Used Car Shopping, Yuppiemobile Edition: 2020 Kia Stinger GT AWD

Now here’s a machine to catch the eye.  I didn’t know something like this was allowed to exist in 2023.  It’s striking. It’s unconventional. It’s not a crossover and it’s from the wrong manufacturer. 

The Kia Stinger is a messy bowl of conflicting vibes and stigmas for me. The European cars prompted the Yuppiemobile component of this series title, for reasons inherently understood. They can come off as overly serious, ambitious, and perhaps even pretentious, and the mere act of owning one could be perceived as a personal statement to the world around you.  Show up to work with your Toyota sombrero suddenly replaced by a Bavarian roundel and really–just who the hell do you think you are Mr. Big Stuff?

The imagery for the Kia cuts another way.  This car is a stunner, a performer, and both formatted and priced to steal customers away from the Audi S5 Sportback and BMW 440i, but it somehow produces a vibe akin to a Camaro.  It’s brash, it’s not even trying to be subtle, and the very name itself–Stinger!–is juvenile in a way I’m having a hard time accepting.  Is it a new Transformers movie character with pew! pew! laser guns to fight off the Decepticons?  Sure sounds like it.  Did Kia brass really think those interested in a pricey alphanumeric German want to pronounce the word “Stinger” to their professional colleagues and see a big sloppy K-I-A on the steering wheel hub instead of four mysteriously indecipherable rings? 

I’m not quite ready to accept this badge without hesitation for reasons well beyond marketing perception. Hyundai/Kia has some real problems in my mind, from grenading engines for the better part of the last decade, to corporate avoidance tactics on their legendary 10-year powertrain warranty, to a reputation for the smarmiest dealer network this side of the by-here-pay-here lot. As if to prove that last point for me, the universe had me driving past our local Kia dealer just as I was writing this, their brand new sign proudly showcasing their web address:  Classy!  Still, think you’re in the hunt for Audi lessees? 

The Kia dealership experience. Nothing says upscale like the stench of a popcorn maker.


The nearest Lexus dealership, for comparison. Losers. I want popcorn when I sign for a $60K car.


There’s a mountain of stigma to climb here–exaggerated or not. However, strip the badging from the car and raze the dealership to the ground, and there’s no denying this fits the bill on paper.  RWD/AWD, big backseat and hatch, 250-350hp, premium ambitions–it’s all there.  This is indeed a more attainable S5 Sportback.  Now, is it anywhere near as refined and appealing as the Audi?


Who needs a Subaru? This is 23 cubic feet of space.


I approach the open-back hatch first, because I know that’s where this car will earn serious points with me. It’s big–more than 20 cubic feet and it has a spare under the floor.  That’s impressive and very appealing.  I shut the hatch, sit in the backseat on my way up front and note how much roomier it is than the G70. Leg room is generous, headroom is decent, and foot space is passable. This would work for teens. 

I reach the front and hop in, but now I’m starting to not like what I see.  Pony car vibes.  The plasticky T-handle transmission lever. The endlessly black interior.  The long spartan dashboard face with an overarching hood. The palpable reduction in material quality everywhere relative to its Genesis cousin. Instant demerit, unfortunately. Interior quality and atmosphere are important in this hunt. 

It is one of those interiors that presents well in photographs but is missing something in person. The high beltline creates a lot of interior surface area to cover and most of the materials do not look or feel as expensive as those in the BMW, Lexus, or Genesis.  This is doubly true of the switchgear.  Well, duh, you say.  Isn’t this the “budget” Audi?  Where do you expect costs to be saved?  Fair point. But the G70 is no more expensive and everything from the dash pad to the stitching to the switchgear to the shifter to the dashboard design feels more special in that car. What can I say? Those fake hood vents don’t come for free. Costs had to be shaved somewhere. 

Still, there are some very big wins. The front seats are supportive and very comfortable. Fine driving position. The power steering column is a surprising bonus. The backseat rivals some midsize sedans and so far only this and the GS350 have passed that test with flying colors.  And while a step down from the other cars in this test, the interior still qualifies as “nice”, with adequate padding and good panel fitment. Perhaps in two-tone and without the prior owner’s clumsy tchotchke scratches all over the place I’d like it better.  Speaking of the scratches, I’m baffled as to why this occurs. Some people are just mindlessly hard on cars, stabbing at switches and controls with keys clutched in hand, throwing purses and dragging backpacks across the console, jamming metal water bottles into cupholders, and scratching everything in sight.  

The differences between this and the G70 in driving demeanor are interesting. I suspected its extra size would make it difficult to match the purity of the G70 from behind the wheel, and while true the difference isn’t enormous. The steering is a little more muted and a touch less responsive, the car feels notably bigger but not particularly heavy, and the ride remains very civilized but not quite as perfectly judged as the Genesis. It’s a difference in the opposite direction from what the marketing may lead one to believe: the salesman kept referring to the Stinger as the sporty one and the G70 as the boulevard cruiser, but he had it exactly backwards.  He was also exaggerating. Neither of these are boulevard cruisers. The G70 is sharper, but the Stinger still feels engaging and athletic. 

Red Camaro on one side. Grey Audi on the other. Camaro + Audi = Stinger?  Yeah, I think so.  Interesting market position.


The absurdly thin sidewalls are a concern, but the suspension engineers somehow made the ride quality impressively compliant.


The structure is where the two diverge more distinctly.  The Stinger feels less rigid than the G70. There were subtle fidgety rattles and squeaks emanating from multiple points in the cabin. Difficult to pinpoint, just kind of everywhere and nowhere, the type of distant atmospheric crickets that colonize cars as they age. Considering this one was 3 years old and had only 50K miles, that shouldn’t be happening at this price class. The road noise was not particularly well controlled either, another important criteria for us. It feels as if the Stinger was created by taffy-pulling the G70 into a larger size, stretching the same metal into a bigger, looser car. Cabin space aside, the G70 is winning everywhere. 

The engine, though. Geez. This twin-turbo V6 is rated for about 370 horsepower and there’s no exaggeration or number-fudging there. It’ll keep right up with that Audi, with a 0-60 time of 4.5 seconds and a 108 mph trap speed.  It’s fast. Too fast for street use. Just a few seconds will vault you clear over any speed limit and with this extroverted sheet metal, you’re going to be the first thing upon which the hidden patrol officer fixes his radar gun. The upside of this excessive power is the reduction in turbo lag compared to the 2.0T. You have the luxury of simply being able to nudge the throttle lazily forward to pick up some easy velocity. Everyday drivability is much more relaxed and enjoyable.  I think this is the correct powertrain to choose for the G70 or Stinger. Take advantage of the brand’s lower resale values and opt for it. But don’t spend all of your windfall – you still have to fuel this thing and it’s a pig unless at a steady highway cruise. 

Overall, the Stinger GT is a clear upgrade from any FWD family sedan. It steers well, it rides well, it handles well, it’s spacious, and you can easily distress your passengers by stomping the throttle. The interior is disappointing, but only relative to luxury brands. 

So, what about that S5? Is the Stinger a budget Audi? Well, that depends on how much more budget a budget Audi can be from the real thing before you can no longer call it a budget Audi. Having rented one for 4 days, I feel OK stating that the S5 is in another universe of powertrain refinement, engine character, structural solidity, and interior quality. The Stinger’s V6 kind of roars with an unremarkable granularity whereas the S5 warbles in a lovely refined baritone through the exhaust and is butter smooth as it revs. It’s in another league. So is the transmission. If you can afford the Audi, and care about these things, the money is going to be well spent. If your priority is simply to go neck-and-neck with an S5 clear into the triple digits and turn more heads than the Audi without losing any of its excellent packaging and utility, then snap up a red Stinger GT pronto before they disappear next year.  

But consider this: if you’re buying new, the price difference is nowhere near where I thought it would be. A Stinger GT AWD is now priced to within about $5,000 of a midrange S5, representing a savings of less than 10% MSRP for a car vastly less refined and well-rounded, even if it may be better equipped in some areas. Lexus made its name with the LS400 by offering equivalent or superior quality at a discount and the market soon recognized the brand as a legitimate player in the luxury segment. With the Stinger, the strategy seems to be charging a little bit less to get quite a bit less.  That’s a bold move for a company selling economy crossovers on the same showroom floor at   

However, I’m shopping used and the price situation in that space is different. S5s apparently keep far more of their value at the 3-year mark than Stingers, so the price differential swells to between eight and fifteen thousand dollars depending on source. That, as my mother would say, is too rich for my blood. No S5 for me. Used Stinger GTs are priced about in line with equivalent Audi A5 Sportbacks with the ubiquitous 250hp 2-liter turbo four. Seems a no-brainer in favor of the Kia, doesn’t it?  But Audi is rumored to have an impressive 2.0T -perhaps the best in the business.  As in, the low 5s to 60mph and mid-30s mpg on the highway are kind of impressive. Could it possibly compete with the Kia given that 120 horsepower deficit? Well…we’ll find out next time after I’ve finally gotten my hands on one. 

That’s a little better. Black, tan, and silver are not exactly cohesive together, but it’s no longer a coal bin.


I try not to read magazine reviews of a car before I pen my own, but broke down this time to find a Motortrend comparison of the G70 and Stinger. I wanted some verification of my impressions of the structure, refinement, and interior. Their comments on the Stinger after rotating between the two cars? Less cohesive to drive, more rattles, some interior cheapness, road noise, and a droning engine note.  That kind of says it all. With the Kia, there’s a mysterious sacrifice in multiple facets of refinement in order to get that big backseat and hatch. It’s a shame Kia didn’t apply the same level of detail as Genesis did with the G70 because this would be an incredible car if they had. I haven’t yet disqualified it, but there are enough rough edges with the vehicle and company itself to give me pause.  As with the GS350, the Stinger gets another chance when a cleaner more appealing example shows up. Thanks for reading.