2018 Kia Stinger GT2 new car reviews

See our in-depth video review of the Kia Stinger GT2 Here, on GRM Live!

Four doors plus a hatch, a low stance, rear-wheel drive, twin-turbo power and a driver-oriented cockpit. BMW? No, Kia.

Meet the long-awaited Stinger.

Is it a true GT car? Kia says so: “This question was the foundation for a years-long journey that began when the GT Concept was first unveiled at the 2011 Frankfurt Motor Show. Although every Kia design study has a purpose, the GT Concept was something considered by many outside the company as little more than a dream for a brand known for producing mass-market transportation rooted in value. But the GT Concept ignited embers of passion that sparked a fire within the organization and, over the next five years, that fire would grow beyond fantasy and morph into reality.”

“Once the Stinger was green lighted, that gran turismo question became a mantra as development commenced. Coming from Kia, the design had to be bold. And it was. But it also had to be nimble and fast while also luxurious and quiet. It had to achieve the perfect balance of ride and handling and seat five comfortably with room for luggage. It had to be a lot of things, but most of all, it had to be an authentic gran turismo. And it is.”

The Stinger is available with two engine choices: a 255-horsepower turbo-four or the 365-horsepower, 3.3-liter, twin-turbo V6. It can also be had with all-wheel drive.

The top trim level is the GT2, and it adds niceties like a head-up display, Nappa leather trim and, on the rear-drive version, a mechanical limited-slip differential. The GT2 package is only available with the V6 engine and starts at $49,200–add $2200 for the all-wheel-drive option. Brembo brakes come standard, as they also do on the GT and GT1 models.

We actually drove two variants: J.G. drove an all-wheel-drive GT2, while David drove the rear-wheel-drive GT2.

Other staff views

J.G. Pasterjak
JG Pasterjak
Production/Art Director

We’re about to tell you about a $53,000 Kia. What’s more, we’re about to tell you about a Kia WORTH $53,000.

If you’d have told us 25 years ago that Kia would be selling $53,000 cars in the U.S.–let alone ones that were the match for their German counterparts who this car is squarely aimed at–we’d have called the authorities.

Yet here we are.

It’s tempting to call the Stinger a departure for Kia, but the reality is that it’s simply Kia doing what they’re been doing for several years now in a new place. They’ve been building best-of-the-class vehicles with the frugal, useful Soul and the gorgeous, sporty mid-sized Optima for a while, so why shouldn’t they ride that wave into the premium sporty sedan class?

Yes, Kia takes a serious shot at the German heavyweights–specifically cars like the BMW 440i Grand Coupe and Audi A5 Sportback–with the 365hp, AWD Stinger GT. What’s more, they do it for thousands less than the Teutonic titans. Our every-box-checked GT2-trim Stinger test car would set you back the aforementioned $53,000 and change. A similarly-equipped comparable 440i or A5 can easily pass the $60,000 mark.

Still, that’s a lot of scratch for a brand entering the premium segment when their forte—literally and figuratively—has been offering premium features on a tighter budget than the alternatives. But that’s exactly what they do with the Stinger GT.

With a 3.3-liter twin turbo V6 under the hood, the AWD Stinger hits 60 in less than five seconds. Thrust is linear and ample, and shifts from the 8-speed automatic are firm and snappy without unsetting the chassis much, although there’s a slight delay when using the paddles on the steering wheel to shift. Handling is good, but let’s not forget this is a sporty sedan, not a sports car. The steering gives up a little feel to the BMW and Audi when pushed hard, but for 95% of the performance envelope you’d be hard pressed to find any real fault. We’ll blame this a bit on the tires, and while the OEM Michelin Pilot Sports are fine rubber, at 255mm wide, we think they could stand to put a bit more rubber on the road. They even look a bit stretched on the 8.5” wide rear wheels. Another 10 or 20mm of tire could be less easy to overwhelm at the limit, but, again, we’re making judgments well out of the range of operation this car is usually going to live in.

Where it will mostly live is where it excels: Transporting you with swiftness and alacrity with good feedback and a sporty demeanor. Various drive modes are available to personalize the driving experience, from economy and comfort modes, to sporty and fully customizable modes. The eco mode’s engine shutoff feature is one of the most transparent we’ve ever experienced, but we didn’t really see appreciably higher fuel economy than in other modes. Perhaps urban commuters would notice a larger difference, but we got mid-20s in mixed use, just as Kia claims.

Sport mode tightens the chassis and makes the throttle a bit more aggressive, but it never gets harsh. We drove the car in central Indiana, which has notoriously lousy highways, and found all of the modes perfectly livable. Comfort mode is perfectly suited for everyday driving, with plenty of feel and feedback and acceleration available, while Sport mode is a fine selection for your favorite backroad, or when you want to feel that nice, linear, throttle input and unleash the 365hp V6 a bit easier.

So, the real question is whether or not people will accept a premium Kia in the ecosystem of predominantly German sedans. In a blind taste test, all but the purest of pure BMW or Audi fanbois would be hard-pressed to find appreciable difference in the driving experience. The BMW and Audi may have a very slight edge on interior materials, for example, but Kia smokes them both on ergonomics and usability of all the controls. You’ll never have to open the owner’s manual to figure out how to make it hotter or colder in the Stinger, whereas you may need to make a collect call to Dusseldorf to figure out how to manually tune the radio in the BMW or Audi.

So we’ll bottom-line it here: Kia has kicked open the door in the Premium Sport Sedan segment and given notice to BMW and Audi that they’re not here to play. Whether they will survive in a market segment dominated by brand loyalty—deservedly so, because the Germans build great, driver-oriented cars—remains to be seen, but their entry is certainly legit.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens
Editorial Director

I could drive this car every day and be happy. There, that’s my entire review.

Okay, a little more. First, it’s the right size. It feels, drives and parks like a modern 3 Series which is a heck of a bogey.

Likewise, the cockpit looks like something out of Germany. It’s modern yet traditional at the same time. The driver faces real analog gauges, not fake ones drawn on an LCD screen. The doors close with a German thud. The seats felt totally perfect. The bolsters would make Goldilocks happy: just right.

Changing the radio station, adjusting the temperature, or turning on the seat warmers/coolers doesn’t require a visit with the owners manual. Ditto the navigation system. The buttons and controls are intuitive and right where they should be. At the same time, the interior remains clutter-free.

The chassis feels composed on off-ramps, while it’s nice to see Michelin tires as standard. I agree with J.G. that a little more footprint wouldn’t hurt.

The hatchback body is much appreciated. It’s practical yet stylish. Don’t tell me that hatchbacks are viewed as low-rent.

Looking at the numbers, 365 horsepower doesn’t sound like a ton of power these days. But it’s plenty here. Power delivery is smooth, linear and perfectly matched to the eight-speed transmission. No manual box? Honestly, it doesn’t need one. It’s a GT car, not a Miata fighter.

Is it a GT car? Yup.

Can Kia sell a $53,000 car? At roughly 1500 units per month, it’s already outselling the Cadenza and K900, their other premium offerings.

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bobzilla MegaDork
7/3/18 3:46 p.m.

You have no idea how happy this makes me. OK, you probably do, but still. Now to wait 3 years for the depreciation to hit and I'm in!

John Welsh
John Welsh Mod Squad
7/3/18 3:50 p.m.

In reply to bobzilla :

Did you read the part where they said they test drove these in Indiana?  Might be time phone a new phone because apparently yours misses calls. devil

bobzilla MegaDork
7/3/18 3:55 p.m.
John Welsh said:

In reply to bobzilla :

Did you read the part where they said they test drove these in Indiana?  Might be time phone a new phone because apparently yours misses calls. devil

Yeah, I don't know that JG has my number. I'll let it slide this time. 

nderwater UltimaDork
7/3/18 3:57 p.m.

The BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe is a great car. As I look forward to my next car I'm very curious to know whether the Kia or Bimmer will depreciate faster.

Harvey GRM+ Memberand Dork
7/3/18 5:51 p.m.

I realize keeping the costs down means keeping the options low, but when I go to configure the GT2 and there is one interior color option for most of the exterior colors it makes me sad.

The other thing is that I think they are seriously overestimating how many people will want a red or white interior. Blue exterior only has white interior? Silver and black exterior only have red interior? I can't believe I'm saying this, but they probably should have just gone with black if they were going to limit it to one color.

Vigo UltimaDork
7/3/18 10:50 p.m.

This car and the Alfa Giulia both felt a little 'out of left field'. Both manufacturers that had either no current US presence in the segment, or no historical presence in the segment at all (or both!) that launched relatively unhyped cars (compare to frs/brz for example) that got rave reviews right out of the gate.  Pleasant surprises!

Klayfish PowerDork
7/4/18 12:26 p.m.

As I've said before, I got to drive an AWD GT2 and a RWD GT2 through a 0-60 run and a small autox course at SEMA last fall.  The instructor really let me turn it loose in the RWD car after he gained a comfort level with me in the AWD car.  I was thoroughly impressed by it.  Quick, good handling (it's a bit heavy), responsive with a super nice interior.

Really hope it depreciates like the K900 and Cadenza...I may own one in 12-18 months if it does.

STM317 SuperDork
7/4/18 12:50 p.m.

If it didn't already have enough challenges establishing itself into a new market that's dominated by brand loyalty, a $50k Kia in a market that spurns cars in favor of CUVs seems like a tough sell. 

I've only seen 1 in the wild and it was really eye catching. I credit the fact that it was an actual color (blue) instead of some black/white tones.

M2Pilot Dork
7/4/18 9:51 p.m.

I test drove a GT2 around 6 months ago.  I was well impressed.  I own a '16 BMW M3 and the Stinger reminded me of it more than just a little.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
7/6/18 9:05 a.m.

I have seen a few in the wild. They look good out there. 

We drive a lot of new cars. This was one of the standouts from the last couple of months. 

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