Kia's Stinger GT is one of the greatest performance values of 2020, and goes head-to-head with everything from premium competitors from Germany to the most popular muscle cars sold in the US.
If you're looking for a great performance sedan and you're not shopping badges, the Kia Stinger holds its own against stalwarts like the BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe and Audi A5 Sportback. It’s that good, no excuses needed. Kia has been on a roll lately with world-class products such as the Telluride and newly launched Seltos; the Stinger is no different and can stand toe-to-toe with the stiffest competition from Germany.
While our test car was a 2019 model year Stinger GT, the 2020 model consists largely of carryover content with just a few repackaged options. The 2020 Stinger drops the base Stinger 2.0L and is now called the GT-Line; this model still gets a 4-cylinder turbo engine, so don't confuse it with the 6-cylinder GT models.
The GT receives the 3.3L twin turbo V6, which our press car had. Technically, the GT lineup is split into GT, GT1, and GT2, each receiving progressively more optional content. An 8-speed automatic transmission is standard regardless of engine choice. All-wheel-drive is available with any of the trim levels; unfortunately, no manual transmission is offered.
Equipment aside, the V6 is an absolute gem. Thanks to the pair of turbochargers, it produces an addictive swell of power from just off idle, carrying smoothly into higher speeds and well into unlawful territory. Kia's official claims peg the output at 365 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 376 lb-ft of torque at 1,300-4,500 rpm. If anything, those numbers seem to sell the engine short. The exhaust emits a cultured but noticeable snarl every time you hit the gas pedal, constantly reminding you that there's something special under the hood.
The greatest draw of the Stinger GT lies in the fact that it's a family-friendly sedan that feels completely at home performing mundane commuting chores or being hustled up and down your favorite driving road. Our press car was equipped with 19” alloy wheels on Michelin summer tires, Brembo performance brakes and a rear limited slip differential. All these performance upgrades make this an overall sport sedan superstar, able to take the kids to the school on the weekdays, carry a Costco grocery haul on Saturday, and still manage to be an engaging dance partner on a twisty mountain road during a Sunday morning drive.
Unlike many cars today, the steering feels like it's actually connected to the chassis and responds with immediacy when pressed. Turn-in is impressively sharp, and there's a nice amount of feedback that filters through the wheel at any speed. The suspension tuning certainly falls on the "firm" side of the spectrum without venturing into "uncomfortable" at highway speeds; there's enough compliance built in to allow the Stinger to absorb mid-corner bumps without upsetting its tracking. There's also a degree of body roll built in - it's no Buick Park Avenue, but there's enough movement to provide a sense of what the car is doing. Four driving modes are available: Eco, Smart, Comfort, and Sport. Most drivers will leave it in Smart, meaning the car will automatically adjust its driving characteristics based on driver input. Custom lets you mix and match between Sport or Comfort for steering and engine, creating a happy medium if the presets aren't enough to satisfy.
Interior accommodations are plentiful; things go from nice to nicer depending on what trim level you select. The higher trim levels offer additional features such as a power tilt/telescoping steering column, premium Nappa leather, memory seats, and ventilated front seats. A 720-watt Harman Kardon sound system is available on GT1/GT2 trims. Luckily, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard on all trims.
The interior is a perfectly pleasant place to spend time on a long road trip. The front seats in our test vehicle featured moderate side bolstering that hold occupants place during faster cornering, but not too tightly as to become claustrophobic on longer jaunts. The flat-bottomed leather-wrapped steering wheel felt great in the hands, and certainly added to the premium vibe of the car. Rear passenger room is plentiful, but the headroom in the back seems to have been sacrificed to maintain the sloping roofline. Wind noise is kept to a commendable minimum, even at highway speeds. Despite being equipped with relatively aggressive Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tires, road noise was unintrusive except for over rough pavement. One of the unique selling points of the Stinger is that it's essentially a hatchback, despite looking like a 4-door sedan. This results in increased cargo capacity, especially with the rear seats folded down.
Unfortunately, the Kia Stinger GT is a truly great car that is simply not getting recognized by potential buyers. Overall sales are disappointingly slow, with just under 14,000 units finding homes in 2019. With the performance to match its German rivals, a top-quality interior, and a generous warranty, the Kia Stinger has a lot to offer a buyer looking for a sport sedan. If you’re looking for the performance bargain in 2020, this might be it.