Kia gets serious about performance with the new Stinger

When most people think of Kia, they might think of cute, practical cars like the funky Soul compact wagon/SUV.

But now, Kia is branching out with a new model called the Stinger. It's a grand touring car, in the European tradition.

"Really, it was about being true to the GT concept car we did, and being a true grand turismo vehicle," said Orth Hedrick, vice president of product planning for Kia Motors America.

The basic Stinger starts at $32,000. But the hot Stinger GT is where the fun really gets going, with a base price of about $38,000.

A twin-turbo V6 engine cranks out 365 horsepower. There are also huge Brembo brakes, and big grippy Michelin Pilot Sport tires.

Oh, and the Stinger is rear-wheel drive, like a BMW. In fact, the Stinger was developed in Germany, and Kia was able to hire away a chief engineer from BMW to lead chassis development of the new car.

"And he was in charge of their M Division. So he worked his magic on the Stinger, and the vehicle has the bona-fide credentials to compete with the best in the segment," Hedrick said.

Of course, it has a practical side too. Namely, the hatchback design, which is a favorite in European grand touring cars. All-wheel drive is available as well.

This is a fast, comfortable car for four adults to travel in. It's the essence of a sporty grand touring car.

So it would seem that Kia has figured out the formula for the stinger: Powerful engines, rear-wheel drive, and capable chassis components, in a five-door hatch body.

And with that, Kia is ready to take on the established players out of Europe, including the highly rated Porsche Panamera. Kia is making the case that the Stinger GT offers the attributes of Porsche's grand touring car, at a much better price point.

Even with every option package added, the Stinger GT tops out at about $52,000. The 2018 Porsche Panamera starts at around $85,000.

"We have a 167 mile-per-hour top speed, which is faster than the Panamera, and either of the two BMW Gran Coupes, so you have to pay tens of thousands of dollars more to get that same level of performance," noted Hedrick.

Porsche might disagree with the comparison, but if you get behind the wheel of the Stinger GT like I did, you might see that it does have the right stuff to be a true performer.

This car is a bold move that should bolster Kia's place in the automotive landscape. But people looking for a more simple car or SUV from Kia can rest assured that those definitely are not going away.
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