Check your phone, or watch. Grab your pen. Mark your calendar.
Why? Because I’m about to say something I never thought I’d say, and may never say again.
“I’m excited about a KIA.”
There. I have to say it…summoning up the willpower to utter those four words (especially in a public forum) rank right up there among the most difficult challenges of my life. In all honesty, I’m not sure if there’s ever been an automaker that has been as absent from my mind as KIA. Never has a KIA caught my eye. Never have I given a KIA any kind of extended attention, nor have I ever considered a KIA to be an option in my numerous car buying ventures.
So, what changed?
The 2018 KIA Stinger GT
Earlier this year, KIA unveiled their Gran Turismo Concept Car at the 2017 North American Auto Show and suddenly I’m thinking, ‘I could picture myself driving this.” Me! ‘He with the tendency to buy consecutive Dodge Chargers’. ‘He who seriously considered being a 2-Door Challenger, even though he had a child in a car seat’. ‘He who is still saving for his Hellcat’.
Accepting that I may now have to refer to myself as ‘He who considered a KIA’ is a difficult pill to swallow, but I have to give credit where credit is due. And yet, the most impressive fact worth considering is that, despite being able to turn the head of a muscle car enthusiast, this particular performance sedan has much loftier aspirations.
If the goal is to compete with the likes of BMW and Audi (and it is) KIA went about it as intelligently as one could. First, its performance attributes were overseen by engineer Albert Biermann, former head of BMW’s M Division. Secondly, both its exterior and interior design were overseen by Peter Shreyer, formerly of Audi.
Well played, KIA. Well played, indeed.
Have you ever seen someone walk into a room who was so attractive that it was hard not to look at them? Not to feel a compulsion to know more about them? Yeah, that’s how I felt when I first saw the Stinger. As I struggle not to revert to my predisposition against KIA, let’s build on this further.
First, the Stinger embodies the spirit of Gran Turismo design with its low, wide stance. Aggressive crouched, ready to sprint, it is the extension of KIA’s tiger-nose grille that sits amidst the Stinger’s captivating front fascia. Further accentuated from its front air curtains and swe[t-back headlights, the Stinger looks both hungry and fast. Don’t bother running…it will catch you, and it will eat you.
Walk around the Stinger and you have little choice but to appreciate its fastback-inspired profile. But it’s not all rear-swept slow-rise roofline; the Stinger’s contoured body panels taper at the midsection to give it the feel of a luxury sedan. But just as you’re about to be distracted of those luxury notes, the wide-stance of the 18 or 19-inch wheels, along the outer edge of the body, restore the Stingers animalistic vibe.
Walk around to the rear and the combination of snub-nosed fascia and quad exhaust just make you want to walk around the car again, and again, and again. But be warned, it’s going to be a walk. ‘Proportion is everything’ says KIA, and with a 114.4-inch wheelbase, the Stinger measures even longer than BMW 4 Series, or the Audi A5.
Personally, I have yet to find a square inch of the KIA Stinger GT that I don’t like.
What’s On The Inside
Aside from the eye-catching circular air vents and metallic accents, the Stinger’s cabin design is inspired in its overall simplicity. Speaking to its inspiration, the Gran Turismo driving experience is about spirited, long-distance driving without sacrificing either luxury or comfort. In this regard, the Stinger does not fail to meet its goal.
Built from high-quality, soft-touch materials the interior builds upon some of the luxury sedan notes visible on the exterior. A long horizontal dash helps to visually expand the environment, and the use of a single instrument cluster and a raised ‘tablet-sized’ touchscreen lend the Stinger the upscale feel of a BMW.
Despite many coupe-like features, the overall cabin experience is deceptively welcoming for up to four passengers. Wide-bolstered seating emphasizes the focus on comfort, and the sweptback feel of the Stinger’s profile is echoed within. Even inside it feels fast, but never in a way that sacrifices luxury or comfort.
With all due respect, you should disregard the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine right off the bat. Why? Paired to the same 8-speed automatic transmission, you could opt for the twin turbo 3.3-liter V6. Don’t get me wrong, I applaud the 255 horsepower and 260 lb-ft torque rating of the four-cylinder, but why settle when you could just as easily wrangle 365 horses and 375 lb-ft of torque?
With a unique chassis design, consisting of 55% advance high-strength steel, KIA creates the soul of a vehicle responsive to its handler. Further enhanced by its (electronically sustainable) Dynamic Stability Damping Control suspension it stands out as one of the most adaptive rides available today.
If all that wasn’t enough, the Stinger certainly grabs my attention with its estimated top speed of 167 mph. In fact, it’s 0-60 sprint in 5 seconds makes it faster than some of BMW 3 and 4 Series offerings. Want to test it yourself, but worried about braking power? Don’t. The GT enjoys high-performance Brembo brakes. You’re fine.
While pricing has yet to be released, early rumblings set the Stinger to start around $35,000. Of course, the expectation is that only the 2.0-liter option would start there, with the V6 starting notably higher. I’m okay with that because, based on its design and performance, the KIA Stinger is every inch the luxury performance sedan it aspires to be…and is well worth the consideration that I never gave its predecessors.