Apparently, not all thrill rides are attached to steel tracks in amusement parks. My need for speed is satisfied in spades by the car I’m currently road testing. It’s a spacious, powerful head turner and, believe it or not, it’s a Kia. The 2018 Kia Stinger GT1 is quickly putting a smile on my face. I enjoy driving to begin with but put me in a car with good looks and plenty of power under the hood and I’m a very happy guy.
A stylish sport sedan from Kia really shouldn’t be that surprising, considering a company once known for sensible, affordably priced basic transportation vehicles has, in recent years, shown a great deal of design growth. The sleek, sporty Optima and the luxurious K900 are impressive examples. I knew it was only a matter of time until they came knocking at my door with a sport sedan.
The car’s exterior appearance blends respectability with sporty aesthetics. It’s a big four-door sedan with bold styling and a low roofline, so it really is a car to be driven just about anywhere, from a casual dinner with friends to a black-tie event at the Beverly Hilton. The Stinger has big 19-inch wheels with bright red Brembo performance brakes peeking through. The exterior appearance is further enhanced with distinctive high-gloss hood vents and dual chromed mufflers.
Inside, this car is equally appealing. The interior is quite luxurious, but definitely displays its sporty side with aluminum trim and metal sport pedals. There’s a flat bottom steering wheel which is not really a necessary feature in my opinion, but it does give the car a race car look and feel as well as making it a little easier for the driver to enter and exit the vehicle.
The dashboard has a sleek, sculpted look and is topped with an 8-inch touchscreen navigation and infotainment system. Honestly, I’m not a big fan of touchscreens protruding from the top of the dash in newer vehicles because they often look big and clunky, as if an iPad is embedded in the dash. Kia solved the problem by giving it a lower profile and angling the sides so it blends a little more stylishly into the dash.
The leather-trimmed seating is quite comfortable and the front seats are heated. Stinger has a fairly wide center console but it is well utilized, housing the shift lever, some control switches, a pair of cup holders and a spacious storage compartment. And, while I prefer to remain alert and not get too relaxed while driving, Stinger has interior LED mood lighting that I find quite pleasant and, yes, a bit calming. I do believe I feel an “Om” chant coming on.
There was once a time when I would relax while driving by inserting a CD and listening to my favorite music, but not in Stinger. Like quite a few newer cars, there is no player for the once cool (but apparently not anymore) compact disc. Not to worry, as Stinger has a Harman Kardon premium audio system through which you can listen to your favorite tunes from your smartphone via Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, or simply plug your favorite device into the USB and auxiliary inputs. There are two sets of input jacks, one in the front and one for rear seat passengers.
Heading out on a family trip or going grocery shopping? Pop the rear hatch, and you’ll find an impressive 23.3 cubic feet of cargo space (compared to 13 cubic feet in the 2018 BMW 3-Series Sedan) and, with the rear seats folded, it jumps to 40.9 cubic feet. A generous amount of cargo space for a car of its size and certainly more than I expected in a sport sedan.
I may be enjoying the comfort and amenities of a luxury vehicle but, as I step on the gas, this car is aggressive enough to make me forget I’m in a big, roomy sedan. The meat in this automotive sandwich is a powerful 3.3-liter 365-horsepower twin-turbo V6 engine paired with a smooth and efficient 8-speed automatic transmission. Hit the gas and this car moves! Acceleration is hesitation-free and handling is smooth and solid. Let the car shift on its own or have some fun and take over that function with the steering wheel mounted paddle shifters.
A highly efficient gearbox and responsive steering make this car surprisingly agile, giving me the feeling of driving a much smaller car. MacPherson struts and electronically controlled suspension keep the ride super comfortable while still giving me a good feel of the road. The car takes sharp corners effortlessly and seems to negotiate just about any road surface or driving condition with ease.
For an even bigger rush from time to time, you may want to use Launch Control to enjoy maximum power from a standing stop. It takes a bit of set-up (place car in Sport mode and disengage Auto Hold and traction control) to use this feature and you should only really attempt it in a safe area rather than on public streets, but it does provide a rather exhilarating blast of power. Regular use of Launch Control, however, will put a strain on the engine, transmission and drive shaft.
Stinger has five drive modes: Eco, Smart, Comfort, Custom and Sport. Eco, of course, maximizes fuel efficiency while Smart mode switches between the various drive modes based on your driving habits. Comfort mode provides lighter handling and smoother suspension. Custom mode allows the driver to alter the driving characteristics to their preferences and, needless to say, Sport mode gives performance top priority, tightening everything up a bit and making the car more responsive as well as quickening the throttle response.
One feature I don’t particularly care for on Stinger, and this is something included on a number of newer cars, is the start-stop engine technology. Come to a stop and the engine cuts out and then restarts automatically when you lift your foot off the brake. Maybe I could get used to it over time, but I rather doubt it. Allegedly, this technology helps reduce fuel consumption somewhat but, regardless of the benefits, I find it a bit irritating. There is a switch to disengage the feature, which I quickly located and have taken advantage of.
Stinger has a number of safety items, and this particular model is loaded with such features as Forward Collision Avoidance, Lane Departure Warning and Blind Spot Collision Warning, just to name a few. They are all very beneficial, potentially lifesaving features but, as one would imagine, there are lights, beeps and tones associated with these safety alerts that can be a bit distracting at times.
Speaking of being loaded with features, one of the things that impresses me most about this vehicle is the fact that, as nicely equipped as it is, the price remained at the MSRP of $43,250, without having any pricey options added. A fully loaded all-wheel-drive version of the GT1 comes in at just under $50K.
Priced in the 40s, the Stinger GT1 may seem a bit pricey for a Kia but, based on my road test, this car is packed with value, features and lots of no-nonsense, performance-enhanced fun!
2018 Kia Stinger GT1 RWD V6
As Tested: $43,250
Engine type: 3.3-liter twin-turbo V6
Horsepower: 365HP @ 6,000 rpm
Torque: 376lb-ft @ 1,300 – 4,500 rpm
Transmission type: 8-speed automatic
EPA Fuel Economy Estimates (City / Highway / Combined):