We saw the Kia Stinger for the first time at the 2017 North American International Auto Show here in Detroit. Its stance was bold, its message clear, and its design nothing short of fantastic. NAIAS 2017 had a multitude of attractions and for us, the Stinger was our top pick. The forthcoming sportback will enter a segment currently dominated by European automakers, but it will be the highest-performing production vehicle in Kia’s history.
Dream Come True
The Stinger, in its present form, descends from the GT concept, first unveiled at the 2011 Frankfurt Motor Show. When the cover was lifted, it sent a wave of inspiration throughout the entire Kia organization.
“Unlike any Kia that has come before it, the Stinger really is a dream car for us and after years of commitment and hard work from a passionate group of designers, engineers, and executives around the world, that dream is now a reality,” said Orth Hedrick, Vice President, Product Planning, Kia Motors America.
Design & Development
The Stinger’s design was overseen by Peter Schreyer, Kia Motors’ Chief Design Officer, and his visionary team in Frankfurt, Germany. Ride and handling responsibilities fell to Albert Biermann, Head of Kia’s Vehicle Test and High Performance Development initiative. His engineering group worked around the clock in Korea but other teams from Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and North and South America joined in. Ultimately, it was on the Nürburgring circuit, a place lately reserved for the 911 GT2 RS and Camaro ZL1, where Kia made their biggest strides.
“From its GT concept-car origins to the years of tuning and refining on the legendary Nürburgring circuit, no detail was too small to be obsessed over, and the result is simply stunning,” Hedrick said.
“I think for the Kia brand, the Stinger is like a special event,” Biermann added. “Because nobody expects such a car, not just the way it looks but also the way it drives.”
Kia’s engineers put the Stinger through nearly 500 laps of high-intensity driving around the Nürburgring, the equivalent of about 6,200 miles. The Stinger’s quality, reliability, and durability testing consisted of aggressive acceleration, followed by rapid deceleration and heavy cornering. The Stinger was repeatedly exposed to the Nürburgring’s 73 corners and 17 percent gradients at nearly 1,000 feet of elevation.
The foundation for Kia’s Gran Turismo car is a stiff, NVH resistant chassis, comprised of 55 percent advanced high-strength steel. The MacPherson front suspension features large diameter shock absorbers, high-strength wheel bearings, and an aluminum strut brace; the reinforced five-link rear suspension is mounted to a stiffened rear subframe.
The Stinger GT goes a bit farther, with Kia’s first continuously damping, electronically controlled suspension. “Dynamic Stability Damping Control” matches a driver’s inputs and style, responding to road conditions more proactively than a traditional suspension. During tight or aggressive cornering, the front shocks soften and the rear firms up for better handling. Conversely, the system can stiffen the front shocks and soften the rear for improved high-speed stability.
There are five modes: Custom, Eco, Sport, Comfort, and Smart.
The Stinger needed to be more than a pretty face but when it comes to aerodynamics, a fastback design is more challenging than a conventional sedan. To maintain the balance between style and performance, Kia’s Frankfurt R&D center used computational fluid dynamics (CFD) software to test and validate different approaches to the Stinger’s aerodynamic profile.
The body is favored slightly toward the rear while the “gills” behind the front wheel arches reduce wake turbulence as air moves over the flanks. A partially-flat underfloor cover, which flows into the rear diffuser, reduces drag; the rear spoiler, with its “ducktail” shape, reduces lift and increases stability at higher speeds. Special air inlets and curtains help reduce front-end lift and compliment the large, horizontal brake cooling ducts. By continually tweaking the “aerofoil” shape of the Stinger, Kia achieved a drag coefficient of 0.30 Cd.
Kia poses it rather well: “if the chassis symbolizes the bones of a gran turismo, then surely the available powertrains represent its heart.” When we first saw the Kia Stinger at NAIAS in January, this really intrgued us. The first available engine is a 2.0-liter twin-scroll turbocharged four-cylinder Theta II plant, producing 255 horsepower (6,200 rpm) and 260 lb-ft. of torque. Torque is available from 1,400 to 4,000 rpm and gives the Stinger a reasonable 0 to 60 time of 5.9 seconds.
The 3.3-liter twin-turbo V6 Lambda II engine packs a bit more punch. Those looking for more snap and grunt will want this engine with its 365 horsepower (6,000 rpm) and top speed of 167 mph. Torque jumps to 376 lb-ft., available from 1,350 to 4,500 rpm. With this engine, the Kia Stinger enters the segment with more power than the Audi S5 Sportback, BMW 440i Gran Coupe, and Infiniti Q50. Further, Kia has chipped away at Porsche’s foundation. With the V6 Lambda II engine, the Stinger GT hits 60 in 4.7 seconds, which is quicker than the six-cylinder Porsche Panamera.
Helping to disperse the power is an 8-speed automatic Kia designed in-house. One of the most notable features is the inclusion of a Centrifugal Pendulum Absorber, normally found on racing, diesel, and aviation applications. The design, accompanied by an oil cooler to mitigate heat, helps prevent torsional vibrations through the drivetrain. Similar to the suspension, five different shift patterns may be selected through the vehicle’s electronic drive-mode system.
Steering & Braking
The Stinger features a variable ratio, Motor Driven Power Steering system that Kia says offers “razor-sharp feedback.” The setup has the electric motor mounted directly on the steering rack to reduce vibration from the column and to enhance overall response.
The Stinger GT is equipped with Brembo brakes with quad-piston front and dual-piston rear calipers. The monobloc all-aluminum calipers reduce unsprung weight, dissipate heat, and are coupled with large diameter brake discs: 13.8-inches in the front and 13.4-inches in the rear. During development, the Stinger was subjected to multiple runs down the infamous Grossglockner High Alpine Road in the Austrian Alps. The environment is the ideal place to test braking performance.
All Stingers come standard with a leather-appointed cabin, although an ultra-soft Nappa leather is available. Air-cell bladders and width-adjusting bolsters are available for the driver’s seat for additional comfort. The center console is split between the infotainment controls, which sit below a large color touchscreen, and the climate controls. The gauges are ringed in metal and accentuated with sweeping red needles; a color TFT screen relays data like cornering G-forces, lap times, and temperatures, along with the trip odometer, driver settings, navigation, and diagnostics.
The Stinger also comes with a generous array of connectivity, infotainment, and entertainment features. An available Harman Kardon 720 watt audio system has an external amplifier, 15 speakers, and under-seat subwoofers.
Pricing & Availability
The 2018 Kia Stinger arrives in December and pricing will be announced closer to that time. The Stinger will be available in either rear-wheel or all-wheel drive.
Carl Anthony is Managing Editor of Automoblog and resides in Detroit, Michigan.
2018 Kia Stinger Gallery