Roller Coaster Thrills: the Stinger
When I was a teenager, I loved roller coasters. Fidgeting with anticipation, I’d wait in long lines for the Vortex, The Beast, and the Racer. Later, I stopped enjoying roller coasters after an unrelated neck injury, and once I had my son, my risk tolerance decreased significantly.
It was when I started writing about cars that I rediscovered my love for sharp turns, surprising twists, and spins. That sharp intake of breath when you stop, hard. The laughter that bubbles up when the turn squeals the tires and your whole body shifts to the side. It’s flying down a hill, your stomach suspended.
Kia staged a course for their new Stinger along the windy route in the Angeles National Forest Highway, finishing in the oversized parking lot at Magic Mountain, the Six Flags amusement park in Visalia, California. The loops and steep hills of steel roller coaster tracks created a beautiful, thrilling backdrop to a beautiful, thrilling vehicle.
The manufacturer says the Stinger is a throwback to the muscle cars of the 70s; the driving event was chock-full of 1970s references from the color scheme to the play list in the lounge when we arrived at the Garland Hotel. To put a cherry on top, the Brady Bunch house was a short walk away, and you can bet I walked down there and took a picture with my friend Alice in front of that landmark.
The drama of the Stinger is evident in the marketing materials, videos, and in the voices of the brand representatives. It’s clear that Kia is ecstatic about this car. There seems to be a new spring in their step, and rightly so: the Stinger, in all of its glary, can compete as a performance car against some of the top sport sedans in its class. Kia’s vision was a performance vehicle that could “fit two couples and their things, to arrive in style at a fabulous location, and to also do it incredibly rapidly, ride comfortably, and with a lot of speed.”
Created with Adrenaline and Euphoria
Kia tested the Stinger for over 6000 miles on the Nürburgring in Germany for speed, did braking runs in the Austrian Alps, completed winter testing near the Arctic Circle in Sweden, and tested its heat tolerance in the Mojave Desert. All in all, the Stinger went through over one million miles of testing around the world.
The promotional video set my heart racing; I could feel the smile spread across my face. The words they used were thrilling: Adrenaline. Anticipation. Euphoria. Exhilaration. Passion. The smile on the face of the designer, ex-Audi head designer Peter Schreyer, says it all.
The manufacturer hired Albert Biermann, who had been the chief engineer for BMW and spent 32 years with the luxury brand, between Biermann and Schreyer, Kia anticipates ushering out the “pre-Stinger” and moving forward into the “post-Stinger” era of design and performance for the brand. Kia says this car is unlike any Kia that has come before it.
Yep. This is my roller coaster.
The Stinger is designed with a long hood, long wheelbase, broad shoulders (they call them haunches, which evokes an animalistic feel), and a fastback profile. The wheels are pushed out at the corners to give it a firm stance and it grips the road as you drive it. It’s a little longer than a BMW 3-series and has a longer wheel base (the distance between the front and wheel tires) than the Audi A5 and Lexus GS. And it has more cargo and leg room than the A5, the BMW 640i, and the Porsche Panamera.
Believe it or not, the Stinger has more horsepower than a base model of the Porsche Panamera. And after testing the Panamera on the track against the Stinger, I can attest that the Stinger stands up to the scrutiny. I took a ride in the Porsche with The Robb Report’s Jason Harper, who made me laugh with glee as he tore up the track, and sat shotgun with Kia’s James Bell, who raced around the corners so sharply and expertly in the Stinger that the tires smoked.
Is It Safe?
Well, that's up to you. What I can tell you is that the Stinger is made of 55% high-strength steel and ultra high-strength steel, which must be formed and molded in the molten stage. They're targeting top crash ratings from NHTSA and IIHS, and the rock-solid body is serious business. In fact, the strength of the body and expanded haunches help the suspension do its job and to give it the rigidity of the German sedans Biermann and Schreyer are used to working on. And that doesn't even start to cover all of the other standard safety features.
The physics of this car are impressive; Kia has considered how the air moves around and hugs the car to reduce turbulence, which gives it a smoother ride. Ducts also allow air to travel over the engine to keep it cool. At $31,900 for a base Stinger and about $50K for a Stinger GT with all the bells and whistles, it’s tens of thousands of dollars less than a Porsche, and it’s $10K less than a BMW 440i. The affordability of this dream is compelling.
The hand-stitched components and aircraft-inspired cockpit are impressive. This is the Kia of the future, and I’m all in.
Get in and buckle your seat belts, keep your hands inside the car, and get ready for a great ride.
JUST THE FACTS, MA’AM:
- Starts at: $31,900 MSRP (2.0L) to $49.200 (GT2); All Wheel Drive: add $2K
- 25 combined miles per gallon of fuel
- Top speed: 167
- 3.3 liter V6 twin turbo engine in the GT and GT2
- 365 hp, 376 lb-ft of torque, and a 0-100 km/h time of 4.7 seconds
- Tires: long-lasting, all-condition, best-in-class Michelin Pilot Sport tires tuned for the Stinger
- Brakes: 4-piston Brembo
- Harman Kardon sound system with 720 watts, 15 high-performance speakers, under seat subwoofers, and Clari-Fi Digital Music Restoration Technology
- UVO infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay
- The driver’s seat has a 16-way and 12-way front seat for the driver and passenger, with an added air-cell lumbar adjustable bolster for the Stinger.
Disclosure: Kia paid for my airfare, room, and meals; there were no conditions set regarding what I would write about my experience. Many thanks to Kia for providing a few of the photos in this post.