In the Driver's Seat

Kia Stinger stands alone

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Kia 2018 Stinger

There are people and things we know by only one word. In the car world, there’s Corvette, XKE, Mustang, Cobra — the list goes on. No need to add on the brand name because we all know who they are. Can we now add “Stinger” to the list?

Although Stinger looks very similar to Kia’s other “large” (relatively) sedans, it stands alone. Its wheelbase (114.4 inches) and length (190.2 inches) don’t match any other Kia four-door: The K900 is longer in both dimensions, the Cadenza is longer on a shorter wheelbase, and the Optima is 4 inches shorter on a wheelbase that is not quite an inch longer. I’m sure that Kia had a reason for building one more four-door sedan, but I can’t figure it out and I don’t care.

Other car companies have built four-door performance cars, and while the reviews have been raves, sales have often been so-so. In fact, Kia’s lineup of sedans flies in the face of the announcement of Ford — and hints from others — about abandoning the sedan market. So kudos to Kia for (hopefully) seeing something the others haven’t.

Performance makes Stinger. Like car companies of bygone years, Kia offers two performance levels. The first is a 2.0-liter, Twin Scroll Turbo four-cylinder that puts out 255 horsepower. The ultimate Stinger, like the one I tested, has a 3.3-liter, Twin-Turbo V6 that makes an impressive 365 horsepower.

The only transmission available with either engine is an eight-speed automatic. Like many modern automatics, it lets you choose different shift profiles. I usually left it in the normal position, but now and then — you know, when I wanted to show off — I’d switch to sport and accelerate hard.

I’m not sure about how Kia names the trim levels for the Stinger. There are five levels: 2.0L, Premium, GT, GT1, and GT2. I kind of expected the three GTs at least to mean different power or handling packages, but they just seem to have different luxury/electronics stuff.

The only real option is all-wheel drive, which is a $2,200 upgrade on all levels. Rear-wheel drive is standard. All-wheel drive adds almost 200 pounds to the Stinger’s weight, but that weight is on the front. The test car had all-wheel drive.

Magazines have recorded 0-60 times in the range of 4.5 seconds, the quarter mile in 12.9 seconds at 111 mph, and a top speed of 167 mph. I would expect the all-wheel-drive Stinger to be just a tad slower. Fuel economy is exactly the same for either rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive at 19 mpg city and 25 mpg highway.

If there was anything incongruous about the Stinger for me, it came from the TV ad where Emerson Fittipaldi is throwing a Stinger around a racetrack with tires smoking. Stinger is no slouch, but it isn’t a hot rod; it is a Grand Touring car. So although acceleration is quick and the handling crisp, the car is more at home cruising at high speed. Too bad top speed is legally limited to 70 mph.

Despite all the options and electronics, I never felt like Stinger was driving me. Electronics are just another tool and that is how they should be used. These idiots with autonomous or semi-autonomous cars that crash are just that — idiots. When and if the electronics are perfect, I’ll let you know, but when voice control can’t always decipher what someone is saying, I want a human override for any system.

The good thing with the different Stinger packages is that they are all-inclusive. Even carpeted floor mats are included on the all-wheel-drive GT2.

I’ve railed against super-low-profile tires in the past. Kia must have been paying attention, because although the Stinger GT2 is equipped with 19-inch wheels and tires (P225/40R19 front/P255/35R19 rear), the ride wasn’t terribly harsh. (Normally AWD vehicles have the size tires front and rear and I forgot to actually look at the tires, so the sizes may be incorrect.)

I was glad to see Stinger had some great brakes — Brembo front and rear with huge rotors. It’s always nice to see a car company take stopping as seriously as going.

Stinger GT2 AWD lists for $51,400 plus $900 for “inland freight and handling.” Why car companies insist on charging freight is beyond me, but they do.

The least expensive Stinger, the 2.0L, is $31,900. If I were looking for some fast, comfortable, cross-country transportation, Stinger GT2 would be on my list.

Tracy resident Bruce Hotchkiss has been writing car reviews and news about the automotive world since 1984 for publications in Canada, California and Nevada. Check out his blog at www.brucehotchkiss.net. Comments and questions can be sent to bruce.hotchkiss@gmail.com

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