Photograph by Automotive Rhythms

Introduction

Lets just get this out of the way first. Kia has been on a roll over the past few years with its new models. The Telluride was the 2020 MotorTrend SUV of the year, the K5 GT is an absolute beast of a family sedan and the Forte GT has been earning some street cred in the aftermarket community. However, there is one vehicle in Kia’s stable that really sent shockwaves when it was first introduced in 2018 and that was the Stinger.

Photograph by Automotive Rhythms

The Kia Stinger rode on a new RWD architecture that was also being used on the Genesis G80 and the then upcoming G70. It featured a 2.0L turbo 4-cylinder engine that made 255 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. Adequate and respectable considering it weighed much less than a V6 Charger but not overwhelmingly quick.

The real star of the show was Hyundai/Kia’s ubiquitous 3.3L twin turbo V6 that cranked out 365 horsepower and 376 lb-ft of torque. It managed to produce a 0-60 time of 4.9 seconds with a top speed of 167 mph making it the fastest KDM car ever created (at least until the G70 arrived). Although, Car and Driver tested an AWD version with super sticky Michelin Pilot Sport 4 and managed a 4.6 second 0-60 time. It was absolutely insane! No one in the community expected a car like this to come out of Korea, let alone all those Honda and Audi boys.

The 2JZ of Korea

But the real insanity was yet to come. Stingers started pouring into aftermarket companies for them to take the 3.3 V6 apart and dissect its insides to see how much power they could make from this motor. R&D was done by BMS, SXTH, Lap3 and more and the results were mind blowing which earned this motor the nickname “Korean 2JZ.” Aftermarket companies found out how super easy it was to squeeze more power out of the motor using simple bolt on parts and a tune. Literally, BMS sells a “450 WHP Kit” that includes dual intakes, a catch can and their JB4 piggyback tune. That’s all it took to make 450 wheel horsepower! What in the world was Kia thinking?!

Photograph by Michael B.

Kia knew exactly what they were doing in the development stages. Kia was targeting a specific audience in the market. They were going after those young Audi and BMW drivers and Kia knew exactly the kind of motor the Stinger needed but more so, they knew that people were going to inevitably modify this car. You don’t make a twin turbo V6 sports sedan with an LSD and rear-wheel drive without taking into consideration what people will want to do with their car.

The Stinger immediately earned a name for itself right out of the gate. People were gawking at them and they couldn’t believe what they were seeing was made by a company that, barely 20 years ago, was making basic commuter cars with cheap ass interiors that would crack and fall apart after 50 thousand miles. The Stinger was taking names at drag strips and beating most V8s that was put in its path. You would easily see JB4 tuned Stingers wipe the floor with V8s. SRT Charger or Challenger? See ya! Coyote Mustang? Not a chance. LS Camaro? That’s funny! Chevy SS who?! It was amazing!

The KDM community finally had a platform that they could be proud of. Seeing a Kia destroy an SRT8 Charger was magical. What’s even better is the fact that nothing else in Kia’s lineup was based on the Stinger platform. You wouldn’t get those comments from people saying something like “Oh it’s just a cheap G80.” Mostly because no one even knew what Genesis was since they were still fresh when the Stinger was first launched.

The Stinger was also turned into great show cars. You could bag it, stance it, wrap it, put a widebody kit on it and nothing that you did made the car look “over the top.” The design had a great balance to it so no matter what you did to the car it was just appealing to look at. Hell, someone even turned it into a convertible and it still was appealing to look at! Probably the best looking 4 door convertible I’ve ever seen. Yes, even including the 300C Convertible from 2006 that looked like it was a PT Cruiser for gangsters.

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