I finally did it: I'm a dad. The funny thing is, I've always owned dad cars, even before I needed to. Owning anything with less than four doors never made much sense, which is how I ended up with a stable of souped-up grandpa cars from the Sixties and Seventies. Now that I'm a father, the '74 Oldsmobile sedan I brought my wife and son home from the hospital in seems a bit dated. And that, my friends, is how I found myself on this quest to find the perfect new dad car. The most recent contestant: The 2018 Kia Stinger GT2.
The 2018 Kia Stinger GT2, By the Numbers
Base Price (Price as Tested): $50,300 ($52,300)
Powertrain: 3.3-liter twin-turbo V6, 365 horsepower, 376 pound-feet; eight-speed automatic transmission; rear- or all-wheel drive
Fuel Economy: 19 mpg city; 25 mpg highway
0-60 MPH: 4.6 seconds (Car and Driver testing)
Random fact of your choosing: The Stinger is so good at straight-line launches, you'll probably never see 19 mpg in one unless you forget Sport mode exists.
Most new cars are unremarkably similar in appearance. Even an Audi A5 Sportback, as handsome as it is, looks a lot like the Audi that came before it, which look like the one that came before it, which looks...you get the picture. Not the Kia Stinger GT, though. Nearly every time I pulled up at a light behind the wheel of this distinctive gran turismo fastback, people were either gawking at it or offering compliments. "Hey, that's a nice looking car!" they would say. Because coming at you, speeding by, or disappearing quickly towards the horizon, this car is a beauty.
The Kia Stinger GT is a fresh wind that blows from afar—although not all the way from South Korea, where Kia is based. The Stinger was designed at Kia's studio in Frankfurt, Germany, so if it bears some resemblance to the basic form of an Audi, you can probably guess why. Peter Schreyer and Gregory Guillaume, who led the design program, managed to create something that still looks distinctively like a Kia, but carries that aesthetic on a serious-looking, European-style frame. A uniquely-shaped grille, thoughtful body sculpting, and bright red Brembo brake calipers peaking out from behind attractive, thin-spoke 19-inch wheels let the world know that this car means business.
In one of the (confusingly-named) GT trims—the ones that comes with a 365-horsepower twin-turbo 3.3-liter V6—the Stinger GT is a blast to drive. I must qualify that "fun to drive" for me—a dad who must drive this car in all conditions, including "late for work," "late for pediatric appointment," and "late for now-ever-so-rare date with wife"—the Stinger fits the bill just fine. It has been said by other reviewers that its handling falls apart at or near "the limits," but when your limits are, by and large, determined by underfunded roads, traffic, and your child's schedule, the Kia seems to keep itself composed through all of it. In fact, I found myself leaving later for things than I usually do because I figured the Kia could make up the time I'd frittered away watching kookslams videos on Instagram. Sorry junior/Mrs. Preston, looks I'll be late again. Too many 60-foot cliff bellyflops to watch today.
The Kia, while it sliced and diced around those pesky left lane dawdlers with so much ease, could not overcome the inexorable force of thickening traffic. But it sure did make my attempts to defeat traffic fun, especially in Sport mode, which stretched out the eight-speed transmission's shift points and sprinkled in a little electronically-enhanced engine noise for good measure. Make no mistake, this car is meant for the open road, if you can find one nearby. (I had to settle for the Long Island Expressway—far from ideal.)
But enough about me and what I want. Let's talk about my kid. He can't drive yet; hell, he can't even complain yet when I drive like a maniac. (Although I may have heard a few concerned gurgles from back there once or twice.) But he can fit comfortably into the Stinger, replete with all of his little baby accessories. The back seat is huge, and big back doors make access while holding a child safety seat and an armload of junk relatively easy. And the LATCH safety seat anchors are simple enough to use, although I admittedly prefer cars with exposed LATCH loops.
For the dad who has neither station wagon nor minivan (nor, I begrudgingly say, crossover), a hatchback is a must. You can try to stuff strollers and diaper bags and that mountain of extra stuff you're required to bring every time you leave the house for more than 15 minutes into a sedan, but why kill yourself? I fit all that junk into the back of the Kia, no problem, and was able to fold down the rear seats to fit boxes and longer items into the car as well. The Stinger's is not a particularly deep cargo hold—it's long and flat, but not wide, and rather shallow—but it's a big improvement over most sedans.
Safety is always a big issue for parents, but the Stinger has not yet been rated by the federal government or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. I like this car, and would like to postulate that since it looks to be roughly the same size as an Optima, which is an IIHS Top Safety Pick+, the Stinger could be, too. But we all know that's not how things work. We can, however, make an educated guess based upon other top-rated Kia models that Kia's engineers have probably dotted their i's and crossed their t's where safety is concerned. They way people will want to drive in this car, they damned well better have.
Great as it is, the Stinger is by no means a perfect car. It's luxurious inside and out, but somehow lacks the polish European cars are so famous for. But that's okay, because it's significantly cheaper than its highfalutin competitors. Try getting a similarly-equipped Audi A5 Sportback for $53,000. Not happening. A Mercedes-AMG C43? Not a chance. A Jaguar XE? Ha! But this Stinger comes fully loaded at that price. It's one of those have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too deals. You can make your family seasick with 0-to-60-mph launches that take less than five seconds (and they can get rid of you when you get thrown in jail for hitting the car's 167-mph top speed with a baby onboard), and save a few thousand for the kid's college fund (if you don't have to spend it all on a lawyer to defend yourself against reckless driving charges).
And don't worry about driving a Kia instead of a fancier brand for appearance's sake. In a few years, neither your kid nor anyone else will think you're cool, anyway.