It’s time to bid farewell to yet another sedan that has fallen victim to the SUV craze. The 2023 Kia Stinger Tribute Edition exemplifies an automaker’s effort to deliver an exceptional product in nearly every aspect, only to be overshadowed by the prevailing preference for SUVs.
Since its debut in 2018, the Stinger consistently impressed us with its design, performance, and overall value. But five years later, and with the EV6 GT taking the reigns as the brand’s flagship, Kia is closing out the Stinger’s production run with 1,000 examples worldwide of the Tribute Edition — with a mere 100 allocated for Canada. If you want one, you better act fast.
Since its launch, the Stinger has always been visually striking. Its low stance creates the illusion of greater width, the sizable quad exhaust tips add aggressiveness to the rear, and the liftback tailgate adds a greater sense of practicality over the Genesis G70, with which it shares its platform.
The Tribute Edition boasts several distinctive touches to set it apart from the previous top-range GT Elite trim. It starts with striking matte grey, accompanied by side mirrors, brake calipers, and 19-inch wheels finished in gloss black. Inside, Teracotta brown seating surfaces and matching stitching throughout the cabin contrast the matte grey paint nicely, making the Stinger’s final hurrah feel truly special.
Kia phased out the Stinger’s 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine a few years ago, now offering it exclusively with its 3.3L twin-turbo V6. Rated at 368 horsepower and 376 pound-feet of torque, the V6 is paired to an eight-speed automatic transmission, and all-wheel-drive is standard. That’s good enough to launch the Tribute Edition from zero to 100 km/h in 4.9 seconds. Personally, I would’ve welcomed even a slight power boost, to further distinguish it from the other two available trim levels.
Kia left the Stinger Tribute Edition’s suspension tuning untouched, but this isn’t to say can’t hold its own against the competition. It delivers a smooth and composed ride, even over downtown Toronto’s rough streets. Handling and chassis tuning still impress, providing ample grip through tight corners and it still encourages drivers to explore the car’s limits. This is hardly surprising, given the involvement by Albert Biermann — the former boss of BMW’s M division — in the Stinger’s development.
Slip into the driver’s seat, and you’ll immediately notice the Stinger’s clean and intuitive design. Everything is positioned well within the driver’s reach, and operating the Stinger’s tech and controls is straightforward, requiring little more than a quick glance. Infotainment is shared with most other Kia (and Hyundai) products, meaning it’s intuitive and responsive. However, it’s worth noting wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto aren’t supported, so keep that cable handy.
The rest of the Stinger’s interior offers both impressive and somewhat less appealing elements. I’m not a fan of the faux carbon fibre on the centre console and trim, but the Alcantara headliner looks and feels nice — and it’s something sport sedans like the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class lack for the same money. The sport seats aren’t overly bolstered, either, but they’re comfortable and keep you in place on more spirited drives.
Fuel economy has never been the Stinger’s strong suit, particularly with the V6. On paper, it’s rated at 13.7 L/100 km in the city, 9.6 on the highway, and 11.9 combined. During our week with the Tribute Edition, I achieved 12.5 L/100 km. It’s worth noting the Stinger requires premium fuel for its 60-litre tank.
While the Stinger may not have swayed every BMW and Mercedes-Benz loyalist over the years, it did win over a select group of buyers who looked beyond the badges. It’s not the value proposition it once was in 2018, when you could pick one up for under $45,000. For 2023, the Stinger starts at $51,995 before fees and taxes, while the Tribute Edition tops out at $56,495 as-tested. This was arguably the biggest obstacle the Stinger faced over the years — most consumers had a hard time spending more than $50,000 on a Kia, unless it said Telluride on the back.
I do wonder if the Stinger would’ve thrived in a world not dominated by SUVs, as it genuinely caters to the needs of most consumers looking for a sporty sedan. It earned numerous awards over the years for its blend of performance, style, and value, but given consumers’ taste for SUVs and a prevailing sense of brand snobbery, it seemed most were unwilling to relinquish their luxury badges for a Kia.
As the EV6 GT picks up the flagship torch, the 2023 Kia Stinger Tribute Edition remains an outstanding vehicle that flies under the radar. If you’re mourning the passing of yet another gas-powered performance sedan, you’d better pick one up while you still can.