When it comes time to buy an upscale fastback sedan, most people naturally consider models from European luxury brands. For 2018, though, those car shoppers have another option: the 2018 Kia Stinger. Yes, that's right, a vehicle from the South Korean automaker known for affordability — and one with a name that could have been cribbed from a Nerf gun.
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While Kia's vehicle lineup is still primarily focused on value, the automaker has shown it's not afraid of thinking big. Its K900 sedan has challenged other large luxury sedans, for instance, and it has hired well-known styling and engineering talent away from Audi and BMW.
So how good is it? Interestingly, Audi has just come out with two great vehicles to pit it against: the all-new 2018 A5 Sportback and S5 Sportback. These sleek-styled sedans are similar to the Stinger in a lot of ways. Here's a rundown of how they compare.
2018 KIA STINGER
The Stinger is a sharp-looking sedan with a sweeping roofline that tapers to a sporty hatchback tail. Some of its design elements may seem derivative of other vehicles, but the overall package is evocative. Prices start around $33,000 for the base model that has a 255-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder engine. The Stinger GT version gets a twin-turbo V6 that puts out 365 horsepower and starts around $39,000. Rear-wheel drive is standard, and all-wheel drive is optional. A fully loaded GT with all-wheel drive will run about $52,000. That's a lot for a Kia, but much less than what European automakers typically charge.
If you're a performance-minded driver, you're going to like the Stinger GT's abundance of power and sporty handling. This fun doesn't come at the expense of comfort either. Even after hours behind the wheel, Stinger drivers should be quite comfortable, and there's plenty of modern features. The cabin's overall design and quality isn't at the same level as you'd get from Audi, but it's not that far off.
2018 AUDI A5 AND S5 SPORTBACKS
The new 2018 Audi A5 Sportback is related to the new A4 sedan but has a fastback roofline like that of the company's bigger A7. It has a 252-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder engine and standard all-wheel drive. The performance-oriented S5 Sportback gets a 354-horsepower turbocharged V6. The A5 version starts around $43,000, while the S5 version starts around $54,000. A fully loaded S5 Sportback will cost close to $70,000.
Power and handling are commendable. There's a surgical precision to the way these cars drive, but not so clinical that it gets in the way of fun. Similarly, comfort isn't hurt by this level of athleticism, thanks to a blend of compliance and control. The A5 Sportback comes with the kind of impeccable materials and craftsmanship expected of a premium luxury vehicle.
On paper — except for price, of course — the Kia Stinger and the Audi A5 and S5 Sportbacks are very similar. In terms of weight, they are within 100 pounds of each other. Power output is also close, and not surprisingly, acceleration is, too. Audi says the A5 Sportback will reach 60 mph in 5.7 seconds and the S5 Sportback in 4.5 seconds. Kia expects the Stinger to reach 60 mph in 5.9 seconds and the Stinger GT in 4.7 seconds. Based on our evaluations so far, these manufacturer claims seem about right.
Many other measurables are mixed. The Stinger can hold a bit more cargo, but the Audi gets slightly better fuel economy. The A5 Sportback gets an EPA-estimated 27 mpg combined versus 24 mpg combined for an all-wheel-drive base Stinger. For the S5 and Stinger GT, it's 24 mpg and 21 mpg combined, respectively. Warranty coverage presents the most significant difference. Kia has an excellent 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty, and Audi offers four-year/50,000-mile coverage. To Audi's credit, scheduled maintenance is free for the first year or 10,000 miles.
EDMUNDS SAYS: The Audi A5 and S5 Sportbacks are better built, with higher-quality components that meet premium luxury car standards. The Kia Stinger exceeds its expectations for quality and performance relative to price, narrowing the gap between the two dramatically.
In the end, the A5 and S5 Sportbacks are decidedly the better cars. Yet the Stinger's more affordable price puts it within range of more potential car shoppers. It's our pick in this matchup, but it all comes down to what you value more: value or prestige.
It's unlikely that Audi A5 and S5 Sportback shoppers will be willing to give up the brand's prestige, but the Kia Stinger is good enough to present a more affordable alternative.
This story was provided to The Associated Press by the automotive website Edmunds. Mark Takahashi is a senior writer at Edmunds. Twitter: @mark_takahashi
— 2018 Kia Stinger First Drive: http://edmu.in/2zfD5tz
— 2018 Audi A5 Sportback First Drive: http://edmu.in/2zfbFUs