2018 Kia Stinger GT review | STYLE OF CAR

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2018 Kia Stinger GT review
Kia’s debut sport sedan has a starter’s endurance, and a closer’s speed

Highs
Fast, communicate steering
Silky smooth exterior design
Addictive acceleration
Luxurious cabin materials
Superb Harmon Kardon sound system

Lows
A $50K Kia is a tough sell
Make time for plenty of fuel stops

Supercars, military tanks, helicopters, flying saucers. These are just a few of the transportation devices that receive less attention than the 2018 Kia Stinger GT. During our week with Kia’s first-ever sport sedan, no fewer than 20 different people paused their lives to inspect the Korean-made five-door. Our favorite comment (and we suspect Kia would agree) came from a middle-aged male with mild slackjaw. “Sheesh that’s a beautiful car,” he remarked. “I was going to buy my wife a new Lexus, but maybe I should get her one of these instead.”

The Stinger GT is Kia’s most significant model to date, and a promised turning point for a brand best known for economy cars. Styling, technology, and performance will trickle down from the Stinger to all Kia models, but we don’t have to wait until some future date to get excited. The Stinger GT is handsome, potent, and luxurious in all the same ways as its German-made rivals, BMW’s 440i Gran Coupe ($49,700) and Audi’s A5 Sportback Prestige ($50,200). Our test vehicle is a top-of-the-line GT2 trim, retailing for $49,200 (plus destination and handling). Entry-level Stingers with a more modest turbocharged four-cylinder start at just $31,900.

Interior and tech
Performance figures make compelling headlines, but for Kia to actually steal buyers away from BMW or Audi, the Stinger needs premium amenities. To that end, the Stinger GT2 package includes Nappa leather, heated and ventilated seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, an 8.0-inch touchscreen display with voice commands, a 15-speaker Harmon Kardon sound system, a full suite of driver aids, and a 7.0-heads-up display. We’re hard pressed to think of anything the BMW 4 Series GC or the Audi A5 Sportback offer that the Stinger GT does not.
Special focus must be given to the Stinger’s available sound system. Harmon Kardon is renowned for its quality electronics, but the Stinger’s 720-watt, 12-channel unit is a new benchmark. Few vehicles — at any price point — can match the sound quality, range, and balance of the system. One trick to the Stinger’s system is a subwoofer placed beneath each front seat. For heavy bass music, the “butt-subs” add a new dimension to the listening experience. Clari-Fi works to restore audio details lost in digitally compressed music, while Quantum Logic’s surround sound is tailored to the Stinger’s hatchbacked interior for maximum impact. The system reminds us of a high-quality pair of headphones.

Another win for the Stinger GT is its comprehensive driver assistance suite. While both the 4 Series GC and A5 Sportback offer driver aids, they come at a hefty premium and are do not match the range of features included in the Stinger. Included in the Stinger GT2 package is full speed adaptive cruise control, a backup camera with parking grid lines, front and rear parking sensors, blind spot warning with lane change assist, rear cross traffic alert, forward collision avoidance with pedestrian protection, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, and a driver attention monitor. At present, there isn’t a broader ranging suite of driver aids on the market – again, at any price point.

Driving experience
On the surface, the Kia Stinger GT is a simple car — rear-drive, front-engine, automatic transmission. The trick to a great sport sedan, however, is the quality and congruity of these components. Kia’s first attempt at constructing a performance car should, logically, be a learning exercise. Instead, the Stinger GT feels like it comes from a company with a long history building sports sedans.

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