Kia Stinger Takes the Southwest

January 25th, 2022 by

by Chris Fabian, Product & Technology Specialist

There are few things as exhilarating as taking to the Southwest’s open roads in a Kia Stinger. One car, two states, seven days, and 1500 miles.

Kia Stinger

One of the perks of being a Kia Product & Technology Specialist is the opportunity to test drive every car I sell. As an enthusiastic owner of a 2021 Kia K5 EX, I can wax poetic about its many virtues. With my sights set on a Stinger, I jumped at the chance to make it my vacation rental and get a firsthand, long-term test drive to experience all of its features.

The Stinger, which debuted in the 2018 model year came as a huge surprise from an automaker known for building value-oriented SUVs and cars. With a minor aesthetic facelift, an upgraded base engine, and a re-tuned exhaust system boosting it to 368 hp and 376 lb. ft. of torque the 2022 Stinger is better than ever. And might just be one of my favorite cars ever.

Arriving at Phoenix Sky Harbor airport, we were directed to the roof of the Terminal 3 parking garage where a 2022 RWD Stinger GT2 with the slick and rare Scorpion Edition aesthetic package in Ceramic Silver was ready for adventure. A quick text to our host to let him know we had arrived and he unlocked it from miles away using the Kia Connect app, now standard on all Stingers. On any road trip, cargo space is of the utmost importance. Our massively stuffed carry-on-sized bags fit easily in the 23.3 cubic foot cargo area. Much larger than one might anticipate at first glance.

Speaking of size, though we had little need for it being just the two of us, I wanted to know how comfortable the rear seats were. At 6 ft 1in tall the 36.4 inches of rear legroom was perfect even with the driver seat set to a comfortable driving position for someone my height. This GT2 was equipped with available heated rear seats, adding to the luxurious feel for backseat passengers. With our cargo loaded, our seat warmers defrosting us from the surprisingly chilly Phoenix air, and the available heads-up display in perfect position in front of me, we were ready to set off.

So how does it feel to drive a Stinger? Is the twin-turbo engine too big for daily reasonable driving? Not in the slightest. Some cars with big engines can be a bit touchy with the gas. Not a problem in the slightest here. In addition to precise steering, a silky smooth 8-speed transmission, and an available electronic adaptive suspension system, the Stinger is loaded to the gills with Kia’s intuitive and reliable DriveWise Driver Assistance technology. The standard lane-keeping and following assist, forward collision avoidance, blind-spot collision avoidance, rear cross-traffic collision avoidance, safe exit assist, and smart cruise control with stop and go give a sense of confidence and peace of mind. This GT2 was further outfitted with an available surround-view monitor making parking a breeze, a blind-spot view monitor, and my personal favorite, dynamic low beam assist. Your headlights turn as you maneuver around corners.  Add in a 5-star crash safety rating and it’s clear why the 2022 Stinger is the only Top Safety Pick + in the large car segment.

There’s plenty of open highway in the Southwest and I was eager to let those twin turbos push us into our seatbacks. Due to safety and legal concerns, I did not unleash the top speed of 167 mph, but from either a dead stop or at cruising speed, a simple shift of the ankle will rocket you up to speed in the blink of an eye. Swinging through the red rocks of Sedona, in such a responsive and exciting vehicle bordered on surreal. From Sedona, we headed east through Winslow, AZ down the storied Route 66 where we stopped to take in breathtaking views. When we turned back to head to the car, another stunning view was waiting for us.

The Stinger proved to be every bit as adept on the urban streets of Albuquerque and Santa Fe as it was on wide-open desert roads. Despite the EPA estimated 18/25/20 mpg rating most of the trip I managed to return an average of about 24-25 mpg including one largely downhill leg that saw us getting 34 miles per gallon. The engine is strong enough that using the Eco drive mode is far from underwhelming. When you kick into Sport mode hang on tight. Kia Stinger

After a day in Santa Fe, we continued to the tiny village of Abiquiu where we encountered numerous unpaved roads. Uphill and down the RWD system confidently handled dirt, mud, gravel, and even patches of ice. It’s certainly not a vehicle built for off-roading, but I was extremely impressed by how easily it handled what it was put through especially without the available AWD setup. Anywhere adventure took us, the Stinger was up to the task of getting us there.

As we headed back to Phoenix for the last few days of our trip, we cruised back down portions of the fabled Route 66. Thinking back to the stop we’d made at the Route 66 Monument on the way into New Mexico and the remains of a 1932 Studebaker, I felt a strong sense of the countless stories that road could tell. I think that’s the reason the automobile is such an integral part of Americana. Cars are so much more than just slabs of metal on rubber tires. They’re storytelling machines. The Stinger was the first bold statement from Kia that quality and inspiration were to be the driving force behind everything that they do.

The phenomenally fun Stinger was an integral part of our story in the Southwest. It will carry with it our story as it gathers so many others from those who are lucky enough to experience it. It made me proud of what I do every day. Getting to share the Kia brand and its exciting future is a privilege.

Chris Fabian, is a Kia Country Product & Technology Specialist. He can be reached at [email protected] or 843.530.5423.