Cars > Driven

Kia Stinger 3.3L V6 GT: With its value, a performance bargain

Is it worth the huge price tag being asked by the distributor?

This car is sure to turn heads wherever it drives to. PHOTO BY BOTCHI SANTOS

There are a number of things I love about the all-new Kia Stinger GT. First is the design. Penned by Peter Schreyer and Gregory Guillaume, the fastback Stinger looks exotic, sexy, sensual and basically unlike anything you’ve ever seen from Kia. It’s the automotive equivalent of the sexy K-pop girl band Blackpink, who eschews the usual cutesy Korean song-and-dance formula and goes for a more aggressive, western hip-hop beat with matching moves. The visual drama announces the Stinger’s presence the same way the wind instruments announce the start of Blackpink’s “Kill This Love.”

Many clueless observers will never guess this is a Kia. PHOTO BY BOTCHI SANTOS

“Twin-turbo V6” rolls off your tongue smoothly, with the promise of excitement. How do 365hp and 510Nm sound to you? Matched with an eight-speed automatic transmission complemented by paddle shifters, the engine boasts the heavy-hitting thump of “Ddu-Du Ddu-Du.”

The best Kia engine your money can buy right now. PHOTO BY BOTCHI SANTOS

The interior is spacious, refined, luxurious and is covered in soft leather, with an impressive multimedia system that has both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Listen to “Whistle” through the powerful Harman Kardon surround-sound system and you can be forgiven for thinking that Lisa, Jennie, Rosé and Jisoo are in the car with you. There are also seven airbags, antilock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution, traction and stability control, and multi-zone climate control.

Few cockpits can offer you more driving delight. PHOTO BY BOTCHI SANTOS

Albert Bierman, the lead engineer for the Stinger, came from BMW’s M division, hence the very Teutonic driving feel of this Kia. It takes off like a bat out of hell, steers like a Nurburgring veteran (the Stinger supposedly did 10,000km around the famed Nordschleife circuit during its gestation period), and stops like an Italian gigolo spotting a potential victim, thanks to powerful Brembo brakes front and back clamping plate-sized brake discs. The finesse, the precision and the solidity of the driving dynamics are so energizing, The experience behind the wheel always gets you in the mood to go “Boombayah”!

Only the tiger-nose grille will give away the car’s identity to ignorant onlookers on the road. PHOTO BY BOTCHI SANTOS

All kidding aside, the Stinger feels just like how its designer and lead engineer imagined it to be: a proper GT with the air of a European sports sedan. From afar, the profile apes that of the Audi A7, the Porsche Panamera and Mercedes-AMG’s upcoming AMG GT63 S four-door coupe. The power output is actually heavily underrated—the car felt a lot more powerful when I drove it (not to mention solid and bombproof). When was the last time you described a Korean car that way?

Another Teutonic trait is perceptible in the steering, which is heavy but accurate. The Brembo brakes also offer excellent feel, feedback and modulation. It’s easy to bring the brakes right up to the point of lockup and ABS activation. On our way down from Baguio via the much longer Naguilian Road, the stoppers offered fade-free performance. The Continental Sport Contact 5 tires displayed good balance of feel, high-speed stability and comfort, but swapping to more aggressive, slightly larger and chunkier tires (like, say, Michelin’s Pilot Sport 4S or Yokohama’s Advan Neova AD08R) will help give even more stability and traction, as I personally found the Continental tires’ sidewalls a little too stiff and brittle, costing the car some composure when cornering or braking on bad roads.

This is a gorgeous wheel design. The red Brembo caliper complements it nicely. Handsome. PHOTO BY BOTCHI SANTOS

The Stinger is a proper GT. The drive up to Baguio took four hours, and the drive down after a few days took six hours due to a longer route and more congested traffic. But thanks to the car’s generous space, plush comfort and excellent refinement, I could have easily driven another two hours at least. The seating position in general is superb, with special mention going to the adjustable thigh support, which for me makes all the difference on long drives as it keeps the knees supported, relaxed and in a very natural position for braking and throttle application.

The Harman Kardon speakers should please you. PHOTO BY BOTCHI SANTOS

The Kia Stinger GT demands respect. The RWD layout will see you sideways very easily, as the stylish fastback lays down all its torque from 1,300rpm to 4,500rpm almost instantly. You’ll drift even before the electronic aids can react to save your fat ass. It requires far more skill, finesse and good judgment to drive rapidly than a Nissan GT-R on one end of the spectrum despite the latter having more power (because the GT-R is all-wheel-drive), and a Honda Civic Type R on the other end (because the amazing supersedan is still wrong-wheel-drive front-wheel-drive). Handle the Stinger with loads of care and respect, and it will be the most rewarding rear-wheel-drive GT you can find at P3,235,000. Otherwise, you might find yourself “Playing With Fire.” Yes, I just hit you with another Blackpink song.

Incredulous people often ask me if it’s worth paying all that money for a Kia. Think of it this way: It’s a Korean-made BMW performance automobile. Which is perhaps the best way to describe the Stinger to a typical car guy.


Engine3.3-liter twin-turbo V6 gasoline
Transmission8-speed automatic
Power365hp @ 6,000rpm
Torque510Nm @ 1,300-4,500rpm
Dimensions4,830mm x 1,870mm x 1,400mm
Drive layoutRWD
UpsideA stylish Korean fastback GT that performs like a European sports sedan.
DownsideA stylish Korean fastback GT that costs almost like a European sports sedan.

Botchi Santos

Botchi is your friendly, walking car encyclopedia. He loves helping people choose the right vehicle for themselves as much as he enjoys picking the right one for himself. Expect him to write about car culture, test drives and car-shopping advice. His regular column is called ‘Car Life’.