2018 Kia Stinger

2018 Kia Stinger

Episode 3719
Auto Value and Bumper to BumperTire Rack "The Way Tire Buying Should Be"

The Kia brand has come a long way in a short time, both in design and quality. But, as good as their vehicles are today, their long range goal seems directed at being a true Asian alternative to European luxury-sport brands. That’s a tall order, and for it, they have ordered up an all-new rear-wheel drive sedan, the Stinger. So, let’s see if rivals should be looking for bug spray.  

Kia has been working towards building more exciting and dynamic cars for a few years now, but this 2018 Kia Stinger is their biggest step yet. While called a sedan, it’s really a well-camouflaged 5-door hatchback.

But, under its fastback skin lies the more important story, a finely-balanced, rear-drive chassis shared with the forthcoming Genesis G70, supported by struts in the front, and 5-links in the rear.

Under the long hood is a longitudinal, class requisite, base turbocharged 2.0-liter I4 with 255-horsepower and 260 lb-ft. of torque. But, our test Stinger GT packs a 3.3-liter twin-turbo V6 good for 365-horsepower and 376 lb-ft. of torque. Both hook up to 8-speed automatic with paddle shifters; there’s no manual, but both can add all-wheel-drive. 

While the 2.0 is no slouch, the GT’s V6 powertrain really impressed us with its overall smoothness. Even the paddle shifters work with a quick precision we didn’t expect. 

Size wise, the Stinger is almost mid-size, being bigger than a 3-Series but smaller than a 5. Apart from its tiger nose, the Stinger doesn’t favor anything else in the Kia stable. It nails the luxuriously sporty look, attracting the kind of attention usually reserved for exotics.

We’ll admit there are some Audi cues; but hey, if you’re going to copy someone, you should make it one of the best. We also acknowledge the touch of cheapness with fender and non-functional hood trim, but they certainly didn’t go cheap down below, with Michelin Pilot Sports on 19–inch rims and Brembo brakes all around. 

Quad exhaust tips look great and sound even better. Especially when streaking down the track with the 3.3-liter at full boil. It doesn’t snarl and bark like a HEMI Charger sedan, as its smooth and quick acceleration feels purely European.

All-wheel-drive grip and well-designed launch control make for simple, drama-free launches. There’s hardly any sense of weight transfer either. It’s one second you’re sitting still, and the next you’re at full power. We hit 60 in just 4½ of those serene seconds.

If you’re looking for hard-firing, throw you back in your seat, torquey shifts; you won’t find them here either. The gears are indeed changing, but the only sensation you get is just calm unrelenting thrust. 

The car feels very stable at high speeds, as we reached 108 miles-per-hour in the ¼, completed in 13.1-seconds. 

While there’s nothing exotic in the basic suspension theory, it’s all in the tuning, which as you may have heard by now, was overseen by Albert Biermann formerly of BMW’s M Division. And the results feel totally in that realm.

There was massive grip through our cones, staying nice and stable with minimum flex. Steering is impressively quick with decent feel. Plus, five comprehensive drive modes, including a custom setting, come standard. We can’t wait to get this GT on a proper race course. 

Those Brembos brought this 4,000-lbs. hatchback to a halt in just 105-feet; minimal fade with an overall tight and sporty feel.

But of course we can’t all live our lives a quarter mile at a time, so it’s good to know the Stinger is just as pleasurable sitting in traffic. It never feels like a thoroughbred waiting to run free; rather more like a luxury car with tremendous performance potential. 

There’s plenty of room in the cabin, both front and rear. V6 GT trim comes with a nice flat-bottom steering wheel, rear view camera, and aluminum trim.

Stepping up to GT1 will get you navigation, a sunroof, and 720-watts of Harmon Kardon premium audio. 

Finally, GT2 adds Nappa leather trim, a head-up display, and a host of advanced safety features. 

And just for fun and quirkiness, the fact that Stinger’s key fob resembles some kind of detonator, just gives you a hint of what you’re about to set off when get behind the wheel. 

There is a practical side as well; hatchback versatility means a wide opening with 23.3 cubic-ft. of cargo space, 40.9 with rear seat backs folded. 

Government Fuel Economy Ratings for an all-wheel-drive GT are 19-City, 25-Highway, and 21-Combined.

Pricing starts at $39,250 for the GT; but pro tip, base models look virtually identical outside, are almost as fast, and start a few grand less than a 3 Series at $32,800. 

While it was easy to be impressed with the first effort at building a true European-style sport sedan from Kia, we’d be just as impressed with the 2018 Stinger if had come from a more established marque; it’s that spectacular. But it’s what’s coming next that has us really excited, as a whole new adrenaline-packed era for Kia has begun.

Specifications

  • Engine: 2.0 liter / 3.3 liter
  • Horsepower: 255 / 365
  • Torque: 260 lb-ft. / 376 lb-ft.
  • 0-60 mph: 4.5 seconds
  • 1/4 mile: 13.1 seconds @ 108 mph
  • EPA: 19 mpg city / 25 mpg highway,
2024 Acura MDX Type S 25

2024 Acura MDX Type S

It’s Another High-Performance SUV, And We’re Totally Onboard

Episode 4343
Auto Value and Bumper to BumperTire Rack "The Way Tire Buying Should Be"

Unless you closely follow what’s going on in the auto industry, you might not know that the best-selling three-row luxury SUV of all time is the Acura MDX. That’s right! The MDX has been delivering great comfort, practicality and performance to American families since 2001. For 2025, the MDX story not only continues, but gets more intriguing than ever.

We do love that Acura has been placing more of a priority on performance than ever lately, adding their Type S badge to more and more vehicles. That badge was applied to the MDX for the first time shortly after this fourth-gen MDX arrived for 2022, and as we’re always looking for an exciting summer fling, we couldn’t say no to putting this 2024 Acura MDX Type S to the test.

Far from just a stylish trim package, Type S upgrades tend to be fairly comprehensive, and that is indeed the case here in the MDX. Building on what is already a wide and stable platform, this Type S gets a complete chassis overhaul with a reworking of the double wishbone front suspension, adding sport-tuned active dampers to allow first-time instant adjustment to Acura’s air suspension. The variable-ratio electric power steering system is also updated, and larger Brembo brakes added behind new 21-inch wheels with Continental performance tires. They’ve even moved the battery to the rear of the vehicle to help improve balance. Also helping in that cause, the hood, front fenders and shock towers are made of aluminum.

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There’s a unique powertrain too, as the Type S ditches the standard MDX’s long-running staple 3.5-liter V6 in favor of a 3.0-liter V6 turbo with 355 horsepower and 354 lb-ft of torque. It works through a sport-tuned 10-speed automatic transmission, and the fourth generation of Acura’s Super-Handling All-Wheel-Drive. So, with 65 more horsepower and 87 additional lb-ft of torque over an MDX A-Spec, we couldn’t wait to get to our Mason Dixon Dragway test track.

There was great power at launch, as the Type S hooked up immediately, and placed us firmly in the well-bolstered seats, during the quick 5.4-second trip to 60 mph. That’s a full second quicker than we got in the standard MDX back in ’22. Power delivery stayed very strong down the track, with a nice throaty exhaust note that was pleasing to our ears without being too loud or obnoxious. Shifts in the 10-speed were aggressive, with an additional punch of power as each new gear was engaged. And the MDX kept a slightly “nose-up” posture throughout the quarter-mile, completed in 13.9 seconds at 100 mph.

Power delivery stayed very strong down the track, with a nice throaty exhaust note that was pleasing to our ears without being too loud or obnoxious.

There’s truly a kaleidoscope of performance enhancers here. The air suspension with active dampers; the torque vectoring Super-Handling All-Wheel-Drive; and the Integrated Dynamics System with exclusive Sport+ mode. And while it’s easy to complain about Acura’s heavy-handed tech-forward approach, it’s hard to argue with the results as it stayed securely planted throughout our handling exercises. It’s true, we’d love to have more steering feel. But this Type S turned in with precision. There was minimal body roll, and only a touch of understeer approaching its limits. The upgraded brakes were up to the task too, stopping us from 60 in 111 feet with good pedal feel and no fade.

Type S treatments for the interior include metal trim, Milano leather seating, contrast stitching, paddle shifters on the Type S-labeled flat-bottom steering wheel, sunroof, wireless phone charging, and Acura’s 12.3-inch Precision Cockpit instrumentation. The available Advance Package adds massaging front seats, a head-up display, and a 1,000-watt 25-speaker ELS Studio 3D audio system with speakers seemingly everywhere in the cabin. The dashtop display is also 12.3-inches; it’s clear and well within line of sight. Inputs are made on the console-mounted touchpad, still not our favorite setup. Climate controls and charge ports for second row passengers, and the Type S retains the MDX’s 3-row flexibility.

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Outside, there’s a unique diamond pentagon grille with additional airflow, a front splitter, and new air intakes down low in the fascia with radiators behind. In back is a rear diffuser-style lower fascia with a quartet of big round exhaust outlets. And just in case you need it, the air suspension allows you to jack it all up 2 inches for clearing obstacles.

Government Fuel Economy Ratings are 17-City, 21-Highway, and 19-Combined. We averaged a fine 20.3 mpg of Premium. That’s slightly below average for the Energy Impact Score; consuming 15.7-barrels of oil annually, while emitting 7.8-tons of CO2.

Pricing for the Type S is $69,800, with the Advance Package an additional $5,350.

Packing 355 horsepower and some serious handling chops, the 2024 Acura MDX Type S is not only the most powerful and best performing Acura SUV ever, but the benchmark of its price point. In sum, by adding heaps of legit Type S performance into their best-selling SUV, Acura has made an already great effort far more enticing than ever.

Specifications

  • Engine: 3.0-liter V6 turbo
  • Transmission : 10-speed automatic
  • Horsepower: 355
  • Torque: 354 lb-ft.
  • EPA: 17 City / 21 Highway / 19 Combined
  • 0-60 mph: 5.4 seconds
  • 1/4 Mile: 13.9 seconds at 100 mph
  • 60-0 Braking (avg): 111 feet
  • MW Fuel Economy: 20.3 mpg (Premium)
2024 Lexus RX450h+ 3/4 Front

2024 Lexus RX450h+

Lexus Adds A Plug-In Option For Their Best-Selling RX Utility

Episode 4342
Auto Value and Bumper to BumperTire Rack "The Way Tire Buying Should Be"

While Lexus didn’t create the luxury SUV, their RX certainly led in making posh, car-based crossovers so popular; a move that so many other luxury brands have now followed. They also brought electric assistance to the segment well before anyone else. But, it has taken them until now to get fully plugged in to what a hybrid is capable of.

The Lexus RX was truly a game changer when it arrived for the 1999 model year, taking the relatively new car-based crossover concept into luxury territory, yet keeping it attainable enough for suburbanites to be able to afford it just as easily as they could park it in their garages. Now, 25 years later, and the mid-size RX continues with the same ethos, while delivering even better efficiency by adding Toyota’s Prime plug-in hybrid technology, into what remains their best-seller, creating the 2024 Lexus RX 450h+.

Being a hybrid is not new, of course. The RX was the brand’s first hybrid back in 2006. Currently, that traditional hybrid system mates front- and rear-mounted electric motors with a 2.5-liter naturally-aspirated I4 with standard all-wheel drive for a combined output of 246 horsepower.

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The RX450h+ takes the next step by using the same 18.1-kWh battery pack found in Lexus’ first PHEV, the compact NX450h+ that debuted in 2022, boosting total output to 304 horsepower, with up to 37-miles of EV driving. Government Fuel Economy Ratings are 83.0 for the Combined MPGe and 35.0 mpg for strictly gasoline operation. Total range tops 500 miles.

Packing extra power boosts acceleration too. At our Mason Dixon test track, the 450h+ stayed smooth and steady off the line, but there was a noticeable amount of additional electric thrust, getting us to 60 in 6.0 seconds flat, just three-tenths slower than the much more powerful 500h F Sport Performance RX hybrid we tested last year.

Same economy-minded CVT as in most Toyota hybrids, but with simulated shifts built in to at least give the feel of a traditional automatic, and even paddle shifters. Engine noise was relatively subdued throughout the 14.5-second quarter-mile which we finished at 97 mph.

The interior environment does truly live up to the high expectations that Lexus has set for themselves.

Even with the very soft ride quality leading to some noticeable body roll, the 450h+ performed very well in our handling course; quite neutral with no noticeable understeer or oversteer, while the steering itself was both quick and light. Stops felt very aggressive in our panic braking runs and averaged a good 119 feet from 60; while staying mostly isolated from all that harshness inside the cabin.

And the interior environment does truly live up to the high expectations that Lexus has set for themselves. The plug-in is available only in Luxury trim. That means a big 14-inch touchscreen display mounted high in front of the dash, panoramic glass roof, leather seating, ambient lighting, and a head-up display, are all standard. Seats are very comfortable up front, and in back too. Just two rows of seating in all RXs now, as Lexus has passed on three- row duties to the new TX.

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There are unique displays in the digital gauge cluster for monitoring battery level, and seeing where power is coming from based on which drive mode is enabled. Helpful, since transitions between the battery and gas engine are not easily detected.

And while it may be all luxury inside, it looks quite sporty outside, wearing the same aggressive set of sheet-metal that arrived last year with the launch of the fifth-gen RX. Lexus’ “face full of grille” is in effect and 21-inch wheels are standard. No flashy graphics or logos, just a subtle plus symbol added to the powertrain signifier on the rear hatch, and of course a charge port integrated into the passenger side rear fender covered by a traditional fuel door. The battery can be replenished as quickly as 2.5 hours with a home style, Level 2, 240-volt charger.

While we feel everything about the RX450h+ is great, base pricing has it playing a premium role in the RX fleet, starting at $70,580. That’s about $10,000 more than the smaller NX450h+. It seems odd it has taken this long to get a plug-in hybrid version of the RX, and making it such a premium choice is probably not the best strategy to get a lot of them out there. But at least now the RX faithful can finally have their favorite-ute and plug it in too. As well-documented fans of the PHEV approach, we’re fully onboard with the 2024 Lexus RX450h+’s new plug-in status. We just wish more people could enjoy the RX… luxury of it.

Specifications

As Tested

  • Engine: 2.5-liter I4
  • Transmission: eCVT
  • Battery Size: 18.1-kWh
  • Horsepower: 304
  • EPA: 83 (MPGe) | 35 MPG Combined
  • EV Range: 37 miles
  • 0-60 mph: 6.0 seconds
  • 1/4 Mile: 14.5 seconds at 97 mph
  • 60-0 Braking (avg): 119 feet
  • MW Fuel Economy: 31.8 MPG