What a car! Our 2018 Kia Stinger GT test car.Hollis Johnson/Business Insider
- The Kia Stinger takes home the big trophy for 2018.
- It bested some serious competition, including the Tesla Model 3, the Lamborghini Huracán Performante, the Ferrari 812 Superfast, the Lincoln Navigator, and the Jaguar I-Pace.
- In all, the Kia Stinger beat out 14 other finalists.
- We concluded that it’s the best car South Korea has ever produced — a triumph after many years of Kia working to establish itself in the US and other global markets.
The Kia Stinger is Business Insider’s Car of the Year for 2018!
This is the fifth time we’ve presented the big trophy, and the Stinger joins illustrious company. Past winners were the Corvette Stingray in 2014, the Volvo XC90 in 2015, the Acura NSX in 2016, and the Porsche Panamera in 2017.
In the half-decade we’ve been giving out our Car of the Year award, there had never been a vehicle that established itself as an early front-runner only to maintain its perch all year. But as soon as Senior Correspondent Matt DeBord drove the Kia Stinger in the Bay Area at the beginning of 2018, he knew it was something special. On return to Business Insider’s New York office from the West Coast, he could barely contain his enthusiasm.
Senior Reporter Ben Zhang got his crack on the East Coast a few months later and was also blown away.
Real competition certainly arrived. The Tesla Model 3 is stupendous, and it’s hard to argue against the Aston Martin DB11 Volante, the Ferrari 812 Superfast, and the Lamborghini Huracán Performante. Zhang and DeBord passed many a weekend morning or afternoon at our suburban New Jersey test center debating the merits of various contenders. (This was also the first year when we had two all-electric vehicles in the running — the Jaguar I-Pace and the Model 3 — perhaps a sign of things to come.)
Read more: One of these 15 finalists will become Business Insider’s 2018 Car of the Year.
Our methodology is based on a handful of simple questions.
- Is there a strong business case for the vehicle? We are a business website, after all.
- Did our reviewers agree that the vehicle should be included? We have to come to a consensus, even though we might disagree on some particulars.
- Was the vehicle objectively excellent? There has to be a wow factor of some sort.
- Did the vehicle stand out from the sea of competition, particularly when it comes to technology? A Car of the Year finalist has to be special, and we’re also a technology website.
- Can we strongly recommend buying or leasing the car? We demand to know whether we’d buy the vehicle ourselves if we had the resources.
To be eligible, all models must be new or have been substantially updated within the past year.
The Kia Stinger is the best car South Korea has ever produced. Designed by Peter Schreyer, the sports sedan is intended to evoke the great European grand-touring cars of the past, such as the Lamborghini Miura or the Ferrari Daytona.
This means the Stinger has notably more panache and a unique sort of sleek prowess that’s lacking in similar offerings from Mercedes, BMW, Audi, and Lexus. Those brands produce wonderful, spirited four-doors, but they do so at a higher price tag than Kia, and in recent years their core vehicles have bulked up. They’ve opted for aggressive, while the Stinger goes for style.
In the end, the Stinger put its elegant nose in front and kept it there for an entire year. We sampled close to 70 vehicles in 2018, so this victory for Kia is particularly notable. The competition was intense. But the Kia Stinger was up for it. It’s fair to say that we’ve admired our previous Car of the Year winners. But when it came to Stinger, we fell in love.
Photos by Hollis Johnson.
The motor’s power is piped through an eight-speed automatic transmission. Sure, there are paddle shifters so you can go manual, but we found that it was best to just let the auto handle the duty. As an aside, the Stinger has the first joystick-style shifter that we’ve actually liked.
Hollis Johnson/Business Insider
The Stinger provides multiple drive modes: Eco, Comfort, Sport, Smart, or Custom.
Smart tweaks the dynamics based on your driving style, while Custom lets you do the tweaking yourself.
Sport maximizes all the Stinger has to offer, but in my testing it also clobbered the already marginal fuel economy. That’s the price you pay. Official mile-per-gallon amounts are 19 city, 25 highway, and 21 combined. We suspect we were getting more like 20 mpg, given that we were engaging in spirited Sport-mode piloting.
Comfort and Eco should help one to better sip the petrol, and on balance they don’t detract hugely from performance — we stepped on it in both and were rewarded with plenty of pep. But Sport is where the steering is most taut, the braking is most responsive, and the suspension is trimmest. Some reviews of the Stinger have complained about body roll when the car is pushed, but we didn’t find much of that, though we were driving on public roads rather than a track.
Say hello to the 2018 Business Insider Car of the Year!
Hollis Johnson/Business Insider
In 1993, Kia arrived in America with its compact Sephia sedan and soon followed with the Sportage compact SUV. The cars were simple, affordable, and utterly underwhelming.
Over the next quarter century, Kia and its corporate cousin Hyundai have not only steadily improved their product offerings but also worked to chip away at any negative misconceptions the buying public may have held about Korean cars.
These days, Kia makes good cars and SUVs and stands behind them with a 10-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty. It’s no longer a risk to own its vehicles; it’s proved it can satisfy and delight American customers.
But the Stinger takes things to a whole new level, and that’s why we’ve named it our 2018 Car of the Year.
This is easily the best car Kia has ever made, but more than that it’s among the best cars of its type that we’ve driven. The comparison that jumped immediately to mind was the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio, a 505-horsepower beast that was a finalist for Business Insider’s 2017 Car of the Year.
Obviously, the Stinger GT2 that we tested, at 365 horsepower, gives up a lot of ponies to the Giulia Quadrifoglio. But it has a similar light, sporty, vigorous feel, and arguably the horsepower is just right while the Giulia Quadrifoglio’s is excessive. Plus, the Giulia Quad is almost $80,000, and you have to spend that much to get the twin-turbo V6 because the non-Quads give you only a 280-horsepower four-cylinder, at prices that compare to the Stinger GTs’ (the Stinger can also be had with a smaller four-banger).
Sticker-wise, you might stack the Stinger GT2 up against the Audi S4, and the specs are similar. But the S4, while a nice ride, lacks the flair and panache of the Stinger. Yes, you could buy the S4 and be happy. But we’d rather buy the Stinger and be thrilled. (We also thought about the Stinger going up against the Acura TLX A-Spec, a previous Business Insider Car of the Year contender, but the Acura just doesn’t have that juicy Stinger twin-turbo V6 going for it.)
It’s an endlessly fun car, a literal joy to drive. It fires up with a pleasing snarl (OK, an augmented one, but still) and growls cheerfully when pushed. It’s flat-out fast. The zero-to-60 time is supposed to be 4.7 seconds, but we thought it was notably quicker than that. And you have to watch yourself at cruising velocities, as the Stinger taps out the legal speed limit in a hurry but with such poise and relative quiet that one can easily overlook the speedometer.
As it turned out, the weather in the Bay Area while Matt DeBord was driving varied between lovely and rainy, so he had the chance to vindicate the AWD system. We wouldn’t pay the extra thousands for it, but it performed capably. Generally speaking, torque vectoring favors the rear wheels and sends grab to the front only if you need it.
Some reviewers have complained that the Stinger suffers from body roll, which is when the car leans while turning. But we didn’t notice much of that. Nor could we wring much turbo lag out of the engine.
We found the paddle shifters to be a bit ticky-tacky, so we mostly skipped them. As a result, in Sport mode while letting the eight-speed auto shift gears, some firm downshifts could be felt — that may bother some drivers, but we consider it in the spirit of what Sport mode should be all about.
The brakes are nice, beefy Brembos, and they keep the Stinger in check. We gave them a workout on the twisting roads around Deer Creek and the mean streets of the island of Manhattan. But where we genuinely enjoyed the Stinger the most was on the highway: It’s supposed to be a gran turismo, a touring car, designed to recall a time when well-heeled European couples saddled up their elegant GTs and set their sights on beachfront enclaves. The Stinger is a car that craves a weekend trip to someplace nice.
Some reviewers have also complained that the interior isn’t really all that luxurious. It isn’t. So what? Do you want to rub the leather all day or drive the car? We looked forward to savoring the Stinger’s beauty — and having it envelop us when we slipped inside.
It was lovely. The audio system sounds great. The seats are fine, heated and cooled (so was the steering wheel). We can live without race-car bolstering and open-grain wood trim.
Matt declared that he would buy this car tomorrow without hesitation if he were in the market for a sporty four-door. Ben shared that sentiment. We’d skip the AWD to get the price down closer to $40,000 and laugh at all the Audis and BMWs because our car would be just so, so, so much hipper.
A brilliant risk for Kia, and one that should be brilliantly rewarded.