Quick Spin

2018 Kia Stinger GT Quick Spin Review | Running the diaper-to-racetrack gamut

On track and off, it’s almost a killer app

  • Image Credit: Alex Kierstein / Autoblog
  • Trim
  • Engine
    3.3L Twin-Turbo V6
  • Power
    365 HP / 376 LB-FT
  • Transmission
    8-Speed Automatic
  • 0-60 Time
    4.7 Seconds
  • Drivetrain
  • Engine Placement
  • Curb Weight
    3,829 LBS
  • Seating
  • Cargo
    23 - 41 Cu. Ft.
  • MPG
    19 City / 25 HWY
  • Base Price
  • As Tested Price
Considering I'm about to throw a bunch of caveats, small gripes, and unflattering anecdotes about this car at you, I want to preface this by saying the rear-wheel-drive Stinger GT does enough well that I actually spent some time with the configurator building one to, perhaps, serve as a family car that can haul ass as well as a bunch of stuff.

And people, too, in five-person comfort, with an infant child seat in the mix. There's a lot of bargain-basement Audi S7 appeal to the thing, and it feels even quicker than its 0-60 number of 4.7 seconds would indicate. Another highlight: the Brembo brakes, 13.8 inches up front clamped by four-piston calipers, and 13.4 inches in the rear. They are superb.

The liftback is a nice touch, adding some extra capacity without a wagon profile that would make it allergic to sales. I put it through a daunting real-world test: a big stroller, a giant box of diapers, two backpacks, two rolling suitcases, and a couple armfuls of baby toys.

With a little creative stacking it all went in without causing passenger compartment intrusion. With further rearrangement, there was even room to deal with a truly distressing diaper crisis — the GT dealt elegantly with this inelegant situation.

The Ceramic Silver paint (one of a frustratingly slim selection of exterior colors) didn't dull the Stinger GT's impact much. It's one of the most handsome and understated colors available, and even so, it drew a lot of attention. Fresh from baby-carrying (and changing) duties, I took it to a SCCA Track Night in America event at the Ridge circuit near Shelton, Wash., where the liftback cargo area swallowed a tub full of tools and a racing helmet with plenty of room to spare. Hell, a set of four rims with track tires could've fit, too. Despite a strong field of interesting cars in attendance, everyone wanted to ask about the Stinger. I feel this color dampens some of the car's over-styling — it would look just as aggressive with fewer faux vents — and displays the unconventional taillights well.

Speaking of Track Night, after about an hour of track time spread over three individual sessions (not bad for just $150), the Stinger GT never felt fully comfortable in its dynamic skin. It had the scoot to top 130 mph on the front straight, and the brakes to haul it down before a super fun series of uphill S-curves immediately afterwards. However, certain situations caught the Stinger out. A track isn't the Stinger GT's natural environment, but a twisty road certainly might be, so stiffer dampers (especially in the rear) would help keep the tail from twitching during abrupt changes in road camber, or hitting imperfections. Small shift paddles and a somewhat lazy shift response from the automatic in manual shift were aggravating enough that I left it in auto mode — a very rare occurrence.

Likewise, it was hard to feed power in smoothly enough to keep surging boost from wiggling the back end. Drive the Stinger GT hard on a windy road, and it's an issue, too. For a car with this sort of performance potential, it'd be nice if the power delivery were as precise and easy to modulate as the brakes. Those brakes deserve a lot of credit, by the way, for helping to mitigate things when, as I was learning the track and the car, I got a bit crossed up.

A last concern: chassis stiffness. From the lack of precise feedback from the front end when completely loaded in a turn, to a disconcerting creaking over every raised entrance to a gas station that put a load on one corner, this Stinger might benefit from some bracing. It's a big, heavy, long-wheelbase car with a giant hole for the liftgate, to be fair — none of that helps with stiffness. Even with that caveat, there's more flex than you'd expect, and this undercuts its otherwise convincing aura of quality and competence.

Ultimately, it's a much more convincing tourer than track star — as you'd expect, although the delta between the roles was more pronounced than anticipated. Long-distance freeway comfort was superb, as our Contributing Editor James Riswick found out on his epic journey from Colorado to Oregon in an AWD Stinger GT. There's just enough interior design creativity baked into the dash to avoid being bored at the view from behind the wheel, and in particular, the T-handle shifter is a great place to rest your hand at a stoplight. Essentially, it's a nice place to be with comfortable, reasonably bolstered seats that should fit a wide range of bodies.

There's not much direct competition. The Regal GS is perhaps closest, but lacks the Stinger GT's attitude or thrust. As a no-options, base Stinger GT, my tester was $39,250 out the door. For that kind of money, you can get more practicality or more power, but no convincing combination of both. Kia could easily dial in the Stinger GT a bit more in a mid-cycle refresh to iron out the last wrinkles, but I'm not sure anyone needs to wait for that eventuality.

The takeaway from this week of extremes — child-rearing mundanity and track shenanigans — is that the Stinger GT is most successful in between. There's space for lots of luggage, the handling at around three-quarters of the car's limits is lovely, and the sheer acceleration is addictive. It represents a good value, too, given its tangible and intangible charms. Kia seems to have a good thing going here, and while there's room to improve, it certainly works well for how it'll be used by real owners. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to play with the configurator a bit more.

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Kia Stinger

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