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The 2018 Stinger makes excellent use of Kia's new rear-drive architecture (images: Kia).

What we're driving: 2018 Kia Stinger

The 2018 Kia Stinger is one of the year’s biggest new-vehicle surprises for me. It showed its mettle by earning a finalist spot in the 2018 North American Car, Truck and Utility of the Year voting, of which I took part, facing off against Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. Its eye-catching exterior and roomy interior show the potential of Hyundai’s new RWD sedan architecture (shared with the 2019 G70) in hatchback form.

And in top-line GT trim, with AWD, Stinger’s hard-charging powertrain and high feature content should help elevate the Kia brand in the eyes of enthusiasts.

Kia’s engineering team went back to basics in their quest for stinging performance. They optimized mass to achieve one of the lightest curb weights in class. Hyundai’s engine team delivered a 365-hp (272-kW) twin-turbo 3.3-L V6 for the GT, driving the company’s own 8-speed automatic and mechanical limited slip differential. The result is a sports sedan that puts smug on your mug under hard acceleration to 60 mph (100 km/h) and beyond.

There are five drive modes; my favorite, Custom, offers the ability to dial-in shock damping rates, steering effort and powertrain response. It even lets you ‘tune’ the exhaust note via the audio system. Keeping the GT’s power under rein are standard Brembo 4-piston front/2-piston rear brake calipers.

With much of the hard work done, Kia needs to further polish this diamond in the rough at its mid-cycle update: the refresh should focus on further ride/handling refinement—and more spending on interior materials.

2018 Kia Stinger GT

  • Base price:      $38,350
  • As tested:        $43,250
  • Highs:              Kick-in-the-pants 3.3-L twin-turbo V6
  • Lows:              Chassis and interior need more refinement
  • The takeaway:  Diamond in the rough GT car needs polishing
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