Hatchbacks

2018 Kia Stinger long-term update: Road trippin’

A quick blast from SF to SoCal reveals a few foibles.

Emme Hall/Roadshow

I take a lot of road trips. See, my race car lives about six hours away, so if I want to drive it or work on it, some serious highway time is required. Fortunately, Roadshow's long-term 2018 Kia Stinger GT is a road trip warrior, making the miles whiz on by with plenty of power, comfort and tech.

Even though Kia Motors Europe designer Gregory Guillaume once said a GT, or Gran Turismo car, "is not about outright power," the Stinger GT sure has a lot of it. Our all-wheel drive GT2 model packs a 3.3-liter turbocharged V6 engine, mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. Its 365 horsepower and 376 pound-feet of torque keep the Stinger buzzing, but not so much that I'll get in trouble. The torque comes on full blast midway through the rev range, so punching it results in a nice rush of power, usually without downshifting. I love this powertrain.

That said, a long road trip down boring highways can be made even easier thanks to the latest and greatest tech. And while our Stinger has bells and whistles galore, after several long drives, I've noticed some issues.

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Dash of distraction

We here at Roadshow generally like Kia's UVO infotainment system. Its straightforward design makes it easy to use, the graphics are excellent and both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come standard. Extended time with this system, however, leaves us wanting some tweaks.

First off, that 8-inch screen is bright. It's blowing my eyeballs out while driving at night, even on the most dim setting.

The real-time traffic seems to have some issues, showing green while I'm doing less than 25 miles per hour on the highway, stuck in a long line of traffic navigating late-night construction. Other times a long stretch of highway shows red, then green, then yellow before going back to green again, even though the conditions haven't changed.

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UVO is operated solely via the touchscreen. There is no dial in the center console as in Mazdas or BMWs, and normally that'd be fine. There are large physical buttons for things like radio, navigation, media and setup, but there's a very important one that's missing: home.

Any time I want to back to the infotainment home screen, let's say to open up Apple CarPlay, I have to take my eyes off the road and aim for a tiny half-inch square tile in the top left corner of the display. It's not hard, necessarily, but having to hunt and peck for this tiny button time after time gets annoying.

There are plenty of ways a dial could make the whole UVO system less distracting. When listening to a podcast on Apple CarPlay, the skip/back tiles are very small. Further, to get back from the podcast screen to the native system I have to click the small Apple home button and then the UVO tile. In both cases my eyes are focused at the screen and not the road.

Everyone's experience is different, but for me, the time my eyes spend on the screen when using touch is much more than when using a dial-select system. Kia does have a customizable physical button that you can set as a makeshift shortcut to the home screen. But it also means you can't use this button for other useful go-tos like Bluetooth audio, an on/off switch for the display, UVO eServies or the phone menu.

When traveling through the desert, a trip to the cactus shop is paramount.

Emme Hall/Roadshow

Quality comfort

In terms of cabin amenities, this thing is top-notch. Outside temperatures range all the way up to 105 degrees Fahrenheit during my trip, but I am cool as the proverbial cucumber inside thanks to the car's cooled seats. The seats offer up enough support to keep my back nice and straight and the seat cushion is stretched a bit to accommodate those with longer legs. I arrive at my destination fresh and ready to turn a few wrenches.

When I arrive back home and do the math, I averaged 22.7 miles per gallon over my 665-mile round-trip, a far cry from the 24.7 mpg the computer tells me I got, and less than the 25-mpg highway rating from the EPA. However, I am a bit of a hot shoe, so your mileage may vary.

Quirks aside, overall, I love the Stinger. Our fully loaded tester comes out to $52,300 including destination, a fair price to pay for something that is comparable to a much more expensive Audi S5 Sportback. It gets even better if you're willing to go down a few trim levels and forgo all-wheel drive for rear-wheel drive. The GT trim with the 3.3-liter engine starts at $38,350, which for this much car is an absolute steal.