I tend to harp on about the Kia brand when asked for new car advice. The reason is simple, I drive A LOT of cars so I’m confident my good car radar is on point. Kia and part owner Hyundai have kicked many a goal since the late 2000s. 2018 Kia cars not only look universally good, they’re also high quality and well executed vehicles. The arrival of a rear-wheel-drive (RWD) performance flagship has really cranked things up, the cherry on top of one of the most diverse model line-ups around. I’ve spent more than a week in the Kia Stinger GT, here’s the go.
Other than Ford’s Mustang I can’t think of any other car that’s arrival has been so timely. The German Holden Commodore is facing an enormous backlash, even before the reviews come in or it departs a showroom. The Ford Falcon is completely dead and for many Summernats fans life as we know it has ended. Cue the Kia Stinger, in this case the GT, a twin-turbo 3.6L V6 rocket that would blast those relics into submission.
The Real Deal
The Stinger GT is a genuine performance vehicle, not without fault but one that simply puts a broad grin across your melon. 272kW @6000 and 510Nm @1300 – 4000 paired to an 8-speed transmission make a mockery of anything offered, at least in the V6 space, from the defunct locals. From a standstill the Stinger takes off in a way that would seem at odds with the badge to fellow motorists. It’s quick, there’s no doubt the sub five-second 0 – 100km/h dashes put it in a special league for outright pace. It certainly pushes the shoulder blades back into the black Nappa leather seats, from the passenger seat it’s even more dramatic. Fuel economy sits at a claimed 10.1L/100km, I averaged 10.8 pretty dam good for a tank of 91RON.
The RWD layout I can confirm does allow for some fun in controlled circumstances. With traction control off, the Stinger’s backend will want to step out and does. With all the safety systems on, I found the GT to be a little held back, the onboard software isn’t as natural or unobtrusive as that found in premium European flyers. A mechanical limited slip differential helps the rear-end stay on the straight and narrow to a point. Changes in surfaces or camber requires a little more caution when really driving on the edge.
The adaptive damping suspension really does give the go-fast Kia several personalities. Smart, Eco, Comfort, Sport and Custom give the driver a stack of decisions to make. Comfort is almost too soft, if the road was a poorly sealed B-road, it most definitely will cushion the blows. But throw it into a corner and the body control feels a little ponderous. Sports mode, my go-to mode, stiffens the ride, sharpens the throttle and steering while aggressively remapping the transmission. Leave me out of Eco mode, Smart adapts to the way you drive but seems too slow to awaken to your mood.
On the transmission, while the shifts are precise and never falter, you can tell this isn’t some intelligent ZF box. The other annoyance is when flicking over to paddle shifter mode, it just won’t hold a gear for any longer than around 30 seconds. That’s irrespective of over-revving and smashing the redline, a manual mode should stay in manual mode. Don’t expect a symphony of sound to blast out of the quad exhaust pipes, it doesn’t even produce a turbo whistle let alone a decent bark. But that my friends is about the limit when it comes to downsides.
All the Fruit.
I said to our editor Trevor Long recently “ask me one thing you want in a car and I bet the range-topping Stinger GT has it.” First thing he asked was Apple CarPlay? Yep tick that box and Android Auto. But that’s just the start:
- Electronically adjusted steering wheel
- harmon/kardon 15 speaker sound system
- 360° reversing camera
- Head up display
- Lane keep assist
- Advanced smart cruise control
- Brembo brakes
- Launch control
- Satellite navigation with DAB+ radio
- Auto dimming rear and side mirrors
- Blind spot monitor
- Heated and cooled front seats
- Auto high beam
The Work Bench
The Stinger GT is a nice snug car to slide into, the soft Nappa seats with GT etching in the headrests are a joy. The driving position is spot on and everything is within reach. Although many functions do need to be accessed by the 8.0-inch infotainment screen rather than a rotary dial-style interface. The instrument cluster features a 7.0-inch display and looks great. The aluminium-finished centre console area, leather shifter and general soft materials across the dash and multiple round ventilation vents make the cabin a very pleasant place to be. You even score some fake suede up the A-pillars on the GT variant. Personally, I’d tick the red sports Nappa trim, otherwise it’s a black-a-thon.
The Sportsback shape doesn’t lend itself to huge amounts of rear seat space, as a potential family performance car this, other than the stupid badge argument, may be a deal breaker. The boot is quite a few dozens of litres less when it comes to a Commodore sedan at 406-litres. As I mentioned in my review of the four-pot 200S Stinger, we struggle to fit our pram into it.
Come on people, this is a great looking car. The Micro Blue model I tested was a real head-turner. The faux bonnet nostrils, aggressive bumpers, LED daylight running lamps and creased side profile extending back to the most exciting rear-end Kia has produced really grows on you. Get used to the Sportsback hatchback style design, the 2018 Holden Commodore will be the same shape.
EFTM Rubber Stamp of Approval.
For $59,990 before on roads and the possibility of fitting a dealer approved $2500 exhaust this isn’t a cheap Kia by any means. But considering the performance stats, equipment levels, advanced safety gear and being that guy or girl that looked outside of the box, the Kia Stinger GT is an amazing all-round package. I award it the EFTM Distinction Rubber Stamp of Approval!