By on March 5, 2019

2018 Kia Stinger GT2 AWD

3.3-liter twin-turbocharged V6 (365 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm; 376 lb-ft @ 1,300-4,500 rpm)

Eight-speed automatic, all-wheel drive

19 city / 25 highway / 25 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)

12.7 city, 9.6 highway, 11.3 combined (NRCan Rating, L/100km)

Base Price: $51,400 (U.S) / $49,995 (Canada)

As Tested: $52,300 (U.S.) / $51,980 (Canada)

Prices include $900 destination charge in the United States and $1,885 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can’t be directly compared.

That headline has two meanings, at least as pertains to the 2018 Stinger.

One meaning: Watch your right foot. It’s easy to quickly get this car above the speed limit.

Meaning number two: When I first drove the Stinger, I harped about its tendency for greater than desired body roll in corners. Well, that tendency doesn’t show up in urban commuting, because I wasn’t driving the car the way I did in the California mountains during its launch.

Drive it a little less hard, and its biggest flaw stays hidden. Problem solved.

Not only that, it goes from being a good (but not great) hatchback grand-touring car to an excellent sporty commuter hatch.

Not that the buying public has noticed – just under 19,000 Stingers have found a home since its launch in late 2017. That’s too bad, because while the Stinger isn’t cheap (at least not in GT2 AWD guise), it’s very good.

Acceleration is addictive, thanks to the 3.3-liter twin-turbo V6 underhood that makes 365 horsepower and 376 lb-ft of torque. That’s true whether in Sport mode or not – you’ll be deep in the throttle each chance you get. And not just for the rush, but for the noise. The car sounds fantastic.

2018 Kia Stinger GT2 AWD

The MacPherson setup in front and five-point multilink suspension out back help make the car a strong handler. As noted above, body roll can be an issue when the car is truly pushed, but in typical suburban commuting, it doesn’t rear its head. The Stinger is stable and planted, and the steering feels well weighted with appropriate accuracy.

As to be expected, Sport mode tightens the car up and is the preferred mode for aggressive driving.

All this is done without sacrificing freeway ride. Long freeway jaunts are comfortable in this car, as one might expect from a grand touring hatchback. Quiet, too – unless you gun the gas to hear the lovely exhaust note, engine noise fades into the background.

As I mentioned in my first drive, the interior is very pretty, save for the tacked-on infotainment screen that mars an otherwise artful design. Why automakers continue to ruin otherwise strong designs is beyond me.

2018 Kia Stinger GT2 AWD

At least nothing truly mars the exterior’s sleek look. Kia keeps it mostly simple here, with just a couple vents atop the hood to clutter things up. The roofline slopes neatly into the rear, with gentle-enough lines that you don’t even realize the car is a hatch.

Opt for the GT2 AWD trim, and the price is a bit dear at a tick over $50K. That said, you do get a lot of content. Not to mention options are limited to small accessory-type things, like ashtrays and such, and a no-cost all-season tire package with 18-inch wheels.

Content including Brembo brakes, 19-inch wheels with summer tires, heated and cooled front seats, leather seats, dual-zone climate control, heated steering wheel, power tilt/telescope steering wheel, navigation, premium audio, satellite radio, head-up display, forward-collision avoidance and warning system, smart cruise control, lane-keep and departure warning system, driver-attention warning, blind-spot collision warning, rear cross-traffic collision warning, power sunroof, LED headlamps, power trunk (yes, I know it’s a hatch – this is what the Monroney says), and auto-sensing windshield wipers.

2018 Kia Stinger GT2 AWD

Carpeted floor mats and a red leather interior were added at no charge.

Fuel economy is listed at a relatively respectable 19 mpg city/25 mpg highway/21 mpg combined – not bad for a large car with twin turbos and the weight of all-wheel drive.

I don’t know exactly why the Stinger isn’t selling, but I have my thoughts. One is that the segment itself is mostly dead, thanks at least in part to the crossover craze. Another is that Americans still don’t trust Kia to come up with a truly excellent grand tourer.

Those two things may be true, but that’s unfortunate – the Stinger is a mostly excellent package that’s being overlooked due to external factors. Ask Chevrolet how that worked out with the SS.

If I had the means, the Stinger would be on the shopping list. It’s too bad it isn’t on more.

[Images © 2019 Tim Healey/TTAC]

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39 Comments on “2018 Kia Stinger GT2 AWD Review – Keep It Within the Limit...”

  • avatar

    The roll can be fixed with suspension bits. My bigger gripe is that it looks too similar to my ’13 Optima with the wheels shifted forward ~6″. I am done with sport sedans anyway. They are a tease.

    • 0 avatar

      The only area where it shares similarity w/ the ’13 Optima is at the greenhouse (the current Optima’s greenhouse is diff. and less attractive); the front and rear fascias are completely different.

  • avatar

    It’s a GRAND TOURER – the suspension should be a bit soft.

    You want more track focused go get a G70.

    • 0 avatar

      Still, the suspension needs some tweaking.

      Needs a thicker rear sway-bar to get rid of the rear “wiggle” (a good # of owners have done so and have stated that the rear is more planted) and springs and dampers can be made to allow for a compliant ride, while losing some of that body-roll (still going to have some, which can’t be helped due to the weight).

      The Australian market Stinger has a better suspension tune, so shouldn’t be that difficult to improve the USDM Stinger.

  • avatar

    No creaking noises from the sunroof or rear hatch that other reviewers complain about?

  • avatar

    The Stinger was on my shortlist, along with the Regal GS. Both were around $53k CAD for the top-of-the line trim. The difference was the Buick dealer was willing to make a *really* good deal and ended up being thousands cheaper than the Kia. And FWIW, I still don’t trust a Kia to be as reliable as a GM (friends with recent Kias support this). Also while I know both will take a resale hit, at least the Buick was discounted more upfront to negate some of that.

    I get that the Kia will be faster in a straight line, but I have a C6 for when I need speed. Although when I thought about it, how many times in a given week/month do I actually put my foot to the floor of my DD? If you’re not using all those horses, no sense paying for them. I also think that the Buick has a nicer and more comfortable interior (like Tim, I don’t like the Kia’s screen or 3 huge round vents). So in the end I bought the GS.

  • avatar

    I’d be torn between this and the G70 – I like the Kia’s hatch, but the styling isn’t really “me”. I like a more conservative look. From what I’ve seen, the G70 appears to have a nicer interior.

    The only answer to this is a TTAC comparison test, which hasn’t been done in some time.

    • 0 avatar

      I wish the G70 had about 5 more cubic feet of trunk space. Then I could try to justify having it as my only vehicle. But I know that’s not the point of a 3 Series fighter.

      The KIA dealers around here have basically been advertising Stingers at MSRP. And by dealer it seems to be that they either ordered ALL of them AWD or NONE of them AWD.

      I think the 4 cyl Turbo AWD Stinger with all of the options is a pretty sweet alternative to the loaded up Altima, Camry, Malibu but I don’t want to pay MSRP for one either.

      • 0 avatar

        Surely those dealers will discount the Stinger? What about lease cash-back? That was a “thing” awhile back in the U.S. where Kia gave you (a different amount each month, but the highest was, I think) about $7,000 back. Then after a few payments, people bought the car outright, saving the $7k. And on top of that, dealers in the U.S. were also discounting significantly. Not sure if Canada has any of those lease deals though. The dealer is stupid not to discount the Stinger if they aren’t moving (which it sounds like they aren’t).

  • avatar

    I think the “body roll” stuff is overblown or maybe it was a preproduction issue. The way some people wrote about it I was nearly expecting a Grand Marquis experience. It isn’t the absolute sharpest handler in its price range (the ATS wins there IMO), but it isn’t the worst either. Overall, I think Kia did a good job with the ride/handling balance here and I wouldn’t alter it (YMMV).

    The biggest performance complaint I have is actually the brakes. Despite the fancy-looking 4-piston Brembo calipers and big rotors, the braking doesn’t feel any better than what I had on my Charger (which were just 2-piston and unbranded). A friend just bought a Mustang GT without any performance packages and the basic Ford’s brake feel shames the Kia’s.

    The engine is fun, but it makes its power like a tuned Duramax. I personally think the power delivery of the 5.0L would be better suited for a “grand touring” car.

    Quality-wise it has been much better than the Dodge, but not perfect. No issues with rattles, but it does “groan” for a moment after it has been sitting for a few hours. My passenger front window has also developed a bad squeak that’s going to require a dealer visit. And the seatbelt retractors are too slow.

    • 0 avatar

      Brake feel has little to do with rotor size or number of pistons. Its likely more about the brake boost effect (percentage and pressure) and pad selection. The advantage of the bigger brakes would likely show up after repeated application. The smaller ones would be toast (overheated, fade, etc) while the bigger ones would still feel and more importantly perform the same.

  • avatar

    I’ve seen two Stingers out in the wild – so yeah, a pretty rare car; and one that I like.

    But without a roundel, rings, or a 3-pointed star a lot of buyers are going to stay away. Which is too bad; perhaps Kia should have made this a coupe – more of a halo car than a 3-series sedan fighter.

    Also I found the interior cramped for my 6’2″, at least the one time I sat in one at the local car show. Perhaps I hadn’t gotten the seat adjusted right.

    • 0 avatar

      I live in the San Francisco Bay Area (San Jose area) and Tesla’s are a dime a dozen here. But Stingers? I’ve seen two or three total. I think there’s definitely a brand/badge stigma at work here. That, and if the Stinger is supposed to be a 3-series challenger, it needs to lose 200-300 lbs (a 2019 330i has a base curb weight of 3,582 lbs, vs 3,829 for a 2019 GT2 RWD. That’s a lot of extra weight to be throwing around into corners (not to mention acceleration – less weight, more speed)

  • avatar

    Reviews complain about “tacked on” infotainment screens a lot, but they actually make sense to me. They keep the screen up higher so it’s less disruptive to glance at while driving – I notice that when I go back to driving an older car with the screen further down. But at the same point, they accomplish that while allowing the overall dash to be lower, making the cabin feel more open.

    • 0 avatar


      I finally watched a YouTube review with ONE reviewer who finally mentioned that the intention with a “tacked” on screen should be to put the screen higher and keep the dash lower while the integrated screen actually results in a higher dash and a more “bunker-ed” feeling to the interior.

      I know that’s something I’m going to be paying attention to when I’m car shopping. Does the tacked on screen make forward visibility better than a competitors vehicle?

      • 0 avatar

        There re a lot of other cars out there with a decent forward view with a properly integrated screen.

        I can’t be the only one out there that this is a deal breaker for. Maybe that is part of the sales problem. You can get similar performance with a nicer interior view.

    • 0 avatar

      My A3 has a great solution that I can’t figure out why more makers haven’t adopted – the “pop up” screen.

      You can keep it on display all the time, or tuck it back into the dash when you don’t want it. When it’s on, it’s in your line of sight. Very slick.

      • 0 avatar

        A few manufacturers have done the pop-up screen (Volvo had one for their early navigation systems, the last-gen C-class had it as an option), but I’m sure the problem is on several fronts. It’s extra cost, an extra thing to break, and it’s extra space for the engineers to accommodate for (the fixed screen doesn’t require the dash have a cavity for it to stow in).

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah, I think Kia did it right. The sloped sides give it a bigger base so it appears more planted than a simple rectangle would, and being up high you can keep your eyes on the road.

    • 0 avatar

      When a lot of carmakers are doing something that most people don’t like, there’s probably a reason. In this case, my guess is that this comes down to costs. Tacking the screen on like this allows automakers to change the screen or offer different size screens without re-designing the entire dash.

    • 0 avatar

      Been saying the same thing for some time.

      Pretty much all automakers use the tablet form-factor (including the Germans) in a few of their models (esp. their smaller or sportier models) as it allows for a LOWER dash (making the cabin less claustrophobic) while keeping the screen closer to eye-level.

      That being said, the Stinger’s tablet screen looks cheap compared to the one (widescreen) in the Telluride (much less the K900).

      The next Optima’s dash will follow the Telluride’s design, so the Stinger will likely get a similar update for its facelift.

      In addition to that, Kia also needs to upgrade other elements of the interior; doesn’t have to be K900 nice, but needs to be a little closer to that (the Telluride’s interior is nicer in certain respects).

  • avatar
    R Henry

    I would roll the dice with this in 2.0L turbo trim. I commute 52 miles a day on the freeway, would rather have better fuel economy, and the 250bhp would be adequate for me…and the price of admission is ALOT lower. Yes, I am pretty much a cheap shit. I don’t want my note to extend more than 36 months, and I don’t want to pay more than $750.00/month.

  • avatar

    It’s the price, stupid!

    I too see very few on the road – and was ready to pull the
    trigger in December but end-of-year sales forced me to
    a different choice as the Stingers would not come down
    on price.

    Would sell a lot better at the $40K level if Kia wanted
    to get more of these out there

    • 0 avatar

      More so the lease payments.

      The monthly payments on an Infiniti Q50 are considerably lower; even a 3 Series can be had for a lower payment.

      On top of that, the Stinger is a fastback, so more of a niche body-style.

      Still outsold the XE and Giulia and was about on par w/ IS sales for Feb.

      Increased availability of the G70 also probably cannibalized some sales.

  • avatar

    I rode in a Stinger as an Uber passenger; the driver had just bought it a few days before. The interior design looks nice but I wasn’t impressed by the material quality at all.

  • avatar

    Just did a quick search on Autotrader and you can find lots of these brand new for $11-12K off sticker (i.e. about $40K US), and that is before any negotiation.

  • avatar

    I can say without a doubt that my 2.0 Premium is the BEST vehicle I have ever owned and what you get for the money cannot be found elsewhere. Is there any “perfect” car? Of course not. There are nit picky things. You can get the V6 if you want but the 2.0 Premium RWD is about 400 lbs lighter. I would never get to really use 365hp anyway and find the car so comfortable that I wish I could drive it more.

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    Buddy of mine was dead set on a Giulia as a retirement reward for himself, until the Kia came out. Ended up in this very vehicle reviewed. G70s are rare on the ground here in KC and dealers want MSRP is what he told me, whereas the GT2 he was able to get for 42k, I can’t remember.
    He brought it by the office, I didn’t time to drive it but the interior was only slightly below a 2018 A5 which I have driven. On par with latest JDM offerings in my opinion.
    Personally, I’m like labelnerd, and would be happy with a g70 manual, but i’m not in the market currently

  • avatar

    I test drove a GT2 and it was an impressive ride. The engine has some real scoot and I like how tight the suspension and steering felt compared to my Optima SX. I think if you are going to go with the Stinger you have to get the GT, GT1, or GT2, the 2.0T is just a tease with the looks but no more speed over the Optima 2.0T. Being 6’6″ I had no issues with head or legroom and there was plenty of space behind me as well for backseat passengers. I don’t think you will get that space in the G70. If you are a badge snob then look elsewhere, but for those that enjoy a good looking and driving car this may be the one for you.

  • avatar

    Base engine Stinger sales should improve when the 2.0T gets replaced by the 2.5T.

    The V6 Stinger is selling better than what Kia had expected, it’s sales of the turbo-4 which is lagging behind expectations.

    But getting more competitive lease payments is one of the major hurdles.

  • avatar

    Still missing curb weight in the specs list… 4023-4157 pounds for a mid-sizer seems porky even for 2018.

    I largely ignored this thing when it came out, due to a very underwhelming experience with an Optima, but it looks half-decent, especially from the back, and I’m surprised to hear of a mainstream turbo V6 that sounds good. Might have to go hear for myself.

  • avatar

    I drove the GT (Canadian market) and it seemed very lively. It drove smaller than it is, partly from excellent steering. I attributed the lively character to the engine – terrific – and a relatively aggressive throttle map, even in comfort. The back seat has way more leg room than the G70 or the 3 series or the A4/5 or the C-class. This car is not really in that size class. I’m 6’2” and have little people that have to be transported… we compared all the interior room at a recent auto show and although we liked the stinger go, it’s not quite big enough to be our family car. I don’t know where they are getting the numbers for cargo space, but it seemed smaller than our current 12 cubic feet of Acura trunk space, and for sure it is not more space than a Volvo V60 wagon… I have driven a bunch of 4000 lb cars lately, and there is nothing this fun with this much space with this many features for this price. Only our current need for more cargo space kept me from making the purchase.

  • avatar
    Still thinkin

    I wonder if the dealer experience is holding back some sales? I haven’t experienced great things from my local dealership (I’ll admit its been a few years) But I expect that’s keeping some people from experiencing how good this car is.

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