Delete all those old images of Kias as cheapo tin and plastic penalty-boxes.
Just ask Honda and Toyota.
All sorts of creative, even gutsy new vehicles stream quietly out of South Korea these days – none more surprising than the 2019 Kia Stinger GT2 sedan.
Granted, the new Telluride SUV tends to hog the spotlight for now with its distinctive, freshly edgy styling and impressive content, but for me, the mid-size Stinger shines even brighter as the most unexpected – and satisfying – sedan to emerge from compact, front-wheel-drive Asia in ages.
I mean, it takes brains, bravado and bucks to develop new rear-wheel-drive architecture for a sports sedan when that’s not your automotive culture, and then mostly succeed.
The deep-gray Stinger GT2 I had recently wore its muscle and metal convincingly. It looked as if it could be German – though with freer styling.
Fierce headlamps framed one of Kia’s signature “tiger-nose” grilles, for example, cutting boldly into the tops of the Stinger’s fenders.
Above it, a broad, powerful-looking hood wore faint sculpting on its edges, as well as two cheesy fake vents (remember, I said Kia mostly succeeded.)
Still, they set the tone for the Stinger’s clean, smooth sides, which were slightly curved at the tops of the fenders and doors, and at the base of the body.
Like the best German sports sedans, it also crouched tightly on slotted 19-inch gray wheels wrapped with 225/40 tires up front and 255/35s in back.
One of its best elements, though, was slender red lenses in back that wrapped around the rear fenders to high-mounted taillamps. (And, yes, it did remind me a little of the F-Type Jag.)
The real sizzle percolated beneath the hood in the form of a 3.3-liter twin-turbo V-6 with 365-horsepower delivered convincingly by a well-sorted 8-speed automatic.
The nicely fortified Stinger departed swiftly from stops on a wave of lusty low-end torque that swelled quickly.
Slam the accelerator to the floor and it rips to 60 mph in a very swift 4.5 seconds, according to Car and Driver, plenty rapid enough to merge with fast traffic.
In fact, the refined engine felt even stouter than 365-horsepower, pulling hard with a deep, muted exhaust even above 70 – strong enough to get me stopped, matter of fact.
I should have stuck to back-road curves, I guess. With extremely quick steering in sport mode, the Stinger turned hard into moderate-speed corners, feeling pretty planted and composed.
Although the steering seemed kind of numb, it felt precise, reminding me a little of a 3-series BMW.
Moreover, the intuitive automatic provided positive shifts, holding the engine in the gears long enough to take full advantage of the Stinger’s rich power curve.
If you drive like an adult, you can probably expect to get about 20 miles per gallon in overall fuel economy. I typically fell short of that mark.
As a sports sedan, of course, the solid 4,000-pound Stinger rode firmly with no jiggly harshness, creaks or squeaks.
Between the high-performance suspension and tires, you will be well aware of most of the imperfections in our broken city streets.
Fortunately, it was pretty easy to get distracted by the Stinger’s interesting red-and-black interior.
A flat, short upper dashboard, for instance, slid down to a rounded mid-dash in pliable black plastic anchored by an 8-inch tablet-shaped display screen.
The system included Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration, along with the usual safety stuff somewhere in there like active cruise-control, forward collision warning, lane-departure warning and blind-spot warning.
Although the interior contained a lot of plastic for a $52,000 car, it had strong presence.
Nice-looking door-panels with black curved tops and lipstick-red centers fit the Stinger’s rakish personality well.
Likewise, sport seats offered supportive bolsters and sectioned, perforated centers in red, while the rear bench-seat provided good leg- and head-room.
My high-end Stinger arrived with only two options – Ceramic Silver Paint (which looked gray), $495; and a rear cargo mat, $125.
While $52,000 edges into BMW 340 range, the Stinger can at least claim to have similar straight-line performance, some of the Bimmer’s handling, but little of its cachet.
However, the Stinger is still a remarkably good first-time sports sedan – on a new rear-wheel-drive platform, no less.
Now, if it were only $7,000 cheaper, it would be even better.
2019 Kia Stinger GT2 Review
- What I liked most: The Stinger’s strong acceleration, decent handling and distinctive styling.
- What I would change: The price, which gets too close to more established, near-luxury German sports sedans.
- MSRP: Base price, $32,990 (for four-cylinder Stinger); as equipped, $51,815.
- Official color: Ceramic Silver.
- Fuel economy: 17 miles per gallon in the city, 25 on the highway and 20 mpg combined with filler on the left.
- Odometer reading when tested: 2,971 miles.
- Spare tire: Temporary compact.
- Weight: 4,082 pounds.
- Length-width-height: 190.2 inches long/73.6 inches wide/55.1 inches tall.
- Fuel-tank capacity: 15.9 gallons.
- Towing capacity: Not applicable.
- 2019 Kia Stinger GT2 in a few words: A surprisingly good sports sedan from a company not known for performance vehicles.
- Warranty: Five-year, 60,000-mile overall warranty and 10-year, 100,000-mile powertrain protection.
- Final assembly location: Sohari, Korea
- Manufacturer’s website: www.kia.com
- E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Up next: 2020 Mercedes-Benz AMG GLC 63