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2018 Kia Stinger: Newfangled Performance Fastback

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Experienced by Kimatni D. Rawlins

There’s a new kid on the block hailing from South Korea that has no problem ripping the runway like Baby Driver’s Ansel Elgort. Rarely known for producing traditional roadrunners, the Koreans have seemed to nail the grand manifestation of the 2018 Stinger, which was actually designed in Frankfurt and developed on the infamous Nürburgring located in the town of Nürburg, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany. Since the aggressive styling and adrenaline-charged acceleration, handling, and braking of the four-door sports hatch are atypical of any Kia I have taken the wheel of, it looks like it’s time to welcome a new era for Kia and their fastback performance sedan.

Being that Kia is the official vehicle of the NBA, Lebron James and fans will certainly enjoy the new player’s active attributes. Housing a 3.3-liter twin-turbo V6 with 365-horsepower and 376 lb.-ft. of torque, the GT Stingers hit 60 mph in 4.7 seconds and can reach a top speed of 167 mph. The entry Stinger flows with a turbocharged 2-liter twin-scroll 4-cylinder engine with 255 horsepower. Both engines are paired with Kia’s in-house 8-speed rear-drive automatic transmission. Built to handle thrilling environments such as The Green Hell, the Stinger is empowered with 4-piston Brembo Brakes with brake fade compensation and brake cooling vents while Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tires (designed internally with Kia engineers) combine with either RWD or rear biased AWD with Dynamic Torque Vectoring technology (up to 50% of the torque can be sent to the front wheels when needed). Some may enjoy the ultimate track demeanor of a GT with RWD proportions but here on the East Coast I prefer that all my wheels manage traction.

The current level of consumer respect for the Kia brand is relatively new in the United States as their transformation began in 2009 with the introduction of the Soul which was an instant hit. In regards to the Stinger, it received initial fanfare at the 2011 Frankfurt Auto Show in the form of the GT Concept. Thankfully company executives didn’t rest on their laurels and put together a product development team to bring the concept to fruition. I’m a Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket football alum so the naming convention is well-suited. Some snicker at our miniscule mascot but the sting of the predatory social wasp is no laughing matter!

“The Stinger is a prime example of Kia’s commitment to surpassing consumers’ expectations in everything we do,” said Orth Hedrick, vice president of product planning, KMA. “Although the Stinger is unlike any other Kia that has come before it in terms of pure driving enjoyment, it is still very much a traditional Kia in that it offers consumers a very compelling value proposition, providing excellent performance and handling, premium features and functionality when compared to its much higher-priced competitors.”

To experience my Korean crush Kia invited media up in the Californian hills for a few days of fantasy auto test-driving. Staying on par with industry standards they benchmarked Infiniti, Audi, BMW, Tesla, and Porsche for ambitious product planning. In fact, the mid to rear silhouette of the chiseled Stinger strikingly resembles the Panamera. The Stinger features an extended hood, short front overhang, long rear overhang, a long wheelbase, broad shoulders, and of course a fastback profile. And with hatch versatility owners will have no issues rolling up to Home Depot or Lowes to rent a leaf blower for clearing their yards. The available Smart Trunk is a plus for occupied hands and the 40.9 cubic feet of space with the seats down basically turns your sports car into a wagon.

Driving through the switchbacks of California was a blast and put the mechanical prowess of the Stinger front and center. Steering from the GT’ flat-bottom steering wheel was taut and firm, the chassis stabilization felt like a German, and the electronically controlled Dynamic Stability Damping Control allowed me to drive aggressively without sacrificing ride quality. Although, I do wish there were more rims styles to differentiate each vehicle from the next. The 19s come with high-performance summer tires while the 18s are wrapped in all-seasons. Quad pipe tips, an integrated decklid wing, split dual grille, side vents, a chin spoiler, red Brembo calipers, rear diffuser, and hood vents amplify the Stinger’s imposing, exterior DNA traits. And for proper airflow and redistribution the underbody wears a full cover.

<a href="https://flic.kr/s/aHsky9Qstp" target="_blank">Click to View</a>

Inside, the cabin is sporty (red interior is my first preference) and authentic since it integrates hand-stitched elements like the steering wheel, seats, and door panels with true metal pedals, metal-ringed gauges, turbine-shaped air vents, a 16-way power driver seat, a 12-way passenger chair, and available ultra-soft Nappa leather. A new height-adjustable, color Head-up Display highlights vehicle speed, turn-by-turn directions, blind spot detection, and parking minder while the color instrument cluster commingles the performance gauges including a track timer for weekend warriors. Moreover, the touchscreen UVO3 infotainment and telematics system offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Premium sound can be had by way of the 720-watt, 15-speaker Harman Kardon audio system with dual underseat-mounted subwoofers, QuantumLogic surround sound, and Clari-Fi digital music restoration technology that reestablishes the original sound quality of compressed audio files. At first I thought my bottom would be thumping from the subwoofers but that was far from the truth.

Safety is presented through 18 driver assistance sensors and various assistance systems such as Driver Attention Warning, Forward Collision Avoidance with pedestrian detection, Smart Cruise Control with Stop & Go, Lane Keeping Assist, Blind Spot Collision Warning, and Rear Cross-Traffic Collision Warning.

With five trim levels to choose between pricing starts at $31,900 for a base Stinger, $37,100 for a Stinger Premium, and $38,350 for the Stinger GT. GT1 and GT2 editions are also at your disposal for $43,250 and $49,200 respectively. AWD can be added to any trim for $2,200 and the destination charge is $900. It’s a great time to shine and why not do it in unique fashion with Kia’s newfangled performance fastback.

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