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,
2024 Chevrolet Corvette Z06
Bringing Supercar Performance To The Street…American Style
What happens when you let enthusiasts and engineers worry less about tradition and allow them to do what they do best? You get cars like this Chevrolet Corvette Z06. What happens when GM let’s us borrow one for a few days? That’s what we’re about to find out!
While the Z06 package first became an option for the Chevrolet Corvette back in 1963, it wasn’t until the C5 that it describe the ultimate track-focused ‘Vette. And while since then every Z06 has gotten more extreme, if we were plotting things out on a graph, this is where the line of performance progression goes from a steady incline to almost vertical. Yes, the latest C8 Z06 is all that.
It starts with a brand new LT6 5.5-liter DOHC V8 that outputs 670-horsepower and delivers 460 lb-ft. of torque. It sounds great too, the very aggressive nature of its flat-plane crank design has it sounding, and feeling like it’s trying to shake its way out of the engine bay unless you unleash some of its furry.
This dual-cammer featured a dry-sump design from the get-go and is more racing engine than souped-up small block, being developed originally for the C8.R race car.
It made short work of Roebling Road Raceway’s long front straight, able to reach 160 by the end of it. With Hellcats no longer rolling off the assembly line, this is easily our new favorite V8.
But, as you can imagine, Chevy has done much more than just plop a bigger motor into its rear-midship engine bay, which was easier to do since they didn’t have to worry about anyone seeing over it. They’ve addressed just about every part of the car to ensure it puts that power to best use for coming out of corners like few other cars on the street.
That includes upgrades for the short/long arm double wishbone suspension setup that can be further enhanced with an available Z07 Performance Package that adds more aggressive tuning for Magnetic Ride Control, and Michelin Sport Cup 2R tires. Which can be mounted on 20 and 21-inch carbon fiber wheels with carbon ceramic brakes nestled behind.
It all translated into more grip than a semi’s worth of industrial strength Velcro through Roebling’s 9-turns.
With Hellcats no longer rolling off the assembly line, this is easily our new favorite V8.
Like most Corvettes, the Z06 can be as wild or mild of an experience as you care to make it but will most likely be the fastest car to show up at most track days. Yet, the same magnetic dampers that void all body roll on the track, provide an almost plush ride quality for the drive home, though not quite as plush as the standard Corvette.
We’re struggling to find something non-fan boy to say; sure the 8-speed dual-clutch gearbox doesn’t deliver shifts with the brutality of some exotics, but really, they’re just as fast, and the shifts are much smoother.
Believe it or not, almost all the body is unique. So, rather than just tacking on some fender flares, Chevy made the entire car wider to cover the 345 rear tires, yet keep the same uniform look in place.
The optional Carbon Fiber Aero Package adds a front splitter, rocker extensions, front dive planes, and a huge rear wing. We’re not sure if the multi-level nature of that rear wing was done for functional or aesthetic reasons, but it doesn’t block your rearview, and that is much appreciated.
We always talk about torque being more important than horsepower when it comes to acceleration, and the Z06 works with almost 200 fewer lb-ft. of torque than horsepower, but you sure wouldn’t know it when you mash the throttle.
Easy to use programmable launch control allows you to dial in your preferred RPM for launching; we found 4,500 was just about perfect for Roebling’s front straight, allowing for just a tiny bit of slip before rocketing us to 60 on a 40 degree day in just 2.6-seconds.
Power continues to pour on hard as the engine quickly hits its 8,600 RPM redline, and gear changes happen often. The sound inside the cabin in intense, and when the ¼-mile came to an end in 10.7-seconds at 130 miles-per-hour, it felt like it was just getting started.
Government Fuel Economy Ratings are a low 12-City, 19-Highway, and 14-Combined.
For the Z06 there are 3 LZ pricing points to land on, starting at $114,395; but you can go with the top-of-the-line Z06, add 50-grand worth of options, and still come out half the price of anything you can compare it to.
Call us home teamers all you want, but America’s only exotic does it yet again, not only is it the best Corvette ever, but it is also easily one of the greatest American cars of all time, arriving at a particularly poignant time culturally as we mourn the potential loss of internal combustion engines altogether. So, come for the spectacular engine and stay for the complete performance package, and experience, that is the Chevrolet Corvette Z06.
- Engine: 5.5-liter V8
- Horsepower: 670
- 0-60 mph: 2.6 seconds
- EPA: 12 City | 19 Highway | 14 Combined
- Transmission: 8-speed dual clutch auto
- Torque: 460 lb-ft.
- 1/4 Mile: 10.7-seconds at 130 mph
2024 Subaru Outback
The Outback Continues To Deliver
In a world that’s SUV crazy, it’s easy to forget that the Subaru Outback has been delivering capable and comfortable all-weather and all-road capabilities to adventure-loving Americans for years. In fact, it’s now well into its 6th generation. So, it’s time for us to check in with the latest Outback and find out what’s new.
Almost 50-years ago, long before all-wheel-drive became an option for just about every car on the road, Subaru released the first four-wheel-drive passenger car in the U.S. Immediately, they knew they had a good thing going with that wagon, but it wasn’t until the 1990s that the marketing folks got on board and helped launch the Subaru Outback Sport Utility Wagon.
While the 2024 Outback is approaching the end of its 6th generation, its not slowing down when it comes to delivering tons of value to adventure-minded families.
The Outback is the sole remaining wagon available here in the U.S. from a mainstream brand, though even Subaru doesn’t use the “W” word anymore.
Now strictly referred to as a mid-size SUV, when it comes to selling any vehicle, attractiveness is always a bonus, and the Outback’s unique blend of rugged and refined has set the tone for many followers over the years. The exterior was recently updated, and while it looks big and more like a true SUV than ever, it’s only about 5-inches longer than the 1990’s original.
Some trims do get additional standard content for ’24, but our top Touring XT showcases everything Subaru has to offer, with an 11.6-inch Starlink infotainment screen that controls more features than ever, includes navigation, and pumps tunes out with Harmon Kardon sound. EyeSight Driver Assist Technology remains an Outback standard.
Cargo capacity is a great 32.6 cubic-ft., 75.6 with rear seatbacks folded, and despite the high ground clearance, the floor is lower than SUV typical, which makes for easier loading.
Outback seat comfort has improved greatly over the years, and despite the increased reliance on the touchscreen, everything about the cabin is simple to operate and logically placed.
The XT part of our Touring XT means there’s extra power under the hood with a 2.4-liter flat-4 turbo engine which rates 260-horsepower and 277 lb-ft. of torque. It’s a big upgrade over the standard 182-horsepower naturally aspirated 2.5-liter.
Both engines are unchanged and work with Subaru’s Lineartronic CVT; all-wheel-drive is of course another Outback standard.
At Mason-Dixon Dragway, our XT had plenty of grip off the line, hitting 60 in 6.0-seconds flat. That’s a couple of tenths quicker than our last time out with this turbo-4. We’ll chalk that up to better weather this time around.
Like many Subarus, it doesn’t feel overly fast but it’s snappy off the line, and perfectly adequate from there.
Power delivery stayed very consistent down the track; the CVT definitely keeps engine revs maxed out the whole time, but noise is far from annoying. Our best ¼-mile time was 14.6-seconds at 97 miles-per-hour.
The Outback boasts 8.7-inches of ground clearance, which is more than many mid-size SUVs; and while it felt plenty competent through our slalom course, there was noticeable body roll and understeer to deal with. Yet steering was light and predictable, plus Active Torque Vectoring and Vehicle Dynamics Control are hard at work to keep you stable and safe no matter what.
In panic braking, there were only moderate amounts of nosedive, and mild ABS pulsing. Stops averaged a fine 115-feet from 60 miles-per-hour.
Government Fuel Economy Ratings are 22-City, 29-Highway, and 25-Combined. We averaged a great 27.9 miles-per-gallon of Regular; a feat most SUVs can only dream of.
That’s an average Energy Impact Score; with use of 11.9-barrels of oil yearly, with 5.9-tons of CO2 emissions.
Base Outbacks have plenty of standard content, and remain a real bargain, starting at just $30,240, top trims, including Wilderness, take you into the low 40s.
Decades of loyal Outback owners have helped Subaru grow the 2024 Subaru Outback into what it is today; a highly capable and comfortable, thoughtfully designed, adventure-ready family truckster that’s as adept at backwoods exploring as it is soldiering through the daily grind. Your family activities may not take you far off the beaten path, but life itself is an adventure, and the Subaru Outback is outfitted for your adventure better than ever.
- Engine: 2.4-liter flat-4 turbo
- Horsepower: 260
- 0-60 mph: 6.0 seconds
- 60-0 Braking (avg): 115 feet
- MW Fuel Economy: 27.9 MPG (Regular)
- Transmission: CVT
- Torque: 277 lb-ft.
- 1/4 Mile: 14.6-seconds at 97 mph
- EPA: 22 City | 29 Highway | 25 Combined