First Drive:2018 Kia Stinger

Kia’s Stinger says something about the company. Possibly that the Koreans will try anything once. But that’s good for us because it’s hard not to like the Stinger, a shapely four-door hatchback with as much as 365 horsepower under its hood. Part sports sedan, part luxury sedan, and part practical family hauler, the Stinger has intrigued us since it first hit the show stand as the Kia GT concept back in 2011. Part of that intrigue is a result of the Stinger retaining its styling character between show stand and showroom, something few concept cars manage to do.

Available in rear- or all-wheel drive and equipped only with Kia’s in-house-built eight-speed automatic, the Stinger was among the first models powered by the corporate twin-turbocharged 3.3-liter V-6, which is largely responsible for shaping the car’s character. A 255-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four is the base engine, but for life with a Stinger we opted for the burlier power plant.

A spring arrival for our long-term Stinger presented the perfect opportunity for Kia to supply our long-term all-wheel-drive car on its standard 19-inch summer tires, yet the blue hatchback arrived on 18-inch Bridgestone all-season rubber, a zero-cost option. Although there’s no financial burden associated with the mediocre rubber, we paid a 0.06-g penalty in lateral acceleration. Our car circled the skidpad at 0.85 g versus 0.91 g for the last all-wheel-drive V-6 Stinger we tested, which was on summer tires. Our initial test (the numbers shown here) was performed on the all-seasons, but we’ve since installed a set of Michelin Pilot Sport 4 rubber—the factory summer fitment—to get us through the warm months.

Our GT1-trim car’s V-6 is the same twin-turbo engine we praised in our first test of the model for propelling the rear-drive version of the car to a ludicrous 12.9-second quarter-mile at 111 mph. All-wheel-drive Stingers aren’t as quick, ours turning in a 13.2-second run at 107 mph. A launch-controlled 60 mph arrived in 4.7 seconds and was accompanied by a persistent overheating-transmission warning, which eventually manifested in activating limp mode after repeated runs with the eight-speed shifting itself. We could be off to a better start.

Electronically controlled dampers with two ranges of calibration are standard on the GT1, but the limited-slip rear differential—available on the V-6’s base GT trim and standard on the GT2—is curiously unavailable on the GT1. Optionally fitted to our Stinger is the $2000 Advanced Driver Assist System (a.k.a. the Kia Drive Wise package), which adds forward-collision-warning and -avoidance features, adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist and lane-departure warnings, and other predictive and preventive safety features that help drive its price from $46,350 to $48,400 as tested. (The cheapest way into a V-6 all-wheel-drive Stinger is $41,450.)

We know the Stinger isn’t a limit-driving fiend even on its summer tires. But the car’s around-town and highway ride comfort are desirable companions, as is its utilitarian four-door hatchback body. Possibly these will be sufficient to mitigate this Stinger’s performance compromises when we render final judgment after 40,000 miles.

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