Home » The Kia Stinger Never Had A Future. But I’m Still Sad To See It Go

The Kia Stinger Never Had A Future. But I’m Still Sad To See It Go

Exclusive Kia Stinger Tribute Edition Celebrates Kia's High−performance Vision

The Kia Stinger is about to die. We had kind of known this was coming for months, but the Korean marque recently made it official that the production of its groundbreaking liftback sports sedan is coming to an end. The Stinger is being sent off with a special Tribute Edition.

I have a lot more to say about the demise of the Stinger itself, but first, let’s talk about the Tribute Edition that will take it to that autocross course in the sky.

Bathed in Ascot Green or Moonscape matte paint, the Tribute Edition gets black wheels, black mirror caps, black brake calipers, and a special Terracotta interior. It’s an understated package, one that fits well with the car’s ethos – to be a fast, understated, well-equipped liftback. The Tribute Edition is limited to 1,000 units worldwide and apart from the black wheels, it’s very nice.

However, this is a poignant moment because the Stinger never seemed destined to last.

Exclusive Kia Stinger Tribute Edition Celebrates Kia's High−performance Vision

Go back to the Stinger’s debut in 2017, and you’d have seen both skepticism and admiration. It was a rear- and all-wheel-drive sport sedan meant to be a bargain answer to the BMW 3 Series and the like. Say what you will about modern BMW, but that’s still like picking a fight with the toughest and most experienced dude in the yard. And in Kia’s case, it had absolutely no history to back it up—no performance cars, no history, no nothing.

Kia had just failed massively at drumming up K900 luxury sedan sales in the American market, so another high-end model seemed destined to repeat mistakes. Still, the press admired Kia for having the guts to build a performance car with all the right pieces underneath. In reality, it was easier than it looked – Genesis was hard at work on the G70, so all Kia had to do was take those bones and stretch them to its liking. The result was a 365-horsepower, 167-mph rocketship from the brand that brought the world the Sephia.

Also, Kia had a secret weapon at the time: Albert Biermann, the former BMW M boss poached by the Hyundai Motor Group for projects like this one. While he came into the project well into its development, his presence was felt in the car’s impressive driving dynamics and eager performance.

2023 Kia Stinger

Alas, the Stinger was never really meant to last. It’s a car that now sells in hundreds per month, not thousands. Plus, its Genesis G70 platform-mate is here to carry the torch, and that’s a car known to crack four figures a month in sales even in an era of chip shortages. Doesn’t it just make more sense for those wanting a sports sedan to frequent luxury showrooms rather than rub shoulders with Forte buyers? In addition, the Stinger itself seems to be at odds with the way the world’s going.

When you think “performance Kia” nowadays, which not long ago would’ve been an oxymoron, you may think of the Kia EV6—especially the 576-horsepower EV6 GT. The whole motoring world’s obsessed with EVs now. Who can blame us for this? It’s never been easier to make a really quick car and most EVs lead less carbon-intensive lifecycles than gasoline-powered cars. Plus, even though EVs are heavy, the Stinger GT was too. Tick the box for all-wheel-drive and you’re looking at a curb weight north of 4,000 pounds. That doesn’t exactly make for the most agile car on the road.

2023 Stinger

Oh, but the Stinger GT does something that most electric cars can’t. Sure, the rear suspension is a bit underdamped and the fuel economy isn’t great, but it just eats up fast highway miles like it’s born to do it. It’s a vehicle seemingly optimized for our land of long, arrow-straight highways with little opportunity for regenerative braking. Instead of watching range drop drastically while performing an overtake, you just pull the left paddle thrice, flick on the indicator, plant your foot down, and off you go. The Stinger GT simply doesn’t care. The 3.3-liter twin-turbocharged V6 may not feel as inspired as a V8 or an inline-six, but it always delivers.

v6 engine

In just six short years, we’ve gone from a world that made the Kia Stinger GT possible to one that makes it impossible. There’s no business case anymore for a big dinosaur-burning liftback as a halo car. The Kia EV6 GT is quicker, greener, and judging by its Genesis GV60 Performance platform-mate, likely brilliant.

However, the Stinger GT is a better dream.

The EV6 GT is a fast version of a commodity. Compact crossovers are hot right now, so everyone’s rolling out an electric model. The regular EV6 just makes sense to build, and the EV6 GT will fill the halo car role for most people. The Stinger GT, on the other hand, made no sense at all. Kia had no prior history of making world-class sports sedans. The sports sedan segment itself is niche in an age of high-riding everything, and people looking at BMWs probably won’t walk over to a Kia dealership for the sake of comparison. The Stinger was a very specific car from a very specific time and place. Just five years on and we live in a very different world.

rear three quarters

The Kia Stinger GT is—was, I suppose, now—a dream in its purest form, a car that can’t justify its own existence, yet appeals to a certain desire. I’ve spent a couple of hundred miles behind the wheel and came away with nothing but respect and admiration. I’m saddened by the death of Kia’s mile-muncher, not just because a great car is going off sale, but because it makes me wonder what will happen to similar cars in the future.

All photos credit Kia

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34 Responses

  1. It’s a shame to see the Stinger go. In the future it will be more appreciated than it was when it was in production. One of the basic rules of life is, people don’t appreciate what they have until it’s gone.

    The dice were loaded against the Stinger from the start, a combination of the general awfulness of most (but not all) Kia dealers, and the lack of marketing support from Kia corporate. They just didn’t know how to market and position the car, especially within a brand known for entry-level economy transportation. So they just didn’t.

    I bought a 2022 GT1 V6 AWD, and it’s one of the best all-around cars I’ve ever owned. Plenty of (near) luxury for my butt to be happy and comfortable on 15 hour drives, fast enough to run with a Mustang GT, a hatchback big enough to carry small furniture, AWD for snowy New England weather, easy 32 mpg on the highway, styling that turns heads and gets conversations at every stop, all at a much more reasonable price and with far better reliability than the usual German alternatives. It’s hard to find all that in one package. And we probably never will again.

    Some might crow about how the EV6 GT will have better ‘numbers.’ So what? I care about how a car *feels* to drive, not silly bragging rights to ‘numbers.’ I dare any true car enthusiast to drive a Stinger GT V6 back to back with any EV, and then say which one had more personality, more character, raised adrenaline levels, and was just more plain fun.

  2. The thing that upsets me the most is it offered a way to keep sedans relevant with the liftback design, but since old people who are out of shape are the largest demographic for new car sales, they’d rather have dealers cross sell those who want practicality into SUVs while coming up with sloped fastback designs with tiny trunk openings for sedans and coupes.

    So now unless you want to/can pony up for a BMW 4 Series GC or an Audi A5 Sportback, you get a practical vehicle or a performance vehicle, but not both.

    1. Hot hatches still exist. The V6 version of the Stinger MSRPs for $52,000. You can get a CTR or Golf R for that money, with several thousand dollars left over. Tons of fun, more practical than a Stinger, can be had with a stick shift.

      1. Actually, I am not part of the “manual or GTFO” crowd, an attitude which is just as toxic to performance cars as the “I’ll let some other sucker take the depreciation hit and buy it used” attitude.

        These kinds of cars have a limited appeal to begin with and seeing this kind of attitude so prevalent just makes the business case for them even harder.

        1. Well hey, it’s not like there aren’t automatic options out there as well! I hear VW’s DSG is quite good, for instance. My point was just that practical, fun cars do still exist. I’m not someone who thinks that No True Scotsman Enthusiast would prefer an automatic, but if you’re building a performance car and the only transmission option is a torque-converter automatic, a portion of your target market is likely to look elsewhere. Some will be fine with it, and some will prefer an auto anyway, but some will consider it a drawback.

  3. Blah Blah Blah. If you set out to design tge economy version of the BMW? THAT is not likely to be an economy priced vehicle. Everyone in the market is cheaper than BMW. Even still an affordable economy car this is not. I need a 2 or 4 door reliable low cost of repair with parts availability. It needs enough power to merge and keep up with traffic anything over 300 hp you are selling a crappy sports car not a decently powered transportation device. The only reason decent priced sedans are not popular is because they were popular so manufacturers added $10k or more options and you have to buy them. SUVs would be falling in sales now, actually they are, but profitability is insane due to logistics. As soon as lack of supply is gone i predict SUVs will dissappear due to higher finance rates and higher fuel prices.

  4. I guess that teased manual option was too optimistic.

    Goodbye Kia Stinger, and thanks for breathing some enthusiasm into an otherwise unremarkable car maker.

    1. I guess maybe it makes it easier to say goodbye?

      Prior to the Fusion’s end, Ford announced a “sport” edition that seemed poised to be the second coming of the SVT Contour. But likewise, it dropped and sigh no manual option available.

    2. It was decided to only offer the manual option in the G70 2.0T, and they absolutely did it. You could buy a G70 with a 6 speed in 2019. And 2020. And 2021. It even took Motortrend’s COTY in 2019. It was a car that let you have your cake and eat it too.

      They sold basically none.

  5. As seen on that other site that I no longer comment on. The Stinger died the death of “I don’t want to pay that for a new Kia, I will wait for a used one” and then nobody bought a new one, so now there will not be that many used ones.

    1. When they first came out the local dealer had a 10k markup. It was an automatic hard pass from everyone. By the time the prices came down to MSRP plus cash on the hood people had moved on. This cars death is helped along greatly by the crappy dealer network.

    2. I was ready to buy a new one in year 2. It had proven itself. I knew exactly what I wanted, but I wanted to test drive it. Stopped by the local dealer in my not-even-remotely-cheap Buick. (Sticker was Stinger GT2 money.) Salesdroid is on me before I’m even fully out of the car. I’ve got no problem with that; they’ve got to make a living, and I’m a customer looking for help. So I say: “I’m interested in the Stinger.”
      “Come on in and let’s get the credit check started.”
      “Uh, no, I want to actually test drive it first. You have one on the lot close to what I’m looking for. Right there. Easy to pull out even. Let’s grab the keys.”
      “Right. So let’s get that credit check goin-”
      “First of all, you saw damn well what I pulled up in. Second, I am not signing ANYTHING until I actually drive it because it will be an order not an off the lot purchase.”
      “No test drives without a credit check! You’re just try-”
      “I was just at the Porsche dealer and they didn’t even ask for more than seeing a valid driver’s license before taking out a 911, so you can fuck all the way off.”

      Can’t imagine why nobody with Stinger money didn’t buy them new. Nope.

  6. I’ve always liked the Stinger. I liked it back in 2017 and I still like it today, for similar reasons to the ones mentioned here. It’s just a car that didn’t need to exist, but in the best sort of way. Friggin Kia went out and made a car that could hang with well established German sport sedans…on their first try.

    It didn’t sell very well. It wasn’t quite as sharp as something like a 3 series, and as you mentioned, the fuel economy in the V6 variant is pretty terrible for this day and age. But it’s a good looking, practical car with character and performance that regular people can go out and buy.

    It was Kia daring to dream…and without cars like the Stinger, Genesis Coupe, Veloster N, etc it’s fair to wonder whether or not Hyundai/Kia would have as strong of a position in the market as they do today. While all 3 of the cars I listed are now deceased, they all walked so the Ioniqs, entire Genesis brand, etc. could run.

    I’m glad the Stinger has existed for as long as it has in an automotive landscape that’s been so hostile towards it. It was a bold move and even if the sales numbers don’t suggest that it paid off I think it paid off in spades in regards to legitimizing Korean cars. We’ll be sad in 5 years when everything on the road is a electric blob, so I think we should all pour one out for the Stinger. It seems this famous HST quote is fitting:

    “There he goes. One of God’s own prototypes. A high-powered mutant of some kind never even considered for mass production. Too weird to live, and too rare to die.”

  7. The EV6 GT does look good for a Crossover, but I hate Crossovers. I think they’re utterly bland, uninspiring blobs that are designed for the laziest, most dispassionate of buyers. They should rebirth the Stinger as an electric car. Keep the design mostly the same – it only needs minor tweaks to modernise it a little. Aside from that, it’s a good looking car.

    1. I dunno if I’d go that far—crossovers have their advantages. Easier to get kids/car seats in and out of, less bending required on entry and egress, taller sitting position helps you see past all the other crossovers on the road (also helps drivers feel safer), commonly available with AWD, more ground clearance, better cargo storage than a sedan—I’m told that some of them are even quite fun to drive, these days. The problem for me, if I’m honest, is that they’re just uncool. They are what minivans were to people just a bit older than me—the car you buy when you become a parent and suddenly your whole life revolves around your kids.

      They’re uncool, and there’s not a way to make them cool except to wait a couple of generations for the backlash to happen and then dissipate. I mean, I personally think minivans are actually kinda cool, and could see myself driving one even though I have no children—I’d just take the back seats out and use it like a giant wagon.

  8. How did that thing weigh over 4,000 lbs when my Alltrack—which came out in the same year—weighs about 3,350? Both have AWD, both are full-sized vehicles, but the Alltrack is a full-blown wagon with real back seats that grown-ass adults can use comfortably, and a much bigger cargo area. Obviously the Stinger is much more powerful, but that can’t possibly account for 700 lbs of added pork. What gives?

    I will still miss it. It was an underrated car, and always an underdog. I appreciate cars like that. Shame it only ever came with an automatic, though.

    1. As a former Alltrack owner who loved the car, it was a great, but there was no way you were fitting adults in those back seats unless you sawed their legs off, or the front seat occupants were under 5’5. At 6’ tall there was 3” between the back of the drivers seat and the front of the back seat when I was driving. My wife at 5’2 could just fit in the back seat when the fronts were set for her to drive.

  9. Come on, am I really the only BMW/Kia guy who did cross-shop these cars and bought both? 440i gran coupe and Stinger GT2 – the bimmer is fun and RWD is my preference, damn if the Kia AWD isn’t an absolute cheat code for midnight bombing windy mountain highways…

  10. When did black brake calipers become a premium option? Isn’t that the color of the cheapest calipers you can get? Next thing you know they are going to charge extra for black tires.

  11. I bought a 2019 base version, and loved it! Eventually sold it to Carmax because we got a dog and I didn’t want the interior all scratched up, plus I got over 5k what I paid for it new. Loved the blue color and our dealer actually wasn’t bad. They really need to improve on the dealership experience everywhere else though.

  12. I like those cars quite a lot, but I am probably as much the problem as any, If I am buying new at those prices, the G70 is much more attractive. I would probably look for a 2 year old used one for a discount price, but thanks to supply issues in this world, deals are not that plentiful.

  13. A coworker bought one in 2018 and I was very impressed by everything about it other than the fuel economy.

    I think of them as a discount Panamera, which is a huge compliment to Kia.

    Seeing one parked next to the other sealed the connection in my mind.

  14. As a 2019 GT2 owner I’m genuinely disappointed the car has reached the off-ramp. I actually love that it’s a Kia, the best sort of middle finger to those people who can’t see past the badge (especially those appalling illuminated varieties – seriously what were you thinking when buying with this option), no way am I going to jimmy a screwdriver under the badge and stick on the objectively worse Korean badge.
    Unlike so many, my dealership experience was OK during both the purchase and the servicing visits since then. I mean it’s a dealership they are simply unpleasant places to shop for anything!
    What really gets my blood boiling is all the alternatives I apparently had, of which all but a tiny fraction were saloons (ok sedans!). I grew-up in England where the sedan died in the 1970’s if you had one in the 80’s you were likely old… Now I live in the US and shake my head at all these cars that look like they might have a hatch but trick you and present you with this tiny pointless orifice through which you are supposed to poke things and I assume loose in the darkness thereafter. It’s not like the hatch or wagon (estate) versions don’t exist for some of them. Still, apparently, all US car buyers have design sensibilities of the 1880s when a trunk on the back of your carriage was genuinely the height of vehicular design and convenience.

  15. I considered a Stinger before buying an S5 sportback. I had nothing against the brand and I’ve never been one to harp on interior quality. It had everything I wanted. I just couldn’t get over the styling. I mean it’s not bad looking, far from ugly. I just don’t think it wore the Kia corporate face well, and it had too many fake vents. The styling just never wowed me, and the Audi is very tunable, which is why I ended up in one.

  16. The Kia dealers were part of the problem. I was shopping for a van. While test driving the van they tried to push a Stinger on me. I told them I already had a tuned Audi S5 and that I was shopping for a van. The salesman would not shut up about the Stinger. We left.

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