Everybody has heard about the Kia Stinger. Just about everybody is wrong about it, though.
Why are they wrong? They reckon it came out of the blue. It didn’t. We got flashes of what Kia could do long ago in the form of stupidly-named Pro’ceed GT, a much-lauded bargain performance hatchback. Nobody bought it because people are idiots, but it was the warning shot.
I’m not sure how or why the Stinger came about. I have no idea how it got signed off given the ongoing slaughter of the sedan market. But, like many cars that don’t appear to make sense, I don’t care. The Stinger arrived in “normal” – albeit rear-wheel drive – forms and along with it came this – the Kia Stinger GT.
It was one of the most hyped cars on the planet in 2017. The official reason for me waiting this long is to let the hype die down. The actual reason is that I only just managed to get my hands on one.
Words: Peter Anderson
Images: Matthew “better than Peter’s iPhone” Hatton
Look and feel
About ten years ago, Kia had an epiphany. You can sell good, solid cheap cars (itself an achievement) and lots of them. You can slap a good warranty and after-sales package on them and sell a few more, creating a sense of confidence in your brand from prospective customers.
But you can sell a lot more of them if they don’t look like complete duffers. So they started listening very carefully to what ex-Audi design chief Peter Schreyer had been saying for a while – make people recognise Kias.
So after ten years of doing that with front-wheel drive sedans and hatchbacks and a range of SUVs, Kia tackled a shrinking market – rear-wheel drive sedans. I mean, why not?
The Stinger story started five years ago in 2014. The GT4 Stinger popped up at the 2014 Detroit Show and we all went wild. Then it all went quiet, because Kia said they wouldn’t build it, the sly dogs.
Cars like this need a very different approach – you can have a lower bonnet, you can lengthen it and you’ll find many rear-wheel drive cars with sporting pretensions have big thick haunches to remind you it’s RWD.
It’s all here on the Stinger and it looks tremendous. Of course, the GT has a set of huge wheels, that continuation of the rear lights that cuts into the rear guards and an aggro front bumpers. The side profile is properly sporty and has absolutely separated the Stinger from the Kia brand – you say Stinger, people know it’s a Kia.
The interior is less adventurous, but boy is it good. Apart from the boring steering wheel, it’s got its own feel. The seats are fantastic (if a bit wide for me) and the penalty for the sleek roofline is paid here in the front seat. Even with the seat wound all the way down, the standard (in Australia) sunroof cuts into headroom. I hate sunroofs and I’m not even particularly tall.
Anyway. It looks great inside and out. No complaints.
Motivation comes from Kia’s Lambda II 3.3-litre twin turbo V6, spinning up 272kW (370PS) and 510Nm. That’s an amazing amount of power and comfortably the most powerful engine in the current Kia range. The only thing more powerful in the Hyundai-Kia firmament is the 5.0-litre V8, but only a few cars in the US and Korea gets that engine.
Hyundai and Kia make pretty much everything in their cars, and that includes the eight-speed transmission that sends the power to the rear wheels.
You can cover the benchmark 0-100km/h (0-62mph) time in 4.9 seconds and on to a top speed of 270km/h (167mph).
The V6 captures plenty of the attention, but this car really does have the full package. A proper mechanical limited-slip differential looks after the fun end of the transmission, promising plenty of fun.
The front brakes – with four-piston Brembo calipers, no less – are a whopping 250mm while the twin-piston rears grab 340mm discs.
Kia, predictably, spent a lot of time at the Nurburgring, honing the MacPherson strut front and and five-link rear. The GT has those big struts you can see in the photo above, as well as beefed-up anti-roll bars.
Rolling on 19-inch alloys, the front tyres are 225/40 up front and 255/30 at the rear and they’re from Continental.
There was something bugging me about the Stinger. Not in a bad way – you probably already know that it’s a very good car. It’s heavy, and you can never get away from that feeling. The way it stops, turns and goes was awfully familiar.
In another way, the way you get in and get comfortable was very familiar and it dawned on me far more quickly – this car feels like Audi’s previous generation A7. You step down, duck under the roof rail and settle in snugly. It’s a good feeling and an important one. Nobody thinks twice about dropping $120,000 on an Audi but plenty will baulk at $60,000 for a Kia. They shouldn’t, and this feeling proves it.
It’s not like the Audi, it just feels like it. I like that.
My wife returned from a drive in it – nothing special, just running around for her day – and she reckoned she had found what had been gnawing at us both. This car feels a lot like her old BMW E90 330d M Sport. Fast, torquey, predictable and, in her words, “Stuck to the road.”
That’s high praise. The E90 was a terrific car, the 330d was fast but kept to itself.
The key to the Stinger is the way it grips and goes. That limited slip diff means you can really hoot into a corner, the rear staying nice and stable. Power out with the traction on is also very stable, but the traction control is a bit of a killjoy. A bit more play in the tail would be most welcome.
The day I really got stuck in to the GT was a bit damp after a lot of rain the previous day, and it coped admirably. Despite carrying a ton of speed into the corners, the fronts would hang on gamely, chirping slightly under heavy braking.
With the drive mode select turned up to Sport, the dampers were firm but compliant, keeping the tubby Stinger on the straight and narrow without upsetting its balance.
And one of the best things about the car is that as a daily, it’s superb. Calm, composed and muscular, it gets on with the boring stuff without demanding anything of you.
The Stinger is a great car. It really is. But it’s a GT car. Don’t buy it thinking it’ll be a hoot on a track day, it’s really more about a good winding road rather than chasing tenths. It will be wonderfully lairy with the traction switched off – there are plenty of flattened fences that will attest to that – and you’ll have a ball.
But as a road car, this is a gutsy, bold move from Kia. It’s the top of their current GT range (Picanto and Cerato reviews will be along shortly) and it’s worth every single penny.
Peter Anderson is the Editor and founder of the theredline.com.au. He’s been writing about cars for years and finds it difficult to talk about anything else.