I get it, the Stinger is a groundbreaking car. Most cars of this type are usually reserved for marques that cost twice the price if not more. But the question is not, “where do I sign,” it’s more of, “how does it compete with others of its type,” and that’s what brings us here. Let’s see if all this hard work gone into the Stinger actually means something, and place it against one of the exact types of cars it’s undercutting: the Maserati Ghibli. Does Italian heritage automatically make the Ghibli the better car?

(Disclaimer: Kia and FCA wanted me to compare these cars so much, they laughed at me when I requested a test drive in both, and instead allowed Turn 10 to scan and add these cars to Forza 7, where they still laughed at me when I decided to compare them around Lime Rock)

(Disclaimer II: Yes, I know a Forza comparison means nothing in the real world. This is just a way to practice my writing skills, and is at most just a fun idea. Blame BlueMazda2).

In this corner...the 2018 Kia Stinger GT

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Pros: Great handling, throaty V6 noise, price. Cons: It’s rather ugly, Kia doesn’t quite have the same prestige, does it? Price: $50,100 MSRP base.

The Stinger has been a topic of quite some scandal since its reveal last year. A RWD liftback sedan from Kia is a startling idea from the company who usually spends its time making FWD crossovers. Nevertheless, Kia seemed determined to show the world that it could play ball as well...and what a throw it’s made.

The first thing that needs to be addressed is the styling, because it’s been a topic of dispute since its reveal. Some think it’s the most gorgeous thing since sliced Aston Martin, while others think it’s got way too much going on with all of those styling cues. I, myself, don’t like it too much. It’s got a gorgeous shape but it’s loss in a mass of random design decisions that don’t really do it many favors. It’s striking, but not in the best way.

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However, the Stinger makes up for the polarizing looks with staggering performance. Under the hood, you get a choice of two engines, including a turbo I4 good for 255 bhp (the standard in this class) for the base models. However, the real crown jewel is the 3.3L twin-turbocharged 365 bhp V6 under the hood of the Stinger GT. It’s about as quick as it is gorgeous to listen to, with a real mellow V6 grunt to it, and all that power when mated to the AWD system of the GT gives this behemoth an approximate 0-60 time of 4.4 seconds. Not bad.

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Under the skin, you’ll find a lot of similar parts to the Genesis G80, a firm favorite of mine in this category. However, the Stinger benefits from extra steel reinforcement, transforming it form a luxury-oriented ride to a more sport-tuned one. This gives the Stinger some cracking handling, with a very sharp ride that reacts to input with a moment’s notice, making it a joy to drive around the track. There’s none of that inherent AWD hesitance you might expect, either, which gains it extra points in my book.

Inside the Stinger, you’ll find a rather nice place to be. There’s a nice, ergonomic layout that mimics Audi and Mercedes stylings of late, but it’s nothing too distracting. Materials are not quite up to spec as many of its competitors, but for the most part, you can’t really complain about what you’re given considering what it all is.

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All in all, the Stinger is a surprising drive from Kia, it gives you all the thrills of its competitors without all the frou frou and extra you get from most of them. If it wasn’t such a polarizing looker, I’d immediately recommend it to everyone. Your mileage may vary however...but speaking of extra competitors.

In corner number two...the Maserati Ghibli S Q4.

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Pros: Looks amazing, sounds like Pavarotti. Cons: Understeer city, FCA parts bin interior, a bit long in the tooth now. Price: Base MSRP $81,250

While the Stinger is just now making waves across the world, the Ghibli has been with us for quite a while (this year marks 5 years). It’s been its own bit of scandalous as well, being the first Maserati to tackle the growing executive car market below the historic names such as the Quattroporte and GranTurismo. Many played it off as Maserati becoming too plain, some saw it as a blessing to get into the Italian ownership game. I saw it as...”meh.”

On paper the Ghibli seems like it should be miles better than the Stinger. For one, I believe it personally looks miles better. It’s no secret I like my Italian stallions, and this is no different. It’s a gorgeous design that sits right at home with the rest of the Maserati line-up with great birthing hips and swooping lines. Bravo, indeed.

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Even performance-wise, the Ghibli seems like it should pull away easily. In the S Q4 as tested here, you get Maserati’s twin-turbo V6, pumping 400 bhp to all four wheels. That’s a 35 horsepower gain over the Stinger. But that’s where the gain slowly ends. While the engine pumps more power to the wheels, it’s handicapped by an 8-speed ZF that doesn’t seem to know what its doing. Under launch, it feels like the transmission desperately searched for gears, messing up the 0-60 by .4 seconds at 4.8 seconds, slower than the Stinger.

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The handling isn’t really too much to write-home about either. It’s not bad per se, but in comparison with the Stinger, it should be embarrassed. It plows into corners with the intent of driving straight off the track, which isn’t at all unsurprising in an AWD car of this weight and size. But after driving the Stinger, you almost expect better from something wearing a Maserati badge.

Even on the inside, you almost expect the Maserati to pull away from the competition with fine Italian leathers and impeccable craftsmanship for the price. The materials are there, but the craftsmanship just isn’t, and it is glaring to notice the same switchgear from a Dodge Charger in an $80,000 Maserati. Yes, I’m milking the same cow as Doug DeMuro here, but it is embarrassing, to say the least.

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All in all, the Ghibli is a bit of a mess, especially in comparison to the Stinger. It proves that looks are not all they’re cracked up to be, and buying into heritage isn’t either. It’s saddening, because on it’s own, it’s not really that terrible...but I guess that’s a statement that can only go so far.

And the winner is...

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Going into this comparison, I really didn’t know what to expect. I knew the Stinger was good, but I wanted to know how good...and even if the Ghlbli isn’t exactly the most world-shaking car, surely it would stand up confidently against a Kia. But, I’ve got to give it to the Kia here...it’s just an all-around better car to drive, and it’s worth every penny of that 50 grand, I’d say. Bravo, Korea...you’ve successfully proved us wrong.