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As an automotive biographer who’s adored (or cursed) with able opinions on cars, my vote for the North American Car of the Year accolade is usually a bang dunk. Not this year. The 2018 Kia Stinger and equally-new Honda Accord accept had me straddling the fence and agreeable in Socratic arguments with myself. But accommodation time is at hand, so actuality goes: The Kia Stinger is my 2018 North American Car of the Year. And my admired adolescent jurors, if they’re not idiots, should accede with me.
There’s a third finalist for the celebrated award, which anxiously finds automakers scrambling to get their contenders in the easily of 57 voting jurors, all auto journalists in the U.S. and Canada: The 2018 Toyota Camry. That Camry is clearly improved, but boilerplate abreast as acceptable as the redesigned Accord, its abiding nemesis for the hearts and dollars of family-sedan buyers. To be blunt, the Camry doesn’t accept a adoration of acceptable the award, which additionally ceremoniousness a Truck of the Year and—since 2017—a Utility Vehicle OTY.
That leaves the Stinger in a comfortably-familiar awards position, the aforementioned one it occupies in the marketplace: The aphotic horse, the Rocky Balboa, the car no one accepted from Kia. Actually, that aftermost bit is abandoned partly true. Together, Kia and its South Korean sister cast Hyundai accept developed to advertise added than 1.4 actor cars a year in America. Millions of consumers now accurately appearance Hyundai and Kia as accepted cars and brands, no disclaimers required. Yet admitting Hyundai’s toehold in the affluence bazaar through its Genesis division, the Kia Stinger—with no abstracted affluence cast to drag its image—remains a amplitude for a Kia cast congenital on smart-shopper value. Priced from $33,000 to about $53,000, the Stinger is still a about value…but that’s about to affluence cars with added socially-approved badges, including the Audi A7 and A5/S5 Sportback, the BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe, and sedans like the Mercedes C-Class and Lexus GS.
The Stinger’s success on all counts—captivating design, active performance, affordable affluence and quality—has fabricated it one of the year’s buzzworthy cars. It’s no Dodge Demon in agreement of Internet traffic, but the Kia has sparked added water-cooler chat than the Accord, whose baddest cachet makes alike an all-new archetypal accessible to booty for granted. Some of that chat has focused on the alien German aptitude that’s partly amenable for Kia’s (and Hyundai’s) growing ability in architecture and performance—the closing a longtime dark atom for brands that were generally annoyed with “good enough” in agreement of administration dynamics and powertrain refinement. Peter Schreyer was on a fast clue to become Audi’s arch artist aback Kia plucked him to advance its administration flat aback in 2006. He now directs architecture for both Kia and Hyundai. (At one point, Volkswagen’s all-powerful, now-retired administrator Ferdinand Piech was confused to animadversion of Schreyer, “We should not accept let him go.”)
The Stinger becomes the aboriginal exhibit bake-apple of addition beauteous free-agent coup: Albert Biermann, the above arch architect of BMW’s acclaimed M Division, is now administrator of aerial achievement for Kia and Hyundai. The adult fingerprints of Schreyer and Biermann are all over the Nürburgring-tuned Stinger, a ample auto gran turismo that combines bright autobahn-style alley amenities with austere oomph. Especially the Stinger GT and its 365-horsepower, twin-turbo V-6, which bests around aggregate in its chic with a 4.7-second rip to 60 mph and a 167-mph top speed. That Stinger GT starts from $39,895—about $15,000 beneath than a smaller, 354-hp Audi S5 Sportback and $4,000 beneath than the A5 Sportback, whose 257-hp, 2.0-liter four gives up one turbocharger, two cylinders, and 108 horses to the six-cylinder Stinger GT.
So how do we NACTOY jurors accept amid cars and trucks as assorted as the Accord, Camry, and Stinger? Key belief accommodate articulation leadership, innovation, design, performance, safety, disciplinarian achievement and amount for the dollar. If you’re cerebration the Demon is the applicable Car of the Year, or the McLaren 720S or Ferrari 812 Superfast, apperceive that the accolade has an autonomous angled against models that archetypal consumers can afford. Affluence and achievement cars accept taken the trophy—and yes, there’s a new trophy, an Oscar-inspired, Art Deco attractive created in 2016 by above General Motors chiefdesigner Ed Welburn. (If Cadillac congenital a car that looked annihilation like the trophy, they’d accept a bays champ on their own hands).
The Tesla Archetypal 3 ability accept been a affirmation for the finals, but Tesla doesn’t condescend to participate by accouterment actual, un-chaperoned analysis cars beneath the aforementioned no-favoritism rules that administer every added automaker. Besides, architecture a half-dozen Archetypal 3s for media testing ability advance aback exhibit assembly for addition six months. That’s a joke, Tesla fans. Then again, maybe one abutting to the truth, back Tesla cited added activity commitments—including the charge to calibration up Archetypal 3 production—as its acumen for not accommodating in NACOTY.
That aside, alike the priciest Cars of the Year accept been aural ability of bodies who aren’t millionaires: The Mercedes C-Class in 1994, the quantum-leap C5-generation Chevrolet Corvette for 1998, the reborn Mini Cooper in 2003, and the Corvette afresh in 2014. In two circuit of voting that winnows the acreage to finalists, I was tempted to accord some credibility to the latest Porsche Panamera sedan, which I’ve argued may be the world’s best technically avant-garde automobile. But I knew that the Porsche, whose window sticker can blast $200,000 in 680-hp, Turbo S E-Hybrid guise, didn’t angle a chance. That affectionate of conscionable account becomes a ashen vote affiliated to blockage the box for Bernie Sanders, authoritative it beneath acceptable for abeyant winners like the Kia to ability the finals. That $33K abject amount is about $3,000 beneath than November’s record-high boilerplate transaction amount of a new car, putting it appropriate in the wheelhouse for both the accolade and common buyers.
That said, a chat of acclaim for my runner-up, the Accord. The Honda looks abundant bigger central and out, accepting become a ancestors car you can feel appreciative of instead of aloof activity acute for buying. A brace of turbocharged four-cylinder engines includes a active 1.5-liter that showed me bigger than 40 mpg on the highway, and a assault 2.0-liter—a detuned adaptation of the Civic Type R’s analgesic four—whose 254 application feels afterpiece to 290 in the absolute world. You can accept a six-speed chiral manual with either agent (hurrah!), or a CVT or 10-speed automated depending on which four you pick. The Accord feels House-of-Mirrors huge inside, with amazing apparent afterimage lines. It’s blimp with assurance features, and adored with a new, upgradeable Android-based infotainment arrangement that shames Honda’s former, godawful setup. Oh, and the ever-affordable Honda drives as beautifully as some affluence sedans, and comes complete with a adventurous body for drivers who accept to accomplishment it.
Now, if boilerplate acceptance is a tiebreaker here, the Accord is the accurate Titanic or Gladiator, to name two movies that took Best Picture Oscars alike as they disqualified the box office. Alike as sedans accept ceded ascendancy to SUVs, the Ohio-built Honda consistently finds 350,000 anniversary buyers in the U.S. alone. I accept that makes the Kia a Moonlight or The Aching Locker—a analytical and aesthetic success admirable of any award, but added a articulate alcove car. Alike if Stinger sales beat Kia’s wildest dreams, this affluence GT will ability a atom of the Honda’s audience. So the Accord has the acceptance challenge in the bag.
But ultimately—and I’d ask Honda to accede this a compliment—the Accord’s constant abundance is beneath of a surprise. This Accord reestablishes itself as the market’s criterion ancestors sedan, affable acclaim ensues. The Stinger, an absolutely new nameplate, swoops in out of boilerplate to put the aching on the German bullies, and the army goes wild, because that’s a bigger story.
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