The Kia Stinger has a tough job – rival the BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe and identify Kia as a brand that can make more than just luxuriously comfortable vehicles. It has the pedigree to back that up too. Designed by Peter Schreyer of Audi fame, and engineered by a certain Dr. Albert Biermann – former head of BMW’s M Division. If anyone can engineer a rear-wheel drive car, it’s him. Based on Hyundai and Genesis’ front-engine, rear-drive platform, it’s Kia’s first attempt at the drivetrain layout for the US, but the signs are promising.
With its fastback design, the Stinger not only looks good, but it’s roomy too. There’s room for 5 and the rear occupants have genuine headroom because of that roof line. The hatchback also means a copious amount of cargo space – more than 17 cubic feet of it, putting the Stinger closer to 5 Series territory than 3 Series.
Interior materials are premium, more so than what we’ve come to expect from Kia. There’s ultra soft Nappa leather upholstery and deeply contoured seats. The low-slung seating position feels comfortable, and has the dual purpose effect of lowering the center of gravity. The seats have optional air bladders that can be adjusted for improved side bolstering and support. The interior also boasts a heads-up display, and a standard 7-inch touch screen infotainment system with 6 speakers – though an 8-inch screen is available with either 9- or 15-speakers; the latter being Harman Kardon in orgin.
Tuned and engineered by Dr. Biermann, he’s admitted that the Stinger isn’t intended to be a hardcore sports sedan – but rather a luxury grand tourer that can handle a twisty bit of tarmac if need be. MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear suspension are paired with an electronically adjustable suspension setup that can soften or firm up the dampers – drive mode accordingly. The electronically assisted steering might not be the best system, but it’s still very, very good, and definitely the best system Kia has ever put out. Similarly good are Brembo brakes both front and rear ensure potent stopping power with minimal fade even after some abuse.
Keener drivers will want the rear-wheel drive Stinger with its mechanical limited slip differential, as it has a better handling balance. The AWD models have a blunted feel to their drive, despite the torque vectoring system equipped to AWD models.
For the US market, there are two gasoline engine options – the diesel stays in Europe. A 2.0-liter turbo 4-cylinder starts things off with 255 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. The 3.3-liter twin-turbo V6 in the Stinger GT has 365hp and 376 lb-ft on offer, and will crack the 0-62mph sprint in less than 5 seconds – Kia’s quickest car ever. A Kia-engineered 8-speed auto does duty as the only gearbox, and drive is to the rear wheels as standard, though AWD is optional. The engine is prone to small amounts of lag, and the gearbox isn’t as good as rivals’ 8-speed from ZF, but it’s a decent effort.
In addition to the heads-up display and optional 8-inch touch screen infotainment system, there’s navigation and adaptive cruise control available too. Leather upholstery is standard too. LED headlights are also standard, as are 19-inch alloys. In terms of safety, Kia offers driver attention alert for the first time, forward collision assistance, autonomous emergency braking, lane keep assist, blind spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert, and of course ABS brakes and stability control. The Stinger is yet to be crash tested by either the IIHS or NHTSA, but expect it to perform favorably with active safety features.
The Stinger may straddle the line to a larger segment that where it intends to compete, but that just bodes well for comfort. However it still performs well enough to run with the smaller and nimbler offerings like the Audi A5 Sportback and BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe.