It’s hard to believe that the Kia Stinger debuted 4 years ago as a 2018 model. There was so much talk about it – here was an up and coming brand, breaking free of the inexpensive–but-rugged reputation, and getting ready to soar. And they brought out a rear-wheel-drive performance sedan to take on the likes of BMW and Mercedes!
So, we really looked forward to getting back into a 2022 Stinger. Was it as good as we originally thought? How has it aged? And should you be stopping by the Kia dealer on your way to the Audi or BMW store? Let’s find out!
European by Design
The Stinger remains one of the most handsome performance sedans in the segment, with just a few tweaks for 2022. That’s OK, it was awesome to begin with. Up front we have full LED lights that look bright and crisp, surrounding Kia’s familiar “Tiger Nose” grille. And in this segment not having a monstrous grille (we’re looking at you BMW and Lexus) is a refreshing change. Probably the easiest way to tell this is a ’22 is the revised Kia logo on the hood which looks much more artistic and tasteful.
The profile really sells the European tone – you could easily mistake Kia’s sleek 5-door hatchback silhouette for an Audi. Which makes sense – Kia Head Peter Schreyer was a key designer at Audi (he penned the original TT).
Another giveaway that this is a 2022 is the new-design 19-inch alloy wheels on our tester, all the better to see the red Brembo brake calipers poking through!
The rear strikes us as having a bit of Maserati vibe, (no bad thing), with new LED taillights that travel the full width of the tailgate for a cohesive look. We love the scripted Stinger logo, and the four beefy exhaust pipes peeking out of the lower fascia, promising a powerful drive. The finishing touch was our tester’s Hichroma Red paint – it really pops.
Calm in the Center of Performance
Inside, the Stinger serves up a serious driver’s environment with again, a European vibe. Nice quality materials with black gloss and chrome details keep the interior from looking too dark. We will note that the quality of materials is not as impressive as what you get on a BMW or Audi, but you will pay dearly for the privilege of those high-end touchpoints.
It certainly is handsome inside. There’s a modern stitch pattern on the door panels, and on our GT2-equipped tester, you’re settling into Nappa leather seats with a “chain-link” design – inspired by the wristbands on high-end watches. Very cool.
The front seats are deep and supportive, with adjustable bolsters to give you the right amount of hug depending on how aggressively you’ll be driving. And if you are working up a sweat, the ventilated front seats will help keep you cool.
While we prefer the driver’s seat, the rear seat is exceptionally spacious, comfortable, and even heated(!) so your coworkers, boss, or family members will feel like they’re getting the luxury treatment as well. When it comes to lugging stuff, the rear hatchback design gives an easy entry for large items and folding-down the rear seat provides loads of room. For a low-slung sporty vehicle, the Stinger provides excellent utility.
Ok let’s get back to the fun stuff. While many of the competitors are now entertaining you with full on digital dashboards, here you get by with a more traditional analog gauge package. We don’t mind – these are big, handsome dials, with an 8,000-rpm tach and 180-mph speedo flanking a convenient driver display. On the GT2, the info is supplemented by a handy Head-up display.
A nice fat leather-wrapped steering wheel, 3 Mercedes-like circular vents in the center dashboard, and a mouse-like shift-by-wire transmission lever show that form and function can come together in a handsome package that’s a pleasure to use in the daily drive.
We remain big fans of Kia’s UVO info-tainment system, and it gets served up to you on a large and bright 10.25-inch touchscreen. Standard navigation, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto make for easy connections, while a wireless charger is a nice touch. Our tester also enjoyed a 15-speaker Harmon-Kardon audio system that sounded terrific.
One bit of tech we loved, the on-demand Find My Car works with the available Surround View Monitor uses the vehicle cameras to capture images of the vehicle’s surroundings, and then shares them on your phone via the Kia Access UVO app. So cool!
Driving the Stinger shows just how serious they are going after the Europeans. Before we talk about our V6 model, we did want to mention that the 4-cylinder model has gotten a serious upgrade, with a new 2.5-liter, turbo engine producing 300 horsepower and 311 lb.-ft. of torque. That’s a big step up from the ’21 model’s 255 horsepower, and if it reaches Kia’s claimed 0-60 in 5.2 seconds, it may be all the engine you’d want in a Stinger.
That is of course, until you drive the twin-turbo V6 which adds a couple of horses this year. Thanks to a new electronic variable exhaust system, it now punches out an impressive 368 hp, and 376 lb.-ft. of torque. Power is supplied to an 8-speed automatic that really likes to be in Sport Mode for quick positive shifts and general tearing around town. That new exhaust sounds terrific as it gets higher up in the rpm range, too.
With all this power and responsiveness, it’s good to have the GT’s standard Brembo brakes for great stopping, minimal fade, and good pedal feel. We were happy to have the standard rear wheel drive on our tester – pure sport sedan feel – but for those who live in slippery climes, the optional torque-vectoring AWD would be a smart call.
The ride is excellent, thanks in part to our tester’s optional Electronic Controlled Suspension. With Sport, Comfort, Normal, Smart and Individual Modes, it’s easy to find that perfect blend of response and plush. The variable steering system gives quick response to the wheel – so quick that sometimes you forget you’re in a such a long car and can clip a curb. Patience, patience.
When you’re using the Stinger as a family hauler you’ll find extra confidence in the long list of safety features, which Kia says now make it the leader in its segment. Goodies include Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist with Junction Turning Assist, Blind Spot and Rear Cross Traffic Collision Avoidance, Navigation-based Smart Cruise Control, even Safe Exit Warning that can alert the driver or passengers opening their door not to exit the vehicle when the system detects approaching traffic.
Will the Price Sting Me?
As we mentioned, there’s the 4-cylinder GT-Line model with a new Turbo motor and the looks of the more expensive models, starting at a very tempting $36,090. At the other end of the spectrum was our top-of-the-line GT2 model, loaded with all the luxury and performance features you could want for $51,280. Add in Highchroma Red Paint ($495), a couple accessories, and $1,045 for destination, and we rang the bell at $53,100.
For competitors, we’d seriously look at the 2021 Lexus IS350, and Acura TLX – both a little bit lower on power, but also with great looks, driving feel, and a premium label for $55,150 and $47,775 respectively. Looking at the key European competitors show the Kia’s great value. Getting a 6-cylinder BMW M340i comparably equipped comes in at $59,045. An Audi S5 is a bank buster at $66,990, but you do get standard Quattro AWD. The Stinger is a solid challenger to all of them.
The Kia Stinger is a driver’s dream come true. With great power, stunning looks and a bargain price, BMW, Audi, and Mercedes beware!
Ben Lewis grew up in Chicago, and after spending his formative years driving sideways in the winter – often intentionally – moved to sunny Southern California. He now enjoys sunny weather year-round — whether it is autocross driving, aerobatics, and learning to surf.