First off, the Stinger GT is arguably the most distinct and exciting car in its small-to-midsize luxury sport sedan segment. It looks hunkered down over its massive 19-inch wheels. The proportions are proper with a long nose, short deck, and plenty of space between the front wheels and the base of the windshield. Its fastback shape both evokes classic coupes while also disguising its practical hatchback. It's a car with real presence wherever it goes, and the fact that it isn't selling in Camry numbers means that it's still rather cool to see one in the wild. In fact, when I came back from one of my press trips and was on the airport shuttle back to the parking lot, the driver became really excited when he saw I was driving our Stinger. He started asking me questions about it and how much he loved it when he saw it at the last Detroit Auto Show.
So that's style nailed down. As for performance, the Stinger GT has plenty of that, too. Even though it's been in our fleet a few months, the twin-turbo V6 still impresses with its 365 horsepower and 376 pound-feet of torque. After just a minute delay when hitting the skinny pedal, boosted power hits with a rush, and of course that power is available throughout the rev band, meaning you never have to work the engine hard to go fast. It's coupled with an extremely composed chassis that doesn't lean too much, and is happy to leap into action at the behest of the very quick steering wheel. This all-wheel-drive model does feel a little less quick to turn in than the rear-drive model we had earlier this year, but it does also provide a certain feeling of security if the rear gets loose. Its big Brembo brakes bring the Stinger to a halt in a hurry, too, and with solid brake feel. It's all good enough that senior editor Alex Kierstein took one to a racetrack. The biggest issue I have with the car is the transmission. It's fine, but it doesn't shift very quickly, on its own or when the driver plays with the paddles. But at least it's smooth and comfortable.
Speaking of comfort, that's another area where the Stinger perfectly fits the GT category. While it's an athletic machine, it's not harsh. Bumps are soaked right up and kept fairly quiet for the occupants. It's easy to find a nice driving position, too, thanks to a steering wheel and seat with plenty of height and reach adjustment. The front and rear seats are both spacious places to be, and of course there are oodles of room under the rear hatch. Controls are a breeze to use since they're all based on the Hyundai and Kia corporate infotainment system.
The engine is smooth and fairly quiet, as well. That may be a good thing, since the engine note itself isn't particularly great to listen to. It sounds a little nasal, lacking much growl, snarl, howl or any other appealing noise you would hope to hear. Maybe an aftermarket exhaust or intake could liven it up, but we're fine with its muted sound for now.
The one area that stands out as a place Kia could improve is the seats. They're a bit flat, and the lower seat cushion is really short. On long drives, my thighs were getting a bit tired.
So, style, speed and usability — the Kia Stinger GT hits all of them on the head. Despite a couple of shortcomings, it's exemplary of what a real GT should be, and for way less than the grandest of grand tourers. Actually, does that makes the Stinger GT the grandest of grand tourers? Maybe so, maybe so...