We write the obituary for Kia's excellent sport sedan.
Most new cars are not designed to form an emotional attachment with their driver. They get from point A to point B, and that's about it. The Kia Stinger was among the few sports sedans left on the market that could put a big, dumb smile on our faces, but sadly it's going away soon. With just a few months to go before production runs dry before the middle of 2023, time is running out to buy a Stinger.
The Stinger felt like Kia pouring its heart and soul into the car. It was a genuine passion project focused more on driving enjoyment than checking every box on customer wish lists. Sadly, it wasn't enough to pull consumers from their crossover obsession, and Stinger sales weren't enough to justify its continued existence.
We've been fortunate enough to drive Kia's ultimate sports sedan several times since it went on sale in 2018. Before it goes away, we wanted to wax lyrical about the Kia Stinger and talk about why it earned a special place as one of our favorite cars on sale.
At the 2014 Detroit Auto Show, Kia revealed the Stinger GT4 Concept as a rear-wheel-driven sports car that would shake up perceptions of the brand. Under the leadership of ex-Audi designer, Peter Schreyer, Kia was going to reinvent itself to be more than a manufacturer of reliable, semi-stylish commuter hatches and sedans. The Stinger GT4 set tongues wagging and was the talk of the town for some time, even being touted for production. The bean counters may have put to bed the concept of a Kia sports car, but Schreyer and his engineers clearly hadn't given up, and they infused the Stinger with sports car DNA to make it a fun family sedan to rival BMW.
Despite the many strides Kia has made in recent years to produce world-class vehicles, many consumers still have a negative perception of the brand based on decades of lackluster products. But when the Stinger came out, there was a seismic shift in how the Kia brand was viewed.
Especially after the 2022 facelift where it only said "Stinger" on the back, the average person with minimal car knowledge had no idea this car was a Kia product. Pointing it out as a Kia and watching people's reactions became one of the most enjoyable parts of reviewing the Stinger. Kia is now in the process of taking the positive street cred it gained from building the Stinger and applying it to other premium vehicles like the EV6. The Korean brand no longer has to prove it can build cool cars; we know it can.
In our first drive of the Stinger, we boldly proclaimed that it was more fun to drive than a BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe at a much lower price. By hiring Albert Biermann away from the BMW M Division, Kia ensured the Stinger would encapsulate everything great about mid-2000s M cars like the E46 M3 and E39 M5: talkative steering, a playful chassis, and a balanced rear-drive layout.
Both engine options were enjoyable to drive, even more so when Kia introduced a more potent 2.5-liter four-cylinder model with 300 horsepower (up from the 2.0-liter's 255 hp). But the 3.3-liter twin-turbo V6 GT model was always the star of the lineup, with 365 horsepower when it debuted and 368 hp from. The sprint to 60 mph took only 4.7 seconds, meaning it was quicker than a 440i Gran Coupe when it first debuted. Kia even added all-wheel drive so the Stinger could be enjoyed by enthusiasts living in cold weather climates.
Though the K900 deserves some credit as well, the also Stinger served an important role in cementing Kia as a quality manufacturer that could charge premium brand prices. Starting at $36,590 and getting well into the $50,000 range for upper trims, the Stinger proved that Kia could command more for its products. The effect this car had on the Kia brand is clearly evident as consumers have no issue paying over sticker price for the Telluride, an SUV that outclasses its mainstream rivals and makes luxury SUVs seem overpriced. If not for the Stinger, there's no way Kia could charge $over $60 grand for a fast EV without being laughed at. Now, the EV6 GT seems like a value compared to the $69,990 Tesla Model Y Performance.
It may have been engineered for fun, but Kia didn't skimp on practicality with the Stinger. The hatchback design yielded a trunk with 23.3 cubic feet of space. For reference, a similarly-priced Toyota Venza only offers around five additional cubes. That trunk area wasn't especially tall, but owners could drop the rear seats down to open up nearly 41 cubic feet of space. We love liftback sedans like the Stinger that can show buyers they can have practicality without sacrificing performance.
With the Stinger gone, the Volkswagen Arteon is the last mainstream sedan to offer a liftback. All other vehicles with this configuration have a luxury badge. It pains us to think that sedans like the Stinger were unsuccessful in proving there's a viable alternative to buying a crossover.
Before it exits production, the Stinger will get one final special edition, limited to 1,000 units worldwide. The Stinger Tribute Edition is based on the V6-powered GT and comes with a special new matte grey paint color called Moonscape (Ascot Green is available too). Other special touches include black wheels, carbon fiber-effect inlays, a numbered plaque on the door sill, and a wasp emblem on the headrests. We wish it included a slight power increase, but the Tribute Edition is still a cool way to send off the Stinger in style.
Kia has positioned the EV6 GT as the Stinger's spiritual successor. This electric crossover clearly carries the performance torch from the Stinger with 576 hp from its dual motor setup, good for a 0-60 sprint in just 3.4 seconds and a drift mode for all the smoky fun the Stinger GT was known for. The EV6 GT is certainly quick enough, but there's something sad and cynical about a crossover replacing one of the world's best sports sedans.
Perhaps Kia will bring the Stinger back as an EV, quicker than ever before and just as fun to drive. So long as it retains the thrilling driving dynamics, we wouldn't care if it went electric. In our dream scenario, Kia would build an electric two-door coupe like the Stinger GT4 to sit as the brand's flagship model. In the meantime, nothing will replace the Stinger-sized hole in our hearts.
Goodbye, Kia Stinger; we hope to see you again soon.