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2018 Kia Stinger: A Rear-Drive Shot Across the Germans' Bow

Kia aims its Stinger directly toward the heart of the sports-sedan market.

Mar 2017 By AARON ROBINSON

Kia gave us plenty of warning that it would eventually build a car like this. Back in 2011, Kia’s Frankfurt show stand featured a rear-drive GT concept, and then, three years ago, Kia unveiled the rear-drive Stinger GT4 two-door concept in Detroit. While we knew that a Genesis-based Kia would eventually emerge, we didn’t know that the hamster brand’s reach into the premium segment would be a four-door hatchback and that it’d actually name it the Stinger.

We know that all kinds of silly names come up in the product-­planning meetings at car companies, but rarely does one actually become a chrome trunk badge. Alas, we tease, but Kia gets some credit for being ballsy, if also slightly confusing. Hyundai has taken the risky but necessary gamble of spinning off Genesis as a separate luxury brand with a buying experience that is distinct from that for Accent intenders. Its most glaring need, apart from a line of crossovers, is a smaller rear-drive BMW 3-series fighter. So it’s surprising that, despite several Kia concept cars that warned us of its arrival, the very product that Genesis craves will appear first as a sort of Asian mini Porsche Panamera built on a Genesis platform and wearing a Kia badge. We live in strange times indeed.

The unusual but appealing design originated in Kia’s European studio and furthers the reputation of Hyundai-Kia chief design officer Peter Schreyer for delivering visual feasts. Say what you will about Kia, but it is not afraid to mix genres or take chances. The Stinger rides on a shortened version of the Genesis longitudinal-engine, rear-drive component set. It comes with a generous helping of high-strength steel to hold down the mass. The front suspension uses struts while a multilink arrangement carries the rear. At 114.4 inches, the Stinger’s wheelbase is about four inches shorter than the Genesis G80’s, but the whole car is a bit larger than its intended targets—Audi A4, BMW 3-series, Infiniti Q50, and Lexus IS—and a low roof gives it a rather aggressive stance. Eventually, the Stinger will be joined by a Genesis ­doppelgänger with more-formal sheetmetal.

A turbo 2.0-liter four, familiar from Hyundai-Kia front-wheel-drive models, is rotated 90 degrees and delivers 255 horsepower and 260 pound-feet while the step up is a 365-hp 3.3-liter V-6 with twin compressors, the base engine in the big Genesis G90 banker’s barge. The eight-speed automatic from Kia’s last anomalous luxury reach, the forgettable K900 (see, you forgot about it), transmits the torque to either the rear axle or both axles.

The only hitch may be that American buyers have proven fearful of things they don’t understand, such as a luxury hatchback sedan sold in the dealerships of a brand that normally trades in more modest fare. No doubt this is why Kia chose Stinger for the name instead of K901 or something equally forgettable.

The stinging begins this summer with prices expected to fall in the bustling $35,000-to-$45,000 range.

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