Hyundai's Kia brand has done an excellent job of expanding its product portfolio in recent years, especially in styling and quality. But has anyone looked to Kia for world-class performance? Probably not, because that cupboard has been bare. Until now.
Kia calls its 2018 Stinger a "five-passenger sportback poised to redefine a segment currently populated by European automakers" and compares twin-turbo V-6 GT models to similar-size 6-cylinder performance cars from the likes of Audi (S5, A7), BMW (4-Series, 6-Series), Infiniti (Q50), Lexus GS350, Mercedes-Benz CLS and even Porsche (Panamera). The Stinger beats all of those on power, torque and top speed and (at 4.7 s) all but the Audi S5 in 0-60 mph acceleration.
At the same time, it exceeds all but the Audi A7 Sportback and Panamara on total interior volume and (at 23.3 ft3) all but the Audi Sportback on cargo volume behind the rear seats. And (at $31,900USD for the base RWD turbo-4-cyl. and $38,350USD for the RWD GT) it handily undercuts the lot of them on price.
Stinger is Kia's second rear-wheel-drive product (after the K900 luxury sedan) and its first to offer all-wheel drive. It shares the basic architecture of Hyundai's G70 four-door sedan. "The first decision was to make it all-wheel-drive," says Chahe Apelian, Senior Manager, Vehicle Evaluation, Test and Development, "because inclement weather requires that for high performance. And from a dynamic standpoint, starting from a clean sheet of paper, it made sense to go with traditional rear drive and an all-wheel-drive option."
A new 55% advanced high-strength steel chassis provides an ultra-stiff foundation for its MacPherson front (with large-diameter shocks, high-strength wheel bearings and an aluminum strut brace) and reinforced five-link rear suspension. GT models boast Dynamic Stability Damping Control, Kia’s first continuously damping electronically controlled suspension, with driver-selectable Eco, Sport, Comfort, Smart and Custom modes. Rack-mounted Motor Driven Power Steering (R-MDPS) is standard, with variable-ratio capability on GTs.
The available AWD features a new Dynamic Torque Vectoring Control system that automatically applies power and/or braking to the appropriate wheels as needed. Up to 50% of engine torque can be distributed to the front wheels, or (in Sport mode) up to 80% to the rear, and it also distributes power side to side. Rear-drive GT2 models offer a multi-plate limited-slip differential to enhance directional stability by evenly distributing power to the rear wheels.
The 2.0L twin-scroll-turbocharged Hyundai Theta II 4-cylinder generates a claimed 255 hp (190 kW) at 6200 rpm and 260 lb·ft (352 N·m) from 1400-4000 rpm—good for 5.9-s acceleration from 0-60 mph). GT models' 3.3-L twin-turbo V6 Lambda II engine offers 365 hp (272 kW) at 6000 rpm and 376 lb·ft (509 N·m) from 1350-4500 rpm. Both drive through Hyundai's 8-speed planetary automatic with a Centrifugal Pendulum Absorber (CPA) torque converter on the 4-cylinder to help reduce torsional vibrations.
High-performance fade-compensating Brembo disc brakes with quad-piston front and dual-piston rear calipers are standard on GT models.
Dynamics development in Korea, the U.S. and elsewhere, including many hard-driving miles on Germany's grueling Nürburgring race track, was overseen by Kia Test and High Performance Development head Albert Biermann. "That is part of our global development process," Apelian explains. "That is a very challenging and demanding circuit that pushes not just the dynamics engineers but also the structural engineers quite a bit.
"You go through the whole motions of the suspension, all kinds of G loading, acceleration and braking," he continued. "It is a good tool for vehicle dynamics, like Death Valley is a good tool for high temperatures. We do quite a bit of basic development there for dynamics, then do refinement globally."
The Stinger offers a full suite of available driver assist, safety and connectivity technologies including Forward Collision Avoidance (FCA) with pedestrian detection, Smart Cruise Control with Stop & Go (SCC w/ S&G), Lane Keeping Assist (LKA), Blind Spot Collision Warning (BCW) with Rear Cross-Traffic Collision Warning (RCCW), a color Head-Up Display (HUD) and a new Driver Attention Warning (DAW) system to help combat distracted or drowsy driving.
Six-speaker audio with a seven-inch touchscreen and Kia's latest UVO telematics is standard, and the available 15-speaker Harman/Kardon premium audio system generates 720 W through an external amplifier.
Apelian relates that the Stinger's primary mission, beyond its strong brand image enhancement potential, is to serve as a roomy, practical, quiet, comfortable, family friendly daily driver that is capable of truly thrilling performance on demand. "I don’t think a lot of customers will take it to a track," he says, "but if some do, the cooling system, the powertrain, the brakes are all designed to handle it."