Uniquely, it's a premium midsize rear-wheel drive sedan with a starting price of $31,900. All-wheel drive is $2,000 additional. And it competes in a field of premium compacts.
The Kia Stinger uses the corporate FR platform that will underpin the forthcoming Hyundai G70 sports sedan and is powered by a 255-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder or a 365-horsepower twin-turbocharged DOHC V6 that's also offered in the Genesis G90 and G80 Sport. An eight-speed automatic transmission is standard.
Designed in Frankfurt, its styling descends from GT Concept that debuted at 2011 Frankfurt Motor Show. Its malevolent mug is the tastiest rendition yet of Kia's classic fascia that's actually a working air curtain with functional vents that aid brake cooling. The rear view is somewhat less arresting, although the Stinger's four oval exhaust pipes speak to its real mission, one that goes beyond sporting good looks.
Sampling the twin-turbo V6 model, it's hard to come away unimpressed, for this is every bit the GT that Kia promises. Its quick steering makes quick work of twisting roads, while its firm ride yields to an underlying softness that ensures ride comfort. Opting for Sport mode makes things more interesting, especially when it comes to sharpening the steering's responsiveness. Other drive modes include Comfort, Smart, Eco, and Custom.
Its solid feel inspires confidence. You could be forgiven for thinking it doesn't wear a Kia badge. And while those accustomed to German sports sedans may object to the Stinger's underlying softness, it never undermines its handling. Given the state of the America's crumbling infrastructure at the hands of career politicians, it's easy to admire the Stinger's adept ride/handling balance at the extremes. It's not an imitation of Europe's finest, but a Korean answer to a European GT, one that most drivers will find captivating.
The cabin's design seems far more sober than the exterior, although there are some wonderful design touches, such as the heated/ventilated seat control activated by a delightfully simple toggle switch on the center console. Similarly, the front door handles are thin blades that prove an interesting counterpoint to the armrests.
Designers got the little things right, with most controls simply designed and easy to use. Audio controls have a metallic finish and are set above the climate controls, which are finished in black plastic and inset below them, making them easy to distinguish while driving. If there's one ergonomic faux pas, it's that it's easy to fold the power mirrors when you merely want to adjust them.
Seats are firm and comfortable, even for longer stretches behind the wheel, a rarity in a Kia. Legroom is generous up front, and superior to any of its similarly priced luxury competitors in the rear. And while the quiet cabin doesn't feel like a cut-rate luxury car, there are items, such as the cheap plastic finish of the glovebox door, that remind you that Kia's money was spent on hardware, not a glitzy cabin.
In 2009 the Soul changed the brand's whole persona, and even if every vehicle hasn't lived up to that, its brashness can be felt in its other products. The Stinger does what the K900 could never do – elevate the brand.
Clearly the 2018 Kia Stinger is no stinker.