By on April 17, 2019

It’s strange how, after an automaker goes to the trouble of building a car aimed at the perpetually cranky enthusiast crowd, you can sometimes forget the vehicle exists. That’s the case with the Kia Stinger. Introduced in 2017, the liftback sedan — offered in turbo four-cylinder and V6 guise, rear- or all-wheel drive — still eludes some minds when thinking of modern sport sedans.

Well, Kia doesn’t want you to forget. To sucker-punch consumers back into coherence, the Korean brand brought a new, limited edition variant of the Stinger to the New York Auto Show, and the changes are more than paint deep.

Dipped in a retina-searing orange lacquer and peppered with carbon fiber trim pieces, the Stinger GTS implores you to look underneath. There, you’ll find an upgraded version of the model’s all-wheel drive system.

Developed by former BMW M boss and current Hyundai R&D head Albert Biermann, Kia’s new D-AWD system strives to create a happy medium between rear-drive and AWD motoring. With this Stinger, you can have both. The system incorporates a mechanical limited slip rear differential for better rear-end grip, plus a trio of drive modes to suit the driver’s mood.

Going from mild to wild, the modes are: Comfort, which sends 60 percent of the power to the rear wheels; Sport, in which the rear tires handle 80 percent of the thrust; and Drift, which puts all the power to the back end. It also holds gears without upshifting. Select journalists were given a chance to test out the D-AWD system on a skidpad last September.

While the new AWD  system is the standout feature of the GTS, Kia decided to make the limited-run trim a little more obvious. Besides the “Federation” orange paint, buyers will discover a Stinger emblem in place of the Kia badge adorning the trunklid, a GTS rear emblem, and the aforementioned carbon fiber outlining the grille, side vents, and replacing plastic in the side mirror caps. Inside, Alcantara covers the steering wheel and console, while suede-like Chamude stands in place of the traditional headliner.

A sunroof and 720-watt Harman/Kardon premium audio system rounds out the list of standard upgrades. Beneath the hood, the GTS is all GT. There, you’ll find the previous top-rung Stinger’s twin-turbo 3.3-liter V6, good for 365 horsepower and 376 lb-ft of torque, and an eight-speed automatic transmission. The GTS is offered in either rear-drive or D-AWD.

Kia says the Stinger GTS starts “around $44,000” for the RWD version, or $5,650 more than a base GT. The price then rises to “around $46,500” for the D-AWD model. Only 800 of these special Stingers will be made, offered to U.S. buyers this spring.

Image: Matt Posky/TTAC

[Images: Kia Motors, Matt Posky/TTAC]

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50 Comments on “Freedom of Choice: Kia’s Stinger GTS Is Whatever Its Owner Wants It to Be...”


  • avatar
    ToddAtlasF1

    Until it offers a reasonably powerful naturally aspirated engine and a manual transmission, it won’t inspire me to care when H-K gives up and pulls the plug.

    What’s with all the handwringers getting bent out of shape about people buying utility vehicles with AWD when practically every poseur-mobile made has AWD to keep leasers from having a reason to stand on the gas at low speeds?

    • 0 avatar
      Hummer

      This, I’m not even willing to step on the lot until they put a V8 in it. Just seems like a continuance of HK from the 90s – still making half baked products that miss the whole point of he segment.

      • 0 avatar
        bd2

        What’s the point of sticking the Tau V8 into the Stinger when the upcoming 3.5TT (400+ hp) will outperform it?

        Stingers (w/ the 3.3TT) are already outperforming the Tau V8 w/ fairly modest mods.

        • 0 avatar
          ajla

          The V8 has better power delivery IMO. The 3.3T needs more lungs at high revs. Maybe the new V6 will help that.

          • 0 avatar
            bd2

            From thoee who have owned both, the V8 has a broader torque curve, but the 3.3T pulls harder from a stop,

            G70 owners are getting 4.5-4.6 times stock.

            Add a JB4 and that no. drops to around 4.0-4.1s.

            Could be even quicker, but the 8 spd AT limits the amount of torque at the start as it was developed to be a lux transmission and not a performance one.

            Hopefully the delay in seeing the 10 spd AT means that Genesis is infusing more performance capability into the new AT.

        • 0 avatar
          Hummer

          Better power delivery one, HK needs a new V8, the tau has been a heavy turd in regards to V8 since inception but it’s still more powerful than the V6 and doesn’t come with its pitfalls.
          Sound, just like the weed eater sound in the new Raptors, lousy engine notes kill the whole ‘cool’ car theme pretty fast.
          Premium image, nothing is premium about a V6 no matter how they type the font. No one cares when you tell someone your performance sedan only has a V6, its a fly in the ointment.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            I will defend my car to say that it sounds much better than the Raptor. Honestly, nothing sounds as bad to me as the Ford Ecoboost V6s.

            Before I bought the Kia I lined it up right beside the Charger to idle/rev and make sure the engine note was comparatively acceptable. Obviously YMMV, but I think the Stinger sounds pretty good. However, it does sound like a V6 and I know for some people the noise of any V6 isn’t palatable.

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            There are decent sounding V6s, not many imo but they exist, Toyota’s and Fords for example sound horrible.

          • 0 avatar
            bd2

            While I agree that H/K/G needs a new smaller displacement FI V8, wonder if there’s enough of a business case?

            The new 3.5T is capable of 400+ hp and w/ the increasing element of electrification, can add an electric motor to give instant torque and get around 500 hp.

            Sure, won’t sound like a V8, but the instant torque of battery power and increasing pressure on CO2 emissions could mean that V8 power is going to be a rare bird.

            Esp. as the Stinger competes in the compact segment and pretty much every automaker has dropped V8s for that class.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            More “instant torque” is not what the Stinger and G70 needs. The torque down low is already good. What it needs is more power up top. I fear adding an electric assist will just make things worse.

            Having the power delivery of a Cummins is not befitting a touring/sports sedan. You’d think the former head of the M-division would know this. Broad, linear delivery is good. Instead, H/K/G just wants to sell me a whoopee cushion.

          • 0 avatar
            bd2

            Needs both – as for the latter, bumping up displacement from 3.3L to 3.5L should help in that dept.

    • 0 avatar
      Spartan

      You: “I’m not gonna buy it until it has a NA V8 and a manual transmission!”
      Kia: “Here you go! V8 and a manual transmission. Cost is now $47k. Will you buy it now?”
      You: “No! That’s too much! I’ll just wait until I can get a used one!”
      Kia: “Great, now we’re discontinuing the NA V8 manual model since no one bought it.”
      You: “KIA SUCKS! THEY KILLED THE V8 MT COMBO. I’LL NEVER BUY A KIA!”

      Just face it. You weren’t going to buy one anyway.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        LOL…this.

      • 0 avatar
        Robotdawn

        Although I agree, and make this point every time someone wants to put a more powerful engine in the Cruze (may it rest in peace), a NA V8 probably costs less to develop and put in a car than the high-tech V6 Turbos of today. So there really isn’t any reason to jack the price up to 47k, other than “it’s a bigger engine, so it costs more”. Heck, take a few of the baubles away just to make it a “similar value”.
        And you kids can keep your Manual transmission. As I get older manuals become less and less appealing. My last was 3 years ago, and although it was fun at times, most of time it was a chore to row the gears in city traffic.

      • 0 avatar
        ToddAtlasF1

        Since when does a reasonably powerful naturally aspirated engine need to be a V8? Three and a half liter naturally aspirated V6s were delivering 1988 BMW 750iL performance and the same real world economy as 2.0Ts right up until they were replaced to appease Chinese regulators.

      • 0 avatar
        jack4x

        @Spartan,

        To be fair to Hummer, he, like me, bought a new Chevy SS with (I believe) a manual. That car stickered for $47-50k. So while your point may be valid for most, some of us have some credibility to bemoan the lack of V8s/clutch pedals in sedans under $100k.

      • 0 avatar
        Hummer

        I literally bought a $50k V8 Manual sedan, so your skit makes zero sense.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      Plebes…V12 is the only engine for a non economy car. a V8…pssh…may as well drive a civic.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Drove one of these this weekend – it’s very much a more-refined hemi Charger/300, without the sketchy FCA build quality. It’s a hoot. Too bad the most basic big-engine model doesn’t have a sunroof available, and the one that does includes about five grand of unnecessary upgrades.

    Hard to argue with the way it drives, though. Try one out if you haven’t already.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      Was the dealer eager to deal? Did he hustle you after the drive or where you driving one that belonged to a friend?

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        Interesting story…

        My A3 was in the shop for maintenance and a warranty repair, and due to my…ahem…incredibly busy schedule, I had to drop the car off after work, and wouldn’t you know it, my schedule wasn’t going to be clear until Saturday. The Audi dealer happily gave me an A5 Sportback as a loaner for a couple of days.

        Christmas comes early!

        The A5’s a rolling piece of sculpture, and it’s unfailingly competent, but a tad uninvolving. So I decided to see how it stacks up against the Stinger, which is the most logical competitor.

        The Stinger’s a great drive, and it’s one hell of a value. But it isn’t as precise as the A5 (or my A3, for that matter), and it feels huge by comparison, even though the cars are basically the same size. If the Audi’s a scalpel, Kia’s a top-end steak knife, but it cuts the meat just fine.

        I was in “just shopping” mode, but I was pleasantly surprised by the Kia dealer – it’s a brand-new, high-quality facility, and the guy who showed me the Stinger may have had the classic middle-aged-twice-divorced-slicked-back-hair car sales dude thing going on, but he knew his s**t. I’d buy from him. Not sure if the Stinger is “me” – I like a more conservative looking ride, so the G70 would probably be more my speed – but it’s damn tasty. I wouldn’t talk anyone out of it.

        So there you have it. I plan on writing up my very nice two days in the A5, by the way.

        • 0 avatar
          redapple

          FREED>>>

          “… one hell of a value.”

          Disagree.

          AT $43K you can get a new 3 series BMW. For $10K less you can get a sweet 300 / Charger / Challenger.

          But then again, I hate H-K products.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            True, but a $43K 3-series is going to be a 330, and a Stinger GT will embarrass the living hell out of it. A V-8 300 or Charger is RWD only, which makes it a royal pain in the a** here in Colorado, and the V-6 is nice, but it’s not a performance car.

          • 0 avatar
            ToddAtlasF1

            What are you doing with your cars? When you say a Kia will embarrass the hell out of a BMW, are you street racing? Anywhere that face matters, a BMW trumps a Kia. I’ve owned cars made by both. I’m not saying one is better than the other, because I think it is right up there with picking a treatable but non-curable venereal disease to pick between the two, but I don’t regret the days when I could answer the ‘what do you drive?’ question with a premium German brand.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            Have you driven the last-gen 330? I have. It’s a LONG way from great. The 2.0T’s well executed, but the steering’s dead, the thing wobbles around in corners, and the interior’s full of hollow plastic. BMW brand snobbery only counts for so much.

            Try a Stinger, and then decide. It’s a damn good drive.

          • 0 avatar
            Flipper35

            BMW does not make drivers cars like they used to. Well, they do, but they seem to be aiming at drivers in their retirement years and drivers that don’t know what a manual transmission is or care how many holes in the block.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            I haven’t driven the new 3-series, but it sure felt like they phoned it in with the outgoing model.

          • 0 avatar
            Art Vandelay

            “…but I don’t regret the days when I could answer the ‘what do you drive?’ question with a premium German brand.”

            You needn’t spend BMW money for those issues now, what with Viagra and all.

          • 0 avatar
            ToddAtlasF1

            So you can sleep with Kia women?

  • avatar
    arach

    No 4cyl turbo? URGH…

    seriously, I LOVE THIS CAR and I WANT IT NOW.

    But I’m not going to buy a stinger until I can get a fully-loaded stinger with the 2.0t motor. I’m fully convinced its a better motor than the V6TT for what this car is designed for- DD duties with some fun on the twisties to forget your a dad who has to drive a 4 door DD…

    Seriously though, I don’t understand why you can’t get all the goodies with the 2.0t The v6 is a waste of money, isn’t that much better when the speed limit is 45, and gets miserable fuel economy.

    The 2.0t is peppy, fuel efficient, fun, and fits this car perfectly. Maybe next year they will come out with a loaded 2.0t with a green paint job. Call it the Tree Hugger Edition…. SOLD!

    I hate how manufacturers automatically assume if you want features you also want a gas guzzling monster under the hood. I can’t even comprehend it.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Arach, they had a 2.0T Premium model at the place where I drove the GT, and that car was pretty much loaded up – leather, pano roof, premium sound, nav, the works. I’m curious to know what stuff you think it’s missing.

      And you might be onto something with the 2.0T model – the 3.3T is a beast, but it feels a little ponderous. Wouldn’t surprise me if the culprit was the heavier engine.

      • 0 avatar
        Daniel J

        I remember 6 months ago car shopping I couldn’t find one less than MSRP around here. And good luck finding anything but white or black. Just took a good look again and I’d have to drive 150 miles to get one under 35K.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      There are 10 4-cyl PREMIUM models within 300 miles of me and I live in the middle of no where. The PREMIUM has practically all the features of the V6 GT models. Most of them MSRP for $40K but are advertised at about $35K.

      What else do you need?

      • 0 avatar
        arach

        PrincipalDan

        I’m glad you challenged me on this. I looked at my order sheet from when it was released… then looked at 2018 and then onto 2019. By 2019, the premium DOES offer everything I really care about (except the better seats, LSD, and auto dimming mirrors… Seriously, why isn’t auto dimming mirrors standard on EVERY CAR).

        I will be going to a Kia dealership this weekend :) Thanks for bringing this to my attention. I didn’t realize how much was added to the 2.0t premium over the last 18 months.

        • 0 avatar
          PrincipalDan

          Let us know how it goes. It would be interesting to have 2 members of the B&B with each with one of the Stinger engine options.

          Hard to find AWD Premiums around here (a feature I would want) although I bet I could find one in Colorado.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      I respectfully disagree with your assessment of the Stinger’s engine options, but I hope they eventually make the car you want.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      Forget the 2.0T – wait for the upgrade to the 2.5T (the V6 will also be upgraded to the 3.5T).

      Having said that, the majority of Stinger owners would disagree w/ your assessment abput the engines.

      • 0 avatar
        Nick_515

        bd2, this is first i am hearing of these upgrades. will said 2.5t make it to the G70? the current 2.0t is somehow both slow and thirsty.

        • 0 avatar
          bd2

          Yes, eventually (likely when the G70 gets its facelift – which should be comprehensive, getting the new Genesis design language).

          The new G80 is the first model to get the 2.5T (in RWD application; talking around 300 hp) as the G80’s new base engine.

          The 2.5T will then make its way to the Stinger and G70, but be warned, likely won’t be for a 2-3 years when they are due for their MCE (so, if you can wait…).

          The 3.3T will also be replaced by a more powerful and efficient 3.5T.

  • avatar
    IBx1

    Automatic-only garbage

  • avatar
    thelaine

    “…the perpetually cranky enthusiast crowd.”

    Great line. Great article. Yeah, I did forget it existed. Very cool little car.

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    I like the color, profile (would it be unreasonable to compare the profile reasonably to an A7?) and backend. The front doesn’t quite work.

    That said good on them for striving to compete with the premium manufacturers. I certainly hope they succeed. My Kia left a mostly favorable impression as it wasn’t trying to be anything it wasn’t.

  • avatar
    bd2

    Aside from the paint color, carbon-fiber bits and Alcantara – the rest of the stuff should be available on 2020MY Stingers (including the D-AWD system).

    No word as to whether there are any suspension changes/upgrades?

    Well, if not, that may have to wait until the rumored more powerful/track -oriented Stinger special edition.

  • avatar
    jalop1991

    Herb Tarlek: “How about this baby over here?”

    You: “No, I want the D.”

    Silence.

  • avatar
    johnny_5.0

    I noticed something about Stingers today that I never had before. Do the front seat backs really have super cheap looking netting as the map pockets? It looks like even the GT2s have them. If my eyes aren’t playing tricks on me, I’m not sure how that ended up in a near $50k mainstream brand car.

  • avatar
    saturnotaku

    /yawn

    I stand by my assertion that the Stinger has been one of, if not the, most overhyped and overrated cars of the last 25 years. This does nothing to change my mind.

  • avatar
    Sceptic

    I test drove the Stinger with the 2.0T. Was not impressed by the interior ergonomics and power delivery. I expected much more. Stinger is no Korean BMW. Did not drive the 3.3T GT but hear it’s the only one worth buying. Still overhyped like saturnotaku said.

  • avatar
    1st_one

    My lease is ending on my Challenger soon and this car is on my radar as a potential replacement.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    The problem with the Stinger is that the G70 not only exists, but doesnt look like someone drove it through a Pep Boys accessory aisle in the late 90’s and has a manual option.


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