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2018 Kia Stinger GT2 AWD Review

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By on March 5, 2019

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.

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.

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.

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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