The Kia Stinger was released in model year 2018 with two different engine options: a 3.3L twin-turbo V6 and a 2.0L single-turbo I4. In 2020, a third gas engine option was added with the 2.5L turbocharged I4. Additionally, a 2.2L diesel option is available internationally.
The 3.3TT V6, also known as the Lambda II engine, produces 365hp and 376lb-ft. of torque. The 2.0T engine, aka the Theta II engine, produces 252hp and 260lb-ft. of torque. And coming in the middle is the 2.5L Smartstream engine producing 300hp and 311lb-ft. of torque.
While even the smallest 2.0T engine produces a respectable amount of power, enthusiasts are always searching for a bit more. While the 3.3L twin-turbo offers the best factory power and power potential, the turbocharged nature of the 2.0 and 2.5 allow for some solid power gains as well.
This guide is going to focus on the best performance upgrades for the Kia Stinger in general. Since all Stingers are turbo these mods apply to all of the engines. However, this post will be more geared towards the 3.3L twin-turbo since it is the most heavily modified. We still recommend a tune, intake, downpipe, and intercooler for the 2.0 and 2.5. Just keep in mind the power levels quoted will apply to the 3.3 Kia Stinger.
Additionally, for those looking for Hyundai G70 performance mods, this guide is also applicable.
Make sure to check out our other Stinger content, including our: Kia Stinger tuning guide, Kia Stinger turbo upgrade guide, Kia Stinger downpipes upgrade guide, Kia Stinger intercooler upgrade guide, Kia Stinger cold air intake guide, Theta II upgrade guide, Theta II common problems guide, and our Theta II intake upgrade guide. We also have guides for the Hyundai Genesis G70, including our top G70 mods guide, which also uses both the Theta II and Lambda II engines. .
Best Kia Stinger Upgrades
Some of the best Kia Stinger upgrades include:
- Full E85 / Chargepipe Injection
Throughout the rest of this article we will dive into each of the above mods in greater depth. There are upgrades that offer bigger power gains than the above upgrades, such as turbos. However, the above simple bolt-on mods are a great starting point to take the 2.0T or 3.3L twin turbo Stinger to the next level.
Pre-Tuning: Spark Plugs
The stock spark plugs on the Kia Stinger are prone to spark plug blowout and misfires once extra boost is added. Therefore upgrading spark plugs to a “colder” plug is a must if you plan on running a tune on your stinger. Your two options are 1-step and 2-step colder spark plugs. 1-step colder plugs are good for any Stinger that is full bolt-on and under the 500whp mark. If you are planning on upgrading turbos and running past 500whp then we recommend 2-step colder plugs.
1) Kia Stinger Tune
The hands down best bang-for-the-buck mod on a Stinger is a flash or piggyback tune. The internals on the 3.3L are considered good up until about 800whp and the stock turbos are safe for around 475-500whp. With a stock 3.3 Stinger dyno’ing around the 350whp mark, Kia left a lot of power potential on the table, likely for the sake of reliability.
Tunes primarily increase power by increasing the amount of boost from the turbo. Since there is a lot of room between the stock power levels and the safe limits of the engine and turbo, the boost can be turned up a sizeable amount to create some significant power gains. Additionally, a tune is great for additional modifications as it adjusts various engine variables like timing and fueling to coincide with the cars existing mods, therefore maximizing power gains from the other mods and creating a healthier engine overall.
Price per horsepower, you aren’t going to beat a tune. If you are only going to make one mod to your Stinger, this is the one we recommend. The ability to easily switch between different maps and turn the tunes on and off on the fly makes them user friendly and a great mod for beginners.
Piggyback Tune Benefits
- Up to 80whp and 100wtq gains
- Plug-and-play and user friendly
- Pre-packaged with various maps for different power levels
- Maximizes other mods power gains
- Overall healthier engine
Best Kia Stinger Tune
Burger Motorsports JB4 is a piggyback tuner for the Kia Stinger. We actually run BMS JB4 on our BMW’s and they are one of the most trusted names in the industry. They have tuners for all engines including the 3.3TT, 2.0T, and 2.5T.
The JB4 simply plugs into the ECU and offers a range of prepackaged maps and tunes that can be changed on the fly even while driving and is compatible with E85 fueling. It provides power gains up to 80whp and 100wtq, and everything in between depending on the map you are running. With Bluetooth connectivity it is super easy to data log directly from your mobile device.
Price: $529 (less than $7 per hp)
2) Stinger Cold Air Intake Upgrades
More power requires more combustion and combustion requires air. Once you add a tuner and increase boost it is important to bring more air into the engine to reduce stress on the turbo. At stock power levels the factory intake is fine, but once boost is added it is awful and becomes highly restrictive. Therefore replacing the factory intake with a cold air intake is a must for tuned Stingers.
Now the term “cold air intake” isn’t necessarily accurate here. The intake systems for the 3.3TT engine sit within the factory air box location rather than being routed to a lower portion of the engine bay to pick up colder air. Instead they remove the factory boxes and use a larger filter to draw more air in. Air intake temps don’t necessarily matter on turbocharged engines since the air is heated anyways as it passes through the turbo, and is then cooled once it enters the intercooler.
Overall, an intake is probably the second best mod for a Stinger and a must-have for anyone running the JB4 or other tuner. Our only recommendation is to stick with an open intake system like Boosted Performance’s intake instead of a system like Stillen which is partially enclosed and therefore more restrictive to airflow.
Cold Air Intake Performance Benefits
- 15-25whp and similar torque gains
- Improved airflow
- Reduced stress on the turbo
- Cool intake sounds
Best Kia Stinger Intake
Not only does Boosted Performance offer the best intake on the market, it is also one of the most affordable at $299. Their dual intake system uses significantly larger, high quality S&B filters that has one of the biggest, if not the biggest, airflow increases on the market. It is a direct bolt-on replacement to the stock intake system and works with aftermarket inlets too.
Combining the Boosted Performance intake with a tuner will add upwards of ~25whp. These are amongst the best gains on the market. However, as a side note, don’t expect to see power levels like this from their intake, or any other intake alone. An upgraded intake on an otherwise stock Stinger will probably provide 8-10whp gains. Getting above that will require combining the intake with a tune and increased boost.
Buy Here: 3.3L Stinger Boosted Performance Intake
Make sure to check out our Kia Stinger cold air intake guide for even more Stinger intake info and recommendations.
3) Kia Stinger Upgraded Downpipes
The downpipes bolt-up directly to the turbocharger and is the first component of the exhaust system in the Kia Stinger. The factory downpipes house the primary catalytic converters, which are naturally restrictive since they are filled with various metals and materials that block airflow. Additionally, since the downpipes sit so close to the turbo it creates a ton of backpressure on the turbo and turbine wheels.
On turbo engines you want the least amount of backpressure in the exhaust system, especially near the turbo itself. Backpressure creates force against the turbine wheel, creating stress on the turbo as it tries to spin extra hard to provide extra boost with the tuner.
Also, when you have an intake and a tune you are creating more exhaust gases. This amplifies the backpressure on the turbo and hurts performance, increases EGTs, and reduces turbo reliability and efficiency.
Therefore, we recommend upgrading the downpipes. People on the forums will tell you that you get 0whp gains from it and it’s worthless. We can’t find many dyno’s to back it up, but this simply isn’t true, at least if you are tuned and running an intake. On a stock Stinger, yeah maybe the gains are zero. But definitely not when tuned. And not to mention, they reduce turbo stress which improves turbo reliability.
A lot of folks will tell you just do the midpipe or catback. If you want more sound gains, then I agree. But downpipes by far provide the best power gains and turbo efficiency improvements over any other exhaust component.
Catless vs. High-Flow
Catless downpipes are illegal, so we’ll start by prefacing that. They won’t pass emissions. High-flow ones are technically illegal too since it’s illegal to remove a factory emissions system that isn’t defective, but they will pass emissions in most states and you can claim your stock cats failed.
Catless downpipes have zero restriction and therefore offer the most backpressure reduction. High-flow downpipes are slightly more restrictive but will keep you passing emissions.
Stinger Upgraded Downpipe Benefits
- +15-50 horsepower and torque
- Reduced exhaust backpressure
- Improved turbo efficiency and reliability
- Slightly louder exhaust note
Make sure to check out our Kia Stinger Downpipes Upgrade Guide for the best downpipe recommendations.
4) Stinger Performance Intercooler Upgrades
Another crux of the factory Stinger components is the stock intercooler, or FMIC. Like all other components, it’s fine when the car is stock but once it is tuned and modded it becomes restrictive. The factory intercooler is tiny and therefore can get overwhelmed easily when you are tuned and driving aggressively, doing back to back pulls, whether on the street or track. It causes the turbos to experience heat soak, which reduces performance.
Upgrading the intercooler involves getting an FMIC with a larger core and end tanks and therefore has more cooling capacity. Stinger intercooler upgrade doesn’t necessarily provide huge power gains but it provides more consistent performance and prevents you from losing a lot of power. When experiencing significant heat soak, you can lose 30-40whp with the stock intercooler. An upgraded intercooler will provide you about 10whp AND prevent heat soak, therefore preventing you from losing 30-40whp.
Not only is it great for performance, it’s also great for reliability. Heat is the killer of all engines. In our minds, this is a must have if you are tuned and running an intake.
Upgraded Intercooler Benefits
Benefits of Kia Stinger intercooler upgrades include:
- ~10whp gains
- Prevents heat soak
- More consistent performance during aggressive driving
- Lower EGTs and improved engine reliability
- Improved boost capacity
Best Kia Stinger Intercooler
Again, with a great price-to-performance balance, the Burger Motorsports Stinger 3.3L intercooler is our favorite on the market. Look how much massively bigger it is than the stock intercooler, providing sizeable reductions in IATs and eliminating heat soak.
The BMS intercooler is rated for up to 800whp and is meth and CPI fuel injection compatible. The intercooler has a significantly larger core and bigger end tanks while still being a direct bolt-on replacement.
Buy Here: Kia Stinger 3.3L BMS Intercooler Upgrade
Make sure to check out our Kia Stinger intercooler upgrade guide for even more info and recommendations.
5) E85 Fueling & Chargepipe Injection
Before we get further into this, I’m going to note that CPI fueling and full E85 aren’t necessary unless you are planning on upgrading your turbos. The stock turbos are good for 475-500whp and you can brush right up against those numbers with a tune, intake, intercooler, and downpipes. Therefore, fueling mods are really needed unless you are going to surpass these levels. Also, pushing about $800 this is the most expensive mod on our list.
The first option is running full E85 fueling. However, the stock HPFP is a limiting factor here as is the LPFP. To run 100% E85 you will need to run an upgraded LPFP and chargepipe injection. With a performance HPFP running $1,500+, chargepipe injection is the preferred route. And keep in mind you will need a flex fuel kit to monitor ethanol fuel mixes. E85 mixes can provide 20-30whp gains and full E85 can provide 50whp+ depending on mods and tuning.
The second fueling mod is chargepipe injection. Note this is still good for people running good ole pump gas, but can also be used for ethanol mixes, but running 100% E85 will still require other upgrades. The alternative to upgrading the HPFP is to add a 7th injector to the chargepipe which is capable of providing about 75-100whp of capacity over the stock fueling limits which are right in line with the turbo limits.
Since this is a bit more advanced and for the big power seekers, we’ll leave this section at that. Stock fueling gets capped out around 475-500whp. Fortunately, to break past these levels you will need upgraded turbos so don’t worry about this until you decide you are doing turbo upgrades.
Kia Stinger Performance Upgrades Summary
With the stock turbos capable of handling 475-500whp on the 3.3L Stinger and estimates that the internals are good for near 800whp, the 3.3L twin-turbo Lambda II engine is quite stout. Simple bolt-on mods like a tune, intake, downpipes, and intercooler can push the Stinger 3.3 in the range of 475whp for just a few thousand dollars. For those looking to eclipse the 500whp mark, you’ll need to add upgraded turbos and additional fueling via chargepipe injection or HPFP/LPFP upgrades.
While this guide was more tailored towards the 3.3TT, it is also applicable for Kia Stingers with the 2.0t and 2.5t engines as well. We still recommend a tune, intake, downpipes, and an intercooler for those engines as well. While you won’t see the same power gains as the 3.3, those mods will still provide a solid 100whp over stock levels.
How has your experience been with modding the Kia Stinger?