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Kia Stinger takes on established sports sedans

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Kia now competes with the established auto manufacturers in every vehicle segment, except half-ton pickups. So, it’s no surprise they decided to create a sports sedan to see if they can reach a part of the market dominated by European manufacturers.

I recently tested their entry: a 2018 Kia Stinger GT2 RWD V6 sedan.

The Stinger “borrows” a few styling cues from Audi and high-end sedans like Maserati to create a sporty “fasthatch” sedan. Throw in a few ducts and spoilers and roll on 19-inch tires, 225/40s up front and 255/35s out back and you’ve got the look.

Below the sheet metal, Stinger sits on a 114.4-inch wheelbase, so that puts it right between a compact and a mid-size sedan.

My test car came with the top engine, a 3.3-liter twin-turbo V-6 (base engine is 2.0-liter turbo-4) with 376 lb.-ft. of torque. The only transmission available is an eight-speed paddle shifted unit that comes courtesy of Kia’s luxury K900 sedan.

On the inside, you get a choice of leather or softer Nappa leather. The layout is contemporary but not luxurious or cockpit style. The front seats are not sport seats but are comfortable and supportive with driver power and lumbar adjustments.

Surprisingly, Stinger has more rear legroom than some true midsize sedans, and you can place a 6-foot driver up front and 6-foot passenger directly behind. The only compromise is the fastback roofline that squeezes headroom for anyone taller than 6-feet. The rear cargo area is a spacious 23.3 cubic foot area that expands to 40.9 cubic feet when you fold the rear seats down. 

My test car was a fully-optioned GT2, with a sunroof, 7.0-inch digital instrument panel display, electric gauge cluster, the 8.0-inch Uvo touchscreen in the center of the dash, great sounding Harmon/Kardon audio system, head-up-display, and auto dim outside mirrors.

So, how sporty is this “sport” sedan? Acceleration from the twin-turbo V-6 was very strong with some nice low-end torque. I observed an unofficial time of 4.9 seconds 0-60 mph, and Kia indicates a top speed of 167 mph.

I used the paddle shifters on the 8-speed to try and wring any extra performance I could from the V-6. That said, a more performance oriented dual-clutch automatic would serve this car better. My GT2 had performance 4-piston Brembo brakes and rack-mounted electric power steering that really provided great road feel and fast turning ratios.

I liked the selectable drive switch that allowed me to change throttle response, shift patterns, and AWD (N/A on test car) and stability control settings. The selectable modes are Eco, Smart (learns your driving style), Custom, Sport and, yes, you’ll notice some differences.

Thankfully, Kia went against the grain and made the Stinger rear-wheel drive with optional electronic all-wheel drive than can send up to 50 percent power to front wheels. My GT2 tester came with a limited-slip rear differential. Kia drops in a brake-based torque vectoring system employing the ABS system so it can lock on to an individual inside wheel to help provide control in aggressive cornering situations.

My test car used the traditional MacPherson struts (bolstered by a connecting aluminum brace) at the rear there’s a five-link independent suspension bolted to a beefed-up subframe.

Kia bills the Stinger as a lower-priced M3 sports sedan alternative – it’s not. Very limited track time and colleagues confirm that the performance tires don’t provide enough grip, directional changes are slower than expected, and the heft of the car makes it harder to drive in the corners combined with noticeable body roll. That said, the vast majority of buyers will not be driving regularly on tracks so for “normal” driving the Stinger provides some stoplight and country-road excitement.

While the base 2018 Kia Stinger starts at a very reasonable $31,900, you’re not getting all the good stuff cited in this review-including the V6. To have the complete experience plan on adding $20,000 to the base price for options and model packages.

This auto review was researched and written by SteinPro Content Services and provided to the Sun-Times for publication