2018 Kia Stinger
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.
- 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,
2023 BMW X7
Should Keep The BMW Faithful Coming Back For More
While BMW got serious about their SUV game around the same time as most other luxury brands, it took them until just a few years ago to deliver a 3-row example. This year, that X7 is updated with new style and new tech. So, let’s see if that makes it the ultimate premium 3-row family machine.
When it comes to utility vehicles, bigger seems to be better for a lot of people. So, for BMW, there’s none bigger or better than the X7 3-row utility, which for 2023 gets a comprehensive update after just 4-years on the market. That includes a facelift to bring it more in line with the new 7-series carline, which is to say joins the more vertical, aggressive grille party. Also, the actual headlights have been moved lower in the front fascia, with squinty DRLs above for the first time on a BMW. In back, taillights take on a 3D posture, with a new chrome bar connecting them.
There are also multiple new M Sport packages to choose from to spice up the exterior, with larger air intakes up front, high-gloss black trim, upgraded exhaust, cascade grille lighting, and 22-inch wheels, as well as M Sport brakes…
…and the interior too, with aluminum trim and exclusive steering wheel. But, by far the biggest change inside for ‘23 is a new dashtop curved display that eliminates the typical BMW well-hooded gauge pod and blends 12-inch Live Cockpit Pro into the 15-inch infotainment touchscreen, which now features iDrive8. Both a Head-Up Display and a large panoramic sunroof are standard.
Whether set up for 2 or 3 passengers, 2nd row seat room remains plentiful, and though the X7 doesn’t look ungainly large like many of its competitors, access to the 3rd row is quite good. Cargo space is reached through a fairly unique, Range Rover-style, split tailgate, which is quite oddly satisfying to watch unfold. There’s room for 48.6 cubic-ft. of goods behind the 2nd row, with a max of 90.4 cu.-ft.
The base xDrive40i has always been the sensible choice, even more so now with a new inline-6 turbo getting a significant bump in horsepower from 335 to 375, and a 48-volt mild-hybrid system that results in a total of 398 lb-ft. of torque.
At our Mason Dixon test track, there was enough to blast this big beast to 60 in just 5.4-seconds. That’s only about half a second slower than the V8 did the deed back in 2019. Making that optional 523-horsepower V8 simply overkill at this point. Our best ¼-mile pass was 13.9-seconds at 100 miles-per-hour. All X7s get a quick shifting sport-tuned 8-speed automatic transmission, which adds a new Sprint Function that finds the lowest usable gear instantly and maxes electric boost with a hold of the left shift paddle. What fun!
New looks and updated tech are cool, but BMW has also addressed dynamics as well, with a retuning of all chassis systems, including the optional Dynamic Handling Package which adds adaptive suspension with roll stabilization and uses GPS and camera data to prepare for what’s coming. We’re not sure if our slalom course was anticipated, but the X7 sure felt well-equipped to handle it. All-wheel drive is standard on all X7s, along with comprehensive drive modes.
In our braking runs, the pads bit down hard quickly, stopping us from 60 in just 115-feet with very little nosedive.
Government Fuel Economy Ratings for the 6-cylinder are 21-City, 25-Highway, and 22-Combined. We averaged just 21.0 miles-per-gallon on Premium.
There’s an average Energy Impact Score; 13.5-barrels of oil yearly, with CO2 emissions of 6.5-tons.
Pricing starts at $78,845, and it’s a significant step up from there to $104,095 if you want the V8. Even more reason to stick with the 6-cylinder as far as we’re concerned.
It took the ultimate driving machine folks quite a bit of time to enter the 3-row family crossover segment, but when they did, they were able to create their largest utility ever and keep it consistent with their values. For 2023, the BMW X7 gets even more dynamic, embraces new tech, and looks better too. All things that should keep the BMW faithful coming back for more.
- Engine: I-6
- Horsepower: 375
- 0-60 mph: 5.4 seconds
- 60-0 Braking: 115 feet (avg)
- MW Fuel Economy: 21.0 MPG
- Transmission: 8-speed automatic
- Torque: 398 lb-ft.
- 1/4 Mile: 13.9-seconds at 100 mph
- EPA: 21 City / 25 Highway / 22 Combined
2024 Mazda CX-90
A Force To Be Reckoned With
If you’ve been following Mazda lately, you’ll know they’ve been fielding some serious new designs; you could even say, they’re latest efforts are 10-times better than before. After all, the CX-3 became the CX-30, then CX-5 became the CX-50, and now it’s the CX-9’s turn. So, let’s find out if this all-new CX-90, their largest SUV yet, is a real multiplier or if it’s all just a numbers game.
Don’t think of this 2024 Mazda CX-90 so much as an updated version of the CX-9, as it’s more of a complete rethink of their 3-row crossover, the first built on an all-new, large vehicle platform for the brand. And this platform carries a host of surprises. Not only does it make the CX-90 bigger by every dimension, but it’s a rear-drive architecture, and features all-new powertrains, including the brand’s first plug-in hybrid, and even an inline-6 engine.
Why an inline-6 to replace the CX-9’s turbo-4? Well, in general terms, I6s are better balanced, run smoother, and can deliver more torque at lower RPM. Just ask the BMW faithful, or any of the truckers you see going down the road hauling more than 20-tons of cargo with their inline-6s.
There are 2-versions of the longitudinally mounted 6, both assisted by turbocharging and a 48-volt mild hybrid system. Output for the base Turbo is 280-horsepower and 332 lb-ft. of torque; this Turbo S cranks it up to 340-horsepower and 369 lb-ft. The PHEV, on the other hand, is based on a naturally aspirated 2.5-liter I4, working with a 100-kW electric motor to deliver 323-horsepower and 369 lb-ft. of torque. A 17.8-kWh battery delivers 26-miles of EV driving.
It’s not the prettiest SUV, but it does have very smooth body work; plus, the longer hood and 7½-inches of wheelbase stretch over the CX-9, give it more stately proportions. All CX-90s come with i-Activ all-wheel drive and the brand’s first 8-speed automatic transmission; the longer wheelbase allows tow ratings to step up from 3,500-lbs. to 5,000.
At the test track, our Turbo S launched effortlessly with good grip on the way to a 6.4-second 0-60. The smooth vibes continued throughout the ¼-mile, with refined power delivery, seamless shifts, and a noticeably more solid and stable feel at speed than the CX-9. Our best time was 14.7-seconds at 98 miles-per-hour.
Through the cones, it still behaves like a Mazda, with very good steering feel and a solid presence in corners at low to moderate speeds. Some understeer and body roll will show up when pushed hard, but Mazda’s Kinematic Posture Control uses subtle selective braking to help the vehicle rotate, and safety systems will step in well-before it gets out of sorts.
There’s a nice firm feel to the brake pedal, delivering good stopping results of 118-feet from 60 miles-per-hour. You can feel a lot of weight transfer, but nosedive was well contained.
Another unique element the CX-90 brings is seating arrangements for 6,7, or 8. It’s the 8-seater that’s standard with 3-across bench seating for 2nd and 3rd rows. 7-seaters get either captain’s chairs in the 2nd row, or more contoured seats for the 3rd; 6-seaters sport 2nd row captains and the contoured 3rd row. Cargo capacity varies with seating, but is at best 15.9 cubic-ft. behind the 3rd row, 40.1 behind the 2nd, and 75.2 with all seats folded.
As far as what it’s like to actually live with, the CX-90’s cabin is a clear step up, including on some trims suede-like materials, intricate stitching, and real wood, all consistent with what we’ve seen from the brand lately. A 10-inch dashtop touchscreen is standard for infotainment, with upper trims getting a larger 12.3-incher. We applaud Mazda’s inclusion of plenty of old-school manual controls for radio and climate, which keeps menu diving limited to secondary functions. PHEVs get a few unique controls and readouts to monitor drive modes and battery level.
Overall, the CX-90 is highly functional, entertainingly sporty to drive, and will be more competitive in the ever growing 3-row family crossover segment; and its posh interior may even attract luxury buyers on a budget.
Government Fuel Economy Ratings for the Turbo S are 23-City, 28-Highway, and 25-Combined. We averaged a good 26.5 miles-per-gallon of Regular.
Pricing begins with the base Turbo at Select trim for $40,970, PHEVs are available in Preferred trim and above starting at $48,820, and the Turbo S starts at $53,125.
Force multiplier is a military term for when strategic elements come together to produce results greater than would have been possible without them. Well, no high-level math skills are necessary here to see that the 2024 Mazda CX-90 is clearly more than just a much better CX-9; it’s now a force to be reckoned with in the 3-row family crossover segment.
- Engine: 3.3-liter I-6
- Horsepower: 340
- 0-60 mph: 6.4 seconds
- 60-0 Braking: 118 feet (avg)
- MW Fuel Economy: 26.5 MPG (Regular)
- Transmission: 8-speed automatic
- Torque: 369 lb-ft.
- 1/4 Mile: 14.7-seconds at 98 mph
- EPA: 23 City / 28 Highway / 25 Combined
- Starting Price: $40,970