The year is 2020. The Earth’s magnetic field has reversed at the poles and the world has mostly frozen over. Everyone is miserable. But you, my friend, you bought an all-wheel drive 2018 Kia Stinger GT with winter tires before the Big Switch, and you’re in good shape. You’re also having the time of your life.
Or at least that’s what you’d be hoping for if you had flown out to a temporary ice track in Colorado to throw around the AWD Stinger, like I did.
(Full disclosure: The Kia Motor Company needed me to drive the all-wheel drive Stinger on a closed snow and ice course with supervising professionals so badly they flew me out to Montrose, Colorado and had me drive a 2019 Sorento to Crested Butte, where they put me up in a hotel for two nights and had me eat texmex and race other journalists on a snowmobile arcade game.)
Jalopnik just can’t say no to a good winter driving event, and this time it was my turn. We’ve previously established that the 365 HP rear-wheel drive 3.3-liter twin-turbo V6 Stinger GT is certifiably a great everyday sports sedan, not just “for a Kia.”
Mount Crested Butte was a perfect location for our hypothetical (or imminent?) ice age scenario. There was still society, but it was a society that had to of been challenged enough in life to be forced to adapt to frigid temperatures and dehydrating air. Skiers. The buildings and streets were laid out almost like an old Hollywood set. Everyone drove an International Scout. Everyone, except for us.
Kia brought us there to test if all-wheel drive somehow ruined everything about the Stinger, but we couldn’t drive the cars on any public roads due to the road salt. They claimed the road salt would mess up the snow course for the second wave of journalists. Fair. Salt is no fun.
So, instead of testing the AWD performance in real-world conditions, I had to pretend I was testing it for the acute apocalypse I’ve now dreamed up—a world without a warm square of dry asphalt.
I am pleased to report that the all-wheel drive is not just good—it’s so good that it’s capable of tricking you into feeling like you’re still in a rear-wheel drive car while quietly saving your ass when plowing around a snow course. I’d imagine a lot of this was due to the fitted winter tires, though.
Kia set up the driving in two stages, with a full track course that took about a minute and a half to lap and a smaller autocross course that was, frankly, a frustratingly challenging pain in the ass to get around. The Stinger really came alive on the big course.
The driving supervisors assigned us into two-person teams per Stinger. I was partnered with Jeff Perez of Motor1, a swell guy from Florida who wore at least five layers. The full course was initially divided up turn by turn so that we could learn the dynamics of the vehicle and the spots where the car could lose traction. We did it one corner at a time before they sent us out on our own.
Each driver went around the segments in three different modes—comfort, sport, and then sport without traction control, for a total of six laps at a time. Then each driver got to do four hot laps of the full track in whatever setting they were comfortable with.
Starting off in comfort mode on the segmented turns proved just how much the Kia Stinger’s safety systems can work. Anything beyond a crawling speed in a corner and the car would kill the power, no matter how hard you hit the throttle, and just sort of slow itself down until you weren’t moving sideways any longer.
Sport mode was a huge improvement. The Stinger’s throttle response perked up, the engine and exhaust noise rang out and the back end really let lose. It wasn’t a mindblowing change, but it was appreciated.
The car didn’t seem to mess with the throttle or lock up at all until you were almost at full steering-lock sideways. Otherwise it was a slightly-reserved but appropriate level of fun if you really didn’t want to be the journalist that parked it in a snowbank.
You see, I had only just driven my first sports sedan through snow two months ago. It was a 640 HP Cadillac CTS-V in a New York winter. I managed to get a few snownuts in. Nothing too demanding or calculated. But with those terrifying and exciting two days of experience behind me, I confidently took the full Kia course in Sport mode with all of the nannies off. How could you not?
Do it. If you come to drive an AWD Kia Stinger GT—and you might! Kia told us they were selling more AWD models than expected—find a way to get it on a field of snow, twist the little knob next to the gear selection into sport mode and push the traction control button in the center console until you hear the little beep.
The 365-HP twin-turbo V6 comes alive, now untethered and able to reach its full range of RPMs. The throttle response lingers early in every mode, but once you’re deep in it, there’s nothing holding you back with traction control off.
From the start line, you accelerate into a moderately sharp and tight corner that takes you into a soft bend and the second-longest straight of the course. This first corner had slightly melted and refroze in an endless cycle under the cloudless sky and was mostly ice. With traction control on, the car would almost come to a stop. There were at least half a dozen spins from drivers in this corner who didn’t use traction control.
The short straight led into a 180 degree turn. The car squirreled a little under full throttle before entering the braking zone, where the Stinger impressed me with its ability to kill speed in thick snowy conditions. If you were good and hit the apex, you could power out in a nice controlled downhill slide before swinging the car back around the other direction for the following tight and slow corner.
This lined you up for the sixth and final corner—a wide bend that opened to the widest and longest straight of the course and home of the start line. This was the best corner. The cone marking the apex was nestled in the bank far around the crest of the bend, but once you hit it, the car was primed to slide wide and go shooting off down the track with the slightest encouragement from the pedals. Where the Cadillac CTS-V from a few months ago would have likely put me into a snowbank giving unto my speed greed, the Stinger skated with precision.
The location Kia chose to stage its snow driving course is sadly not a full-time installment. In the warmer seasons, the land is used for farming, and the snow track is seemingly only for private events when it does pop up in the winter.
Despite this, I strongly encourage anyone to seek out a winter driving class or course, especially if you get to drive either the Kia Stinger GT or a similar sporty sedan.
If you have a car that’s new to you—say a new Kia Stinger GT—and you happen to legally find yourself in a large, flat area of decently thick snow with patches of ice and absolutely zero obstacles, this is an excellent way to both build your own skill and learn the dynamics of your car. Start in the safest setting and work your way into as much control as is available to you. It will come in handy when the compasses don’t work and the maps no longer matter.
As liberating as the track time was, the best of the trip involved the recently announced Kia Stinger GT Atlantica, a “special edition” model that gets a brown interior and a lovely deep blue paint dip. The video team Kia hired wanted to record the new Atlantica running a lap of the complicated and tight autocross course.
Despite an on-site Michelin tire representative at the event, nobody considered the impact of the summer tires fitted to the car, and well, see for yourself:
Correction: This article originally listed the Stinger GT’s horsepower at 356 horsepower, when it is in fact 365 HP, one for every day in the year. We regret the error.