The Stinger is a five-door sportback rear-wheel drive performance sedan hitting 60 mph in 4.7 seconds. Aside from the badge, nothing about it sounds or looks like a Kia. This caused much confusion.

Taking the 2018 Kia Stinger out in the wild, even in its most muted Silky Silver coat in drab, salt-washed January, provoked incredulous responses right out of Buick's marketing playbook, “That's a Kia?”

They couldn't believe it, reacting like an expat would if you told them the Chicago Bears made the playoffs.

Unlike that feckless team, the Stinger is a contender as a legitimate performance sedan that can be had for a lot less than the BMW 5-Series or Audi A5 Sportback.

It is low and lean, with a long wheelbase and short overhangs. The sportback design means the roofline curves ever so smoothly into the tail, giving it a sexier profile than the two other newcomers in the crowded performance sedan scene, the Alfa Romeo Giulia and Jaguar XE. Kia calls it gran turismo, some Americans simplify it to hatchback, but whatever the case it visually flows to the rear, as if already in motion.

The tall air intakes on the front and side give it the menacing sting implied by the name, but the inlets on the hood are cosmetic. It wears a broadened version of Kia's honeycomb handle grille, familiar but different, which may explain the dissonance people experience upon first sight. That is a Kia.

The Stinger is not as much a departure from the brand's image as the low-volume full-size K900. The South Korean brand is best defined by its best-sellers, the frugal Forte compact and the fun Soul box. Compared with the competition, Stinger can be frugal, too, and it is undoubtedly fun.

The tester came as the top-of-the-line GT2, which even with all the bells and whistles finishes where the BMW 5-Series starts at $51,400. The roads were slick in most of our wintry week with the Stinger, and the available all-wheel drive provided enough confidence to have fun. Stinger is based on a rear-wheel drive platform shared with Genesis, the new luxury brand derived from sister company Hyundai, and when the performance all-season Pilot Sport tires can grip, 80 percent of torque is sent to the rear wheels.

The twin-turbo V-6 jumps from the line with a satisfying but not overwhelming warble that can erupt into a growl. The pedal is positively sensitive, like it can't wait to get unleashed. Churning out 365 horsepower and 376 pound-feet of torque with the eight-speed automatic transmission, it hits 60 mph in a Kia-estimated 4.7 seconds. We have no reason to doubt that number; our passengers squealed on more than one occasion.

Sport mode delays the shift points, tightens the suspension, and red-lights the display to match the red-sexy leather interior.

The roof and seating position are low, the wheelbase is long, so the car hugs curves and corners in a way that makes you want to drive more. Even on the highway, in Eco mode, the ride is quiet and compliant, floating like a butterfly in a manner befitting its presumed namesake. Steering is direct and the flat-bottomed sport steering wheel inspires dreams of visiting the racetrack.

Read more on the Chicago Tribune.