I purchased a 2018 GT2 AWD in 2019 used with 7,200 miles on it. I am now at >50,000 miles. If I had to do it all over again would I? What did Kia get right on the Stinger? Where does the Stinger fall short? Would I recommend one? I’ll try and answer these questions.
My Stinger story starts at the dealership. I was originally in the market for a Genesis G70 3.3L twin-turbo. I found a Genesis dealership that also had a used Stinger GT2 on the lot. Not wanting to pass up the opportunity to test drive both I headed to the dealership.
While chit-chatting with the salesmen he mentioned, “You know, I sold this car to the original owner and he brought it back six months later.” I wondered, who would take the loss bringing back a brand new car after six months unless there was something wrong with it, so I asked “why did he bring it back?” The salesman answered, “well, it turns out he is a bus driver, which means he has a commercial driver’s license, and he was getting so many speeding tickets in the Stinger he brought the car back for something tamer so he wouldn’t lose his license and his job.”
I thought, “really nice sales pitch” but the story actually turned out to be true. After I bought the car I removed the floorboard card, mat, spare tire, etc., from the trunk and I found a piece of paper with the former owner’s name on it. I looked up the former owner on Facebook and he verified the story and let me know his job is now safe as the risk of excess points on his license is alleviated. His parting words on Facebook Messenger were, “you are going to love that car!”
What Kia Got Right
I have since added a M&S America splitter, side skirts, spoiler, diffuser and had two different wrap jobs on the car; however even when my Stinger was bone stock it drew A LOT of attention. At red lights I often received a thumbs up from a nearby driver. At gas stations more often than not someone would strike up a conversation with me about the car. I think one of the reasons why this occurs is most people do not know what type of car this is. It is one thing to be attractive. It’s quite another thing to be attractive and novel. The Stinger’s styling is both.
I have owned a BMW and two Audis and people recognize them readily. They are commonplace, nice cars but a dime a dozen regarding styling. I have parked my Stinger near a friend’s brand new ($175,000) BMW M8 650 convertible and the Stinger turned more heads in the parking lot than the Bimmer. The fact that Stinger sales numbers are so poor makes the Stinger all the more attractive to me. Driving a Stinger is driving a special car.
Shortly after buying it I brought the Stinger to a midtown Manhattan parking garage where the attendants know me and are accustomed to seeing me in other cars. Despite the fact that they work around cars all day and they need to be adept identifying cars to put the correct information on the claim ticket, my first time at the garage in the Stinger caused the attendant to ask, “Italian?” I shook my head, no. “German?” No again. “British?” Nope. I had mercy on him after three guesses and answered, “Korean.” His eyes widened. “Korean ???” If I had answered “Martian” my answer would have sounded more plausible.
Compared to the other German cars I have owned the Stinger punches well beyond its weight class. While a stock Stinger GT (GT1, GT2, GTS) 3.3L twin-turbo is potent and capable the platform is also easily tunable achieving 420 (or more) hp to the wheels simply with bolt-on modifications and a ECU tune, all on premium-octane pump gas.
Where the Stinger Falls Short
The B-pillar on the car is so wide than when merging onto a roadway after exiting onto a highway’s looping exit it is very difficult to see cars approaching at my 7 and 8-o’clock position while looking over my left shoulder. Despite the driver’s side mirror and blind-spot-monitoring system I often lack confidence merging left while simultaneously turning in a wide sweeping right hand arc. The B-pillar is not however the worst visibility issue on a Stinger.
The Stinger’s “fast-back” rear hatch design while attractive and functional allowing massive amounts of cargo to be placed in the trunk results in rear window / rear mirror visibility that is really, really poor. I would appreciate being able to see what’s behind me better, especially when the car behind me has a lightbar on its roof … or a driver with a shield, a gun and a ticket book.
Every GT or higher level trim Stinger owner will eventually complain about vibration coming from their brake rotors. It is remarkable that Kia decided to equip this car with Brembo calipers, but apparently the brake pads Kia is using are prone to leaving deposits on the rotors which eventually harden causing the brakes to vibrate when depressed. For those that learn about this issue before it becomes an annoying problem my recommendation would be to replace the brake pads immediately with non-OEM pads well before the symptoms begin. Any 3rd party aftermarket pads should avoid the deposit issue.
Girodisc, R1 Concepts ceramic, EBC and others all make good ones. Replace the pads right away, even if your OEM-Kia pads are brand new.
Once the deposits from OEM-Kia pads adhere to the rotors there is no tenable solution other than getting the rotors resurfaced or replaced. Both will be expensive.
If you bring up this issue to a Kia dealer many owners report that the dealership will offer to change the pads, but since they replace them with the same OEM-Kia pads that caused the issue in the first place this solution will not be effective. Most owners report dealerships are unwilling to replace or resurface the rotors free of charge.
Paint and Trim
Many Stinger owners have reported that the trim pieces above the door jams which extend toward the rear window become blotchy. I have heard some Kia dealerships are replacing this trim under warranty assuming the owner complains about it. Other owners report that cleaning this trim with a Magic Eraser pad resolves the issue. I chose to have this trim wrapped along with the rest of the car.
Additionally some Stingers have been prone to paint related issues specific to certain colors such as the limited edition Sunset Yellow color. At the time this color came out I heard of Kia repainting certain sections of owners’ cars under warranty, however not the whole car.
While in general the GT2’s Harman Kardon stereo is quite good the sound quality appears to be dependent on the audio source. Apple CarPlay and Sirius both sound very good. FM is lousy, far worse than other cars I own with FM receivers.
The Stinger’s ISG system (Idle, Stop and Go) will default to “on” every time you start the car. ISG is a fuel economy “feature” which turns off your engine while waiting at red lights, etc. ISG “on” means your car will turn, off. Make sense? The Stinger will allow you to manually turn ISG off (meaning the car stays on) after you start the car however once you end your trip and turn the car off it reverts to “on” mode when you start the engine.
Now, if one opts for a ECU tune like the one’s offered by LAP3 Performance you can have the tuned ECU programmed to disable ISG always.
Additionally “Sport Mode” does not persist after turning the car off and then on. The Stinger reverts to Comfort Mode when previously driven in Sport Mode. Interestingly, if you drive the car in ECO mode it will revert to ECO after an off/on cycle. An educated guess is that this inconsistency is another EPA inspired fuel savings “feature.”
Not My Problems But Things Others Have Complained About
SUNROOF RATTLE: Some have complained the GT2 sunroof rattles. Mine does not. There are discussions on how to fix this in various Kia Stinger forums on the internet and on Facebook.
TRUNK RATTLE: I have not heard of a GT2 with this issue. However some Stinger owners with manual trunks have complained about this noise. Again, there are discussions on how to fix this in various Kia Stinger forums.
The Worst Thing About the Stinger Ownership Experience
Without question the overwhelming answer is Kia dealerships. If coming out of a German sport sedan dealership experience or with the expectation of buying and getting your Stinger dealer-serviced you will be gravely disappointed. Aside from the typical car dealership trials all brands cause customers to endure, Kia dealers have been known to damage the side skirts on Stingers lifting the car improperly, going on joy rides in the one sporty Kia model a dealership mechanic may see during the week (or month), or screwing up the most basic service tasks like reattaching the under-engine splash shield using all the bolts after a oil change.
My experience is that if a dealership has a mechanic qualified to work on Stingers, they have only one. If your service manager schedules you with that one tech chances are good your car will not be damaged and the work will be done competently. If the service manager schedules you with anyone else in the service bay; well, pray.
Would I Do It Again or Recommend a Stinger to Someone?
Overall, while fully considering the various criticisms and cautions above? Yes.
The fact that Kia has formally announced that they will cease production of Stingers in 2023 makes the car more, not less attractive to me. What was a fairly unknown to the general public, one-of-a-kind outlier car will now become rarer and more special.
And I love the underdog. Compared to big establishment Germans Hyundai Motor Group (Hyundai, Kia, Genesis) is disrupting the industry. HMG is no longer personified by the Hyundai Excel (named after the Microsoft software package since you would need a spreadsheet to keep track of your car repair expenses. Just kidding.). HMG has matured and with the Stinger (and the Genesis G70) offers world-class sport sedans as well as economy minded commuter, family cars and SUVs. But for those wanting a Gran Turismo sports sedan experience for roughly 60 to 70% of the cost of a comparable AMG Mercedes, S series Audi, or M series BMW; the Stinger raises a huge middle finger to the automotive competition. HMG was capable of not only designing but building a legitimate world-class GT car. That middle finger stands pretty damn tall despite anemic sales report numbers.
If you are considering buying this car you need to look past the fact that the emblem says Kia. I have a smile on my face each time I drive it. I enjoy the fact that it’s a Kia. When someone (without seeing the Kia logo) asks me what type of car I drive I simply say, “a Kia hatchback.” For my friends who are car-snobs and who may look down their nose at Kia I drop the names Peter Schreyer, Gregory Guillaume and Albert Biermann and then they usually shut up assuming they know who those people are and what roles they played in Kia’s transformation.
If they don’t know who those people are I just take the friend for a ride in the Stinger and that seals the deal.
Hope you enjoy your new Stinger!
Updated 1/6/2023 8:15am adding the section about paint and trim.