When KIA Motors first introduced the Stinger back in 2018, it left a lot of people scratching their heads. To most, KIA is a name synonymous with small, underpowered, cheap cars. When the company first came to market, they did themselves a great disservice by being so desperate for market share that they almost gave their vehicles away. This wasn’t a smart strategy, and KIAs quickly became the car you bought when you couldn’t afford any better. To some extent, the company is still fighting this image. That made it a very pleasant surprise to many when the Stinger not only proved to be a worthwhile addition to the luxury sports family of cars but a sterling performer. Now KIA is once more upping the ante with a special edition of the Stinger for the 2020 model year. The company claims that the GTS is an “M” killer which may be a stretch. Beating a BMW at the sedan game is a tall order. But the former head of BMW’s “M” division did have a hand in this design.
What is the lineage of the GTS?
The Stinger family tree has grown very quickly, and though its roots may still be shallow, its limbs are bearing fruit in terms of sales and company reputation. When the economy car manufacturer first announced that it would be entering the sports sedan market in 2018, many thought the best it would be able to deliver was a pretty package that lacked both the performance and refinement success in this class demands. Surprisingly, the car delivered checked all the major boxes needed to be a front runner. It came standard with a spry little turbocharged four-cylinder engine or an optional powerhouse 365-hp twin-turbo V-6. Both engines could be had with an all-wheel-drive or rear-wheel-drive configuration. Creature comforts were plentiful, and most unpredictably, it was a hatchback design that could actually haul your golf clubs without marring the rear upholstery. In 2019 the Stinger GT was introduced. It came standard with the big boy V-6 and had added performance features like variable-ratio steering, Brembo brakes, and 19-inch wheels with high-performance tires. For extra comfort, memory settings for the driver's seat, a larger infotainment system with navigation, adaptive dampers, and a 15-speaker audio system were added. This is the car that Car and Driver magazine called a “social climber in the finest sense of the phrase.”
What changes will 2020 bring?
The entire Stinger line is getting a makeover for the 2020 model year. The base model is getting an improved braking system; the body has been tweaked to provide better aerodynamics, and while the 3.3-L 365-hp twin-turbo V-6 is still the top power plant, it has had its performance parameters remapped to provide better mid-range responsiveness. Most importantly, the Stinger GT will still be available at three different levels of trim and performance, and the special addition GTS will be added to the line. This is the car that has brought us here, and it is and isn’t the stuff that dreams are made of.
What sets the GTS apart from its parent cars?
For the most part, a bright orange paint job and more stylish badging are what sets the GTS apart from the GT that gave birth to it. There is an upgraded interior with a better sound system and a few interior refinements added but nothing that will make you dance and sing or abandon your German-built sedan for the Gayageum edition. That is until you get to the drivetrain. The rear-wheel-drive GTS is little more than a cosmetic coverup with a couple of grand added to the price. Step to the AWD or D-AWD in this case, and you will see what makes this car worth the $47,495 MSRP.
AWD or D-AWD, what difference does the D make?
They say little things mean a lot, and that is definitely true when it comes to talking about auto performance. Beyond the cosmetic niceties that make a GTS a step above a standard GT is a totally revamped drive system. The standard Kia all-wheel-drive puts 60% of the car's power down in the rear, and 40% goes to the front tires. That is pretty standard industry-wide. What the GTS offers is the ability to changes that with the flip of a switch. The D-AWD system on the Stinger GTS has three settings. Comfort mode is the same as the standard drive train: a 60/40 split, Sport Mode shifts that to 80/20 rear to front, and then things get really interesting. The GTS has a “D” as in Drift setting. This puts 100% of the power down in the rear so you can swing corners and smoke tires like a champ. Kia even claims that they have customized the control mapping for the transmission, stability control, and steering, so you get optimal performance in all three modes. That should put a smile on any gearhead's face.