Kia Stinger GT AWD vs. The Ice Track
“Get on the gas as you exit that last turn and it’ll make you feel like a hero as you get sideways!”
Those were the last words of encouragement we heard from our instructor on a “lead-follow” lap before he set us free on a full ice track in Crested Butte, Colorado with the Kia Stinger GT. We had spent all day working towards this moment, with a series of training exercises designed to get us familiar with the Stinger’s All-Wheel Drive system. For each exercise (slalom, autocross, etc.) we completed three passes so that we could feel the difference. First in “Comfort Mode”, then in “Sport Mode”, and lastly in “Sport Mode” with Traction Control turned off. Then we let it loose on the full ice track, and the instructor was right. We felt like heroes as we drifted the Stinger wide around the final turn :
We’ve driven the Kia Stinger GT on an autocross course before, and even named it our 2018 Gunaxin Car of the Year. But setting Kia’s 365 horsepower Stinger GT free on an ice track was an entirely different experience which left us giggling with glee as we slid through the corners. Clearly Kia wanted us to have fun, and the Stinger surely delivered, but we couldn’t help but wonder if there was some greater purpose in inviting us to drive their $50k gran-turismo at speed on the ice and snow. Indeed, they don’t expect their typical customer to ever drive a Stinger on an ice track, but they do want potential customers to know about their in-house developed All-Wheel Drive system.
The Stinger is the first non-crossover vehicle in Kia’s lineup to receive an All-Wheel Drive option, and also the first to receive this in-house developed solution, but apparently not the last. Unlike the Sorento and Sportage, the Stinger is Rear-Wheel Drive by default, thus Kia developed its AWD system with a rear-drive bias. So while it certainly helps with traction in poor weather, it’s a more performance oriented system that enthusiasts will love.
In “Comfort Mode” the system is set to about a 40/60 split of power between the front and rear wheels. In this mode with full traction and stability control, it was honestly difficult to get the Stinger to feel out of control, even on an ice track.
When we dialed up “Sport Mode”, the power split shifted to about 20/80. Here is where the real fun started, and likely something you wouldn’t want to do in the snow unless you’re on a closed course. However with stability and traction control still enabled, the Stinger is smart enough to transfer power as it senses changing conditions. So when we delightfully started sliding around a corner with ease in “Sport Mode”, the AWD shifted more power to the front wheels to pull us out of the skid. The Dynamic Torque Vectoring Control system monitors driver inputs and road conditions and automatically applies power and braking force to the appropriate wheels to help maintain course in a variety of adverse conditions.
On our last lap we decided to turn off all of the “nannies” and quickly decided that Stability Control was our friend, as we completely spun out on the first two turns. We promptly re-engaged ESC and think you’d have to be nuts to ever drive in ice and snow with it turned off.
It’s important to note that the Kia Stinger GT comes standard with Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tires, which are great high-performance tires designed for warmer weather. They would be almost un-driveable in these conditions however, and thus Kia worked with Michelin to equip our test vehicles with Pilot Alpin PA4 winter tires. Stinger GT customers in colder climates would be well served to consider also swapping tires by season, as winter tires really do make a huge difference.
Additionally, Philip has served as Rally Director for the Washington Automotive Press Association, Speaker at IMPAcon and Blogs with Balls, Chairman of the Relay For Life of North Anne Arundel County, Examiner Team Leader for the Maryland Performance Excellence Awards, and Credentialed Founder of Capitals Outsider.