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2018 Kia Stinger: Drift, Drift, Drifting Away

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author photo by Russ Heaps November 2017

Here's the tale of doing some drifting in the highly anticipated, all-new 2018 Kia Stinger. Every good yarn begins with "what if." What if you strapped a gullible auto journalist into the seat of a highly volatile rocket on wheels and then sent it spinning around a closed course? Would that make for a good story? Autotrader's editors volunteered me to find out.

Scene of the Crime

I am not a fan of crowds. Teaming masses of humanity pushing and shoving as they're funneled through narrow walkways don't appeal to me. I don't even like holiday shopping in stores. Whatever you can conjure up as the worst case of crowds in a confined space, I guarantee you the annual Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) show in Las Vegas is worse -- way worse. Apocalypse worse.

Imagine your local big-box discount store on Black Friday and multiply it by 10. Tens of thousands of rubber neckers moseying along the cramped walkways separating hundreds of exhibit booths crammed into four big side-by-side halls. That's SEMA. This is where mirth goes to die, and it's where Kia chose to give the public its first taste of the totally new hot-shoe sportback 4-door. It's where I had to go if I was going to experience Stinger. Far from being the sharpest knife in the drawer, I went.

Although Kia had a booth inside one of the exhibit halls, its drifting and autocross courses were in one of the remote parking lots surrounding the exhibit halls. At least I'd get to suck in some welcome fresh air during the long walk there.

The Culprit

All you need know about the Kia Stinger for the purposes of this narrative is that the one Kia dispatched to scare the stuffing out of me was a Stinger GT. Loaded for bear with a 365-horsepower 3.3-liter twin-turbo engine and 8-speed driver-shiftable automatic transmission to turn the 19-inch rear wheels, the GT can sprint to 60 miles per hour in 4.7 seconds. Yep, that's quick.

Behind the Wheel

Before belting in next to the professional Formula Drifting driver with the mission to stop my heart on the drifting course, Kia gave me a turn behind the wheel of a Stinger GT on the neighboring autocross course. Here I was able to try out the GT's launch control in a 0-to-60 demonstration, then check out its continuously damping electronically controlled suspension system through a multi-turn autocross layout. Although impressed with Stinger's responsive steering and cornering acumen, was I now really ready to see how well it handles when going sideways?

Slip Sliding Along

After being fitted for a helmet, I climbed into a blue Stinger GT. Kia's demonstration was open to any SEMA visitor, and two young ladies strapped into the rear seat behind me. Our driver was telling us something about what we'd experience, but the sound of my heart beating drowned out his voice.

Receiving the thumbs up from the course supervisor, the driver creeped onto the course, a timid beginning to the 45 seconds of pure bedlam to follow. Kia called this a course, but it was actually just a big, empty, asphalt-covered area ringed by concrete barriers. One at a time, the Stinger GTs would enter the arena with the mandate to spend as much time going sideways as possible.

Our driver wasted no time. Blasting to 50 mph or so, he began working the steering wheel to the left and then right, with each move sending us spinning in the opposite direction. Tossed from one side of the cabin to the other, we were doing an impressive impression of pinballs.

As bits and pieces of the tires flew in every direction, the air inside the Stinger GT filled with the smell of burning rubber. Do they show movies on this flight? They didn't need to; my life was flashing before my eyes every few seconds. Hello, Mr. Stomach; meet Mr. Throat. Wait, what's that screaming? Is it the tires? Is it the women? No, I think it's me!

All too soon, it was over. Like the best roller coaster rides I've ever experienced, abject terror was replaced by the burning desire to do it again as the ride ended.

The conclusion: The 2018 Kia Stinger goes sideways just as well as it goes in a straight line.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2018 Kia Stinger: Drift, Drift, Drifting Away - Autotrader