We saw the Kia Stinger for the first time at the 2017 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Nothing has changed since then. The 2019 Kia Stinger remains one of the best high-performance GT sedans for the money.
When we first laid eyes on the Kia Stinger, it was transcribing a clear message to European sports sedans: the South Koreans have entered the fray and are set to disrupt the performance sedan market in a big way. NAIAS 2017 had a multitude of attractions, but for us, the Stinger was our top pick. It remains the highest-performing production vehicle in Kia’s history.
The 2019 Kia Stinger is basically a carryover of the 2018 model. However, some of the previously optional features are now standard for 2019.
The 2019 Kia Stinger in current form descends from the Kia GT concept, which was 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.
According to Kia, The Stinger needed to be many things (spacious family sedan with tighter handling and the reflexes of a sports car). But most of all, it needed to be a genuine Gran Turismo.
Kia Stinger Design & Development
The Kia Stinger’s design is overseen by Peter Schreyer, Kia Motors’ Chief Design Officer, and his visionary team in Frankfurt, Germany. Tuning the ride and handling is the responsibility of Albert Biermann, Head of Kia’s Vehicle Test and High-Performance Development initiative.
Biermann’s engineering group worked around the clock in Korea, but other teams from Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and North and South America joined in the action. Ultimately, it was on the Nürburgring circuit, a place often reserved for the likes of 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, which is the equivalent of about 6,200 miles. The Kia 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.
“It’s a whole different animal,” Biermann said of the Stinger after testing concluded.
And we believe him. Oh, did we fail to mention Albert Biermann is the former Vice President of BMW’s M Division?
Chassis, Steering, & Braking
The foundation for Kia’s latest Gran Turismo car is a stiff and 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 five-link rear suspension mounts into a stiffer rear subframe.
The Kia Stinger GT goes a bit further with Kia’s first continuously-damping, electronically-controlled suspension called Dynamic Stability Damping Control. The system matches a driver’s inputs and driving style, responding to road conditions more pro-actively than a traditional suspension. During tight or aggressive cornering, the front shocks soften and the rear firms up to improve 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. You can fiddle with the suspension modes to fine-tune the ride and handling.
The 2019 Kia Stinger still gets a variable-ratio and 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 Kia Stinger GT makes use of Brembo brakes with quad-piston front and dual-piston rear calipers. The monobloc all-aluminum calipers lowers the unsprung weight of the car. The Stinger also comes with large diameter brake discs: 13.8-inches in the front and 13.4-inches in the rear.
The Kia Stinger needs to be more than a pretty face. In terms of aerodynamics, a fastback design is more challenging to configure than a conventional sedan. In order 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 has a slightly rear-biased design 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. This is a remarkable feat given the Bugatti Chiron’s slippery body is only good for 0.35 Cd.
Engine & Powertrain
Kia poses it rather well: “if the chassis symbolizes the bones of a Gran Turismo, then surely the available powertrains represent its heart.” 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, which can be summoned from 1,400 to 4,000 rpm. This motor gives the 2019 Kia Stinger a reasonable zero to 60 time of 5.9 seconds.
The 3.3-liter twin-turbocharged Lambda II V6 engine packs a bit more punch. Those looking for more snap and grunt will definitely want this engine. And why not? With 365 horsepower (6,000 rpm) and 376 lb-ft. of torque from 1,300 to 4,500 rpm, and a top speed of 167 mph, this is the motor to get if you want your 2019 Kia Stinger to scoot from zero to 60 in 4.7 seconds.
With this engine, the Kia Stinger enters the segment with more power than the Audi S5 Sportback, BMW 440i Gran Coupe, and Infiniti Q50. Furthermore, Kia has chipped away at Porsche’s foundation. With the V6 Lambda II engine, the Stinger GT hits 60 mph quicker than the six-cylinder Porsche Panamera.
Helping to disperse the power is an eight-speed automatic, designed and engineered in-house by Kia. 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.
Pricing, Trim Levels, & Availability
The 2019 Kia Stinger is available in five trim models. The base 2.0L starts at $32,990 and gets the turbocharged four-banger and eight-speed automatic with paddle shifters. Standard kit includes Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, smart key with push-button start, heated front seats, and leather seat trim. The Premium model starts at $39,190 and includes LED headlamps, a sunroof, eight-inch center display with navigation, and a Harman/Kardon premium audio system.
The 2019 Kia Stinger GT is a bargain at $39,300. This trim includes the twin-turbo GDI V6 motor along with LED headlamps, 19-inch alloy wheels with Michelin Pilot Sport summer tires, Brembo brakes, and a nine-speaker audio system. The GT1 model upgrade starts at $45,300 and includes the electronically-controlled active suspension, a sunroof, and Harman/Kardon premium audio.
Finally, the 2019 Kia Stinger GT2 starts at $50,200. It comes with a unique shift-by-wire system, a heads-up display, Nappa leather upholstery, and the Kia Drive Wise advanced driver assistance system.
New For 2019: High-Performance Kia Stinger GTS
The limited-edition 2019 Kia Stinger GTS made its debut at the 2019 New York International Motor Show. The GTS model solidifies the Stinger as a proper high-performance Kia. The Stinger is already a worthy adversary to the Audi S4, BMW 440i M Sport, and the Mercedes-AMG C43. But instead of going crazy with the power mods, Kia took the initiative to further improve the driving feel and handling of the new Stinger GTS. The biggest change is a new all-wheel drive system that Kia calls D-AWD. It now comes with a mechanical limited-slip differential to distribute power more evenly between the rear wheels.
New D-AWD Drivetrain
Kia is not redesigning the wheel with this new AWD system, but it strives to bridge the gap between a conventional rear-wheel drive and an all-wheel drive system.
The system sends 60 percent of the available power to the rear wheels in Comfort mode. Sport mode sends 80 percent of the grunt to the rear for a more aggressive feel. But if you’re feeling playful, the new Kia Stinger GTS comes with Drift mode that sends 100 percent of the power to the rear wheels. In this mode, the transmission is also holding the gears so you can rev the twin-turbo V6 motor with impunity! If you don’t need hardcore performance, the Stinger GTS is also available with a conventional RWD drivetrain.
In the meantime, Kia also made sure the Stinger GTS looks the part. It comes in a new “Federation” orange color and with a splashing of carbon fiber exterior trim. Furthermore, there’s a sunroof, a Stinger emblem on the trunk lid, wireless charging, and a 720-watt Harman Kardon premium audio system.
Motivating the 2019 Kia Stinger GTS is the same 3.3-liter twin-turbocharged V6 motor with 365 horsepower and 376 lb-ft. of torque. In order to sweeten the deal, the eight-speed automatic has more aggressive shift patterns.
2019 Kia Stinger GTS: Pricing & Availability
If we were BMW, Audi or Mercedes-Benz, we would be feeling a bit nervous. The 2019 Kia Stinger GTS starts at $44,000 for the RWD model while the D-AWD commands a starting price of $46,500.
Truth be told, you could pay nearly double the price of a new Kia Stinger if you want a European luxury-sports sedan with the same features and performance attributes. This is the reason why the Kia Stinger remains a top choice if you want a fast, practical, and roomy fastback sedan.
Looking forward to the Stinger GTS? Production starts this spring.