350, and so on and so forth. Unlike 2008 GM and Chrysler during their really low points, Kia didn’t hit rock bottom, that’s where they started out.
And here’s the thing: unlike some people that I’ve met in life, instead of borrowing a jackhammer and trying to keep tunneling further downwards, Kia’s quality, fit and finish, appearances and longevity have been improving, markedly over the last ten years for sure. Kia took cars like the Spectra and Sportage SUV and focused on fixing the problem issues and the basic elements that early U.S. market cars and SUVs lacked. Around 2010, the company started to work on style, with their Optima sedan becoming a sleeper hit with it’s sleek shape. And now, for 2018, Kia has built something so out-of-their-element that all of the hyperbole that can be used is being used: they built a no-shit sports sedan, available as a rear-driver or an all-wheel-drive five-door hatchback. From the moment Kia dropped the GT concept car at the Frankfort Auto Show a couple of years ago, the automotive world has been watching. Is the world ready for a hot-rodded Kia, or even a premium-price Korean sedan that is aiming really high in the marketplace? We sampled a bit of the Stinger GT at SEMA during a test-drive and came away wanting more. And we got more, in the form of this Micro Blue 2018 Stinger GT AWD that the Martin Group allowed me to run loose with.
Let’s get this part out of the way right now: $52,405 is the number on the Maroney sticker for this GT2 AWD example. That’s a lot to choke down for a Kia, I get that. The GT2 is the bucks-up variation of the Stinger GT, the one with the twin-turbocharged 3.3L V6 that you want, and there were only two additional options over the base $51,400 price: $50 for a cargo net and $55 for wheel locks. So there is no pairing down further on this variation. But if you can live without the full-width sunroof, the thumping sound system and some of the technological add-ons, you can get into a RWD Stinger GT for $38,350 or an AWD Stinger GT for $40,550. You’ll still get the good V6, you’ll get the Brembo brakes, the LED headlights and taillights, and the 19″ wheel/tire package. The options are up to you, but before you read further, here’s the TL;DR summary: you can get a Stinger GT in the everything you want, nothing you don’t setup for a relatively decent price. I test what’s on the lot, not what is ideal for most readers or buyers, and this one was ready to roll. Got it? Ok, now read on to find out what driving this thing is like.
So where does BangShift sit on the Stinger GT? That engine is a gem…it pulls from the second the turbos become involved to redline. The transmission is just about on point…every now and then the paddle-shifters aren’t as speedy as you’d hope, but we have seen much worse than these. They play along for the most part, but at 10/10ths, you’ll notice the slight delay that kicks up every now and then. The ride is going to come down to personal preference, but we appreciate that Kia stuck to the middle ground. Let the tuners and aftermarket dial up the harder-charging parts for those who like to fiddle. The body is attractive, the interior great (shifter being ignored) and it’s perfectly practical as a daily driver. You could have the 2.0L four-cylinder powered Stinger if you really want to go for the budget, but instead skip the options list, go for the baser-level Stinger GT, and do us one big favor: get over the brand name issue we’re sure many will have with this car. Kia has made a very competent sedan that will shock the hell out of plenty of vehicles on the road.
I can’t wait to read the hate mail on this one.