“Don’t call a bee a wasp,” Dad chided as he donned his protective gloves and netted head gear, toting a smoker, while carefully approaching an apiary, to collect the golden yield. His beekeeping conjured images of “killer bee” swarms depicted Creature Feature horror films. Dad reassured that honey bees make pollinating plant love and don’t attack humans. Though, there were times he was stung by the occasional worker bee stuck in his headgear, awakened from the smoke lull to sleep.

 

More accurately Vespidae or Wasps, are the distant relative of the honey bee which make predatory war. While yellow jackets lose their barbs and die after stinging a victim the hornet, retaining its venomous barb, and can sting over and over and over again.

 

Adopting the very faint profile of the wasp’s barb, Kia Motor’s Peter Schreyer and Albert Biermann, former BMW M-Division engineering V.P., have just unleashed a powerful liftback performance sedan. Not coincidentally the 2018 Kia Stinger GT2 AWD was launched in a limited production in yellow exterior color scheme. However more the hornet, the 2018 Stinger GT keeps on stinging.

 

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WHAT: 2018 Kia Stinger GT2 AWD  = an all new premium sports executive 5-door liftback sedan, based on a shortened variant of the Genesis G80 DH platform, related to the notchback Hyundai G70 compact luxury sports sedan.

Standard Power (base & Premium): longitudinal intercooled turbocharged 2.0L DOHC 16V DI gas I-4 = 255 hp/ 260 lb-ft @ 1400 rpm + 8-spd. torque converter planetary automatic transmission w/ shift paddles + rear wheel drive (opt. HTRAC Magna all-wheel drive).

Optional Power(GT, GT1, GT2): longitudinal turbocharged 3.3L DOHC 24V DI gas V-6 = 365 hp/ 376 lb-ft @ 1300 rpm + 8-speed torque converter planetary automatic w/ shift paddles + rear wheel drive (opt. HTRAC Magna all-wheel drive).

WHAT (A) STYLING DIFFERENCE: Kia Europe Frankfurt studio’s Gregory Guillaume, took one part high belt-line Coke bottle fuselage + one part low slung hood; A long front overhang accommodates a deep fascia with dual corner air duct fangs; Kia elements include a widened dark lattice Kia twin-kidney grille mirrored by a lattice lower air dam, and wrap around boomerang headlights; GT’s variants hood NACA ducts are in form only;

Lower door creasing folds open to lower skirts; Aft rear door frames rise, meeting the thin C-pillar to carry a rear sloping roof; Rear quarters flare outwards to create a nearly flat surface; A long raked liftgate backlight blends into a fastback style tall shelf;   An LED lightbar spans the upper flat back terminating in almond-shaped taillamps with wrap-around thin LED barbs; Dark simulated lower corner vents and part center lattice lower fascia containing reflectors and twin elliptical dual tailpipes rounds out the back.

WHY: Following the latest Euro trend of liftback Gran Turismo sports sedans

WHEN: On-Sale (in the U.S.) since Spring 2018

WHERE: Kia new vehicle dealers

WHERE MADE: Sohari Assembly, Gwangmyeong, South Korea

HOW ROADWORTHY: In Sport mode 1-scroll intercooled turbochargers on the 3.3L 24V DI DOHC Lambda engine spool up quickly by aid of a 8-speed autobox & reactive shift paddles staunchly defending each gear to 6000 rpm, unleashing a hearty bellow, before bouncing off the rev limiter. Cog swaps can get jerky until Comfort or lesser drive modes are selected for more buttery movements and a far less muscular aural note. Magna all-wheel drive viscous clutches from a 20/80% to 50/50% F:R torque split. -1 What’s with the befuddled toggle transmission position selector and separate Park push button?

Out of 5 Drive Modes, selectable via center console dial:

  • Eco = silly contradictions to sport GT mission;
  • Custom = favorite with 5 configurable parameters, including audio enhanced exhaust intensity.

Two tons mass = Grand Tourer as opposed to track hound;  Low clearance & wider staggered front/ rear track + soft springing = some bump stops abutting jounce;  Bits of lift & squat on hard acceleration +excess dive on hard braking = duller turn-in; E-adaptive dampers have primary mission of compliance given the 19″ wheels and wide contact patch; Dampers don’t significantly stiffen in Sport mode resulting in slower rebound control and less grip than expected;

Variable steering ratio nearly undetectable; Judiciously hefted assistance + linear helm wind-up reduce fatigue but speaks softly;  Front 4-piston, rear twin piston calipers yank back hard only nearing the firewall end of pedal travel.

HOW FAR: 22 combined miles per gallon;

HOW BIG/ LITTLE: Nominal overhangs imply that 190+” length is on the larger compact end of spectrum; 114+” inches wheelbase abuts mid-sizers; 42+” inches front legroom , 36+” inches rear legroom makes a spacious grand tourer for four;  -1 Noggins knocking lower rear entry; –1 tall drive shaft tunnel prohibits adults in rear center spot;

HOW USEFUL: 60/40% split folding rear seating; Versatile and spacious liftgate cargo accommodations; Suspended removable hard parcel shelf; Cargo tie-down anchors; Proximity power liftgate open & close; Overhead console soft-hinged sunglasses bin; Large felt lined glove box; Center-stack covered wireless device storage and connection bin; Wide center armrest & bin; –1 Narrow cargo space at wheel arches; Side pillars & raked backlight impair side & rear visibility;

HOW SAFE: 9 airbags; Rear camera; sonar front & rear Park Distance Control, Blind spot, rear cross traffic & lane departure warning; Driver Attention alert; Auto parking brake hold; Auto high beam headlamps; Heads-Up display

Partial Autonomous Driving: Full adaptive cruise control, Lane Keep Assist, Forward Collision avoidance braking; -1 Adaptive cruise control reacts slowly to lane jumpers;

HOW PEOPLE FRIENDLY: Nappa leather seating;  Heated & cooled front sport seats: 16-way, driver power adjust w/ knee extender, 2-setting memory, 10-way front pax power adjust 4 power windows, front w/ full up-down express; Heated leather D-shape power tilt/ telescoping steering wheel;  LED Puddle lamps x 4 doors; Oversized moon roof w/ power shade; +1 Door pocket storage; +1 Fore and aft dual front door pulls;

Cool Gizmo(s): Proximity sensing power folding retracting wing mirrors; White cockpit dash, door & foot-well ambient LEDs. +1 4-air cell driver’s seat lumbar adjustment

Details Done Right:  Tight webbed headliner & pillars; Brushed aluminum climate & audio switches;  Soft touch door panels w/ seat matching contrasting leather; Smooth leatherette soft touch dash cover; Stainless steel door audio speaker covers;

Nearly Non-Descript: -1 Circular air vents; Faux embossed dashtop stitching; Hard plastic front seat backs; Thin pile cargo area carpeting

HOW “APP” -LICABLE: 8″ tri-pane touch LCD infotainment screen; Voice recognition command hands-free communications; 3-D SD GPS navigation; Subscription based Sirius XM radio & TravelLink; 15 speaker, 720 Watt Harman Kardon Q-Logic HD radio;  Android Auto / Apple Car Play wireless device overlays; free My UVO 911 service, Personal assistant, Geo-fencing, park minder, HD Radio Doppler weather; Pandora, Yelp; USB x 2, 12V x 3.

HOW MUCH: $52,300 = as tested 2018 Kia Stinger GT2 3.3T AWD

WHAT’S MISSING: Better driver seat to pedal alignment; Heated rear seats; Native SMS messaging; LTE Wi-Fi; Winter drive mode.

ANY COMPETITION: Audi A7: powertrain refinement, cabin finish; Buick Regal GS AWD+1 cargo space; BMW 330 Gran Turismo xDrive: +1 powertrain refinement, fuel economy, cargo capacity;

FINAL WORD: Kia hit it out of the park in its first performance grand touring at-bat.