"The Kia Stinger looks so close to its concept form that it is bound to attract anything that passes by."
"Zero-to-one-hundred was unexpectedly quick in Sports mode."
"The Stinger is immensely fun to drive."
"An extremely fun and fast attempt from Kia. Kudos! And yes we are surprised," said Ershad.
The trend is for automakers to stick to a philosophy and you’ll see traces in every new product they launch. Lately, we are just amazed by some models; especially when you look at the value for money propositions. You see it in a mini hatchback and all the way to a full blown seven-seater SUV. The only bit missing though was a serious performance car, and yes, they wanted to join the party.
‘The Power to Surprise’ was translated in reality when Kia decided to roll out a performance sedan and call it the Stinger. How deadly is the sting? Here’s what we found.
Borrowing its heart from the Genesis family, our top spec test Stinger is powered by a 3.3-liter V6 twin-turbo petrol engine pumping out 365 horsepower at 6,000 rpm. Torque figures are impressive too: 510 Nm at 1,300 to 4,500 rpm, which will guarantee excellent low speed tractability. An eight-speed transmission is bolted on to the engine and power is distributed to all four wheels. The all-wheel drive is mostly rear biased with 80-percent drive going to the rear wheels, but the system can push up to 50-percent power to the front wheels if the situation demands. One of the first things I did was pop open the hood and have a look at the engine bay. No other Kia has forced me to do this! It is a nice filled-up engine bay with ‘turbo’ written in big letters. Interesting…now let’s fire up this thing.
A sports sedan with a V6 engine; anyone would expect a good exhaust note. But the Stinger disappoints. I tried revving it up, but to no avail. Just a ‘whoosh!’ The first mod on a Kia Stinger should definitely be a louder exhaust. Shifting the transmission to drive and in Comfort drive mode, the Stinger takes off briskly. Tight residential pathways are handled rather easily and you seldom feel that you are driving a full-sized sedan. Seating is low slung and prepares you for an enthusiastic drive. As the road widened up so did my grin. I had a quick stop at the fuel station and I could see a lot of admiring faces trying to read the label. Not everyone knew what this was. I was definitely enjoying it!
Back on the motorway, zero-to-one-hundred was unexpectedly quick in Sports mode. The twin-turbo V6 gathers speed like anything and nails you to the seat. Transmission shifts are slick and those steering mounted pedals can be put to great use. The only niggle being that the Stinger behaves like an automatic even in manual mode. You cannot get the car to hold on to the red line. Red line rpms are not so inviting as well because the soundtrack is not that great and the car seems to be much happier below it. Quick slow-downs and directional changes are met with aplomb as the car does not show any signs of fade in any demanding situation. The four-pot Brembo unit up front and the two-pot unit in the rear provide excellent performance but the brake pedal travel seemed a bit too much for my liking. All around grip is great, thanks to the 19-inch wheels stuffed into 225/40 tires up front and 255/35 tires in the rear. Fast and flat corners are the perfect diet for this grand tourer, but expect some huffle and shuffle if you encounter road undulation mid corner-especially at peak power. An otherwise great steering unit suddenly disconnects from the driver on high-speed rough patches. It can be unsettling and can scare you at times because you don’t expect such feedbacks from a car that performs flawlessly in all other situations. Maybe it’s the suspension tune? Independent shocks handle the engine side duties while the rear is kept in place with a multi-link set-up.
Technicalities apart, the Stinger is immensely fun to drive. Full throttle corner exits can wag a tail or two on this car, even with the traction control software running. I never tried switching it off as the Stinger mostly felt like a rear-wheel drive car. The top spec tester also came with the optional limited slip differential, which added to the car’s agility. Nimble handling with rocket-like straight-line capability is its prowess.
The car’s interiors seem pretty toned down compared to the hooligan-ish drive feel and the flamboyant exteriors. The only hint of excitement in my test Stinger was the red leather splashed all over the seats and doors inserts. Most of the dashboard followed a simple design language and is easy on the eye. Even though the design is simple, Kia has adorned it with luxurious material for that premium feel. My only eyesore here would be the center part of the chunky steering wheel, which looks a bit cheap compared to the overall cabin. Hard buttons for most of the controls add a touch of retro simplicity while the mandatory center-mounted touchscreen finds its place above the air con vents. I spent a lot of time searching for some kind of rotary control for the touchscreen, but it seems Stinger does not have one. That’s fine with me as the car is made more for driving pleasure than swiping through preset menus.
The seats provide ample support for spirited driving and feel well sized. The Stinger offers oodles of space within the cabin in true grand tourer fashion. Rear passengers will be comfortable even after a 1,000 kilometer round trip! A cavernous boot that offers 460 liters of luggage space is a GT must have. Features like heads-up display, wireless phone charger and ventilated front seats work together to make those long trips easy on you. A 15-speaker Harman Kardon unit takes care of your mp3s as well as some artificial engine sound at high revs.
As I stepped out of the car to soak in all those stares and surprises, it would be unfair to say that I was not awestruck. The Kia Stinger looks so close to its concept form that it is bound to attract anything that passes by. The fastback lines look great and every aspect of the car looks modern. Our test car finished in Hi Chroma Red reminded me of some classic sports cars and all those black accents contrasted perfectly with it.
Starting off, full LED front headlamps are housed on either side of that signature Kia grille and those dramatic looking vertical slats just below the headlamp units which take in air to cool the radiators and brakes as well as aid stability. A heavily raked A-pillar just manages to hit the roofline where it starts sloping down and disappears into the rear glass area. The best-looking alloy wheels ever on a Kia dominate the profile and they look striking in the 19-inch avatar showing off those huge Brembo calipers. The rearview mirror and a trim close to the front wheel arch are finished in dark chrome which hints at the Stinger’s sport luxury product positioning. A quick pass to the rear and you are greeted by a Maserati-ish full LED lamp cluster with that signature wrap-around line element which works as a park lamp. Quad tailpipes find their way through an integrated air diffuser that points toward the Stinger’s tuner instincts. The boot lid edge features a lip which acts as a spoiler at high speeds. Kia claims a top whack of 270 km/h for the Stinger GT and all those aerodynamic components will play a part to keep the car composed at all times.
The Kia Stinger is looking out to some very established marques and achieves it for the most part. It is a first from Kia and we can expect huge product improvements down the line. The Stinger will need to be polished a bit more and if feedback from owners is really taken into consideration, then the Germans may start getting uneasy. For the money, the Stinger offers you a lot of driving fun and unparalleled long drive comfort. If brand image is the only thing that is forcing you to think twice, then I would recommend you not think twice.
Pros: Concept car looks, nimble handler, catapult straight-line abilities
Cons: Top end performance lacks refinement; exhaust note does not match the looks
Rivals: Audi S4, Audi S5 Sportback, BMW 440i Gran Coupe, Mercedes-AMG C43, Genesis G70, Alfa Romeo Giulia, Jaguar XE S, Lexus IS, INFINITI Q50, Volvo S60
one word: Nitro butterfly!
3.3L V6 twin-turbo, 365 hp @ 6,000 rpm, 510 Nm @ 1,300-4,500 rpm
8-speed automatic, 4WD
0-100 km/h: 5 secs, top speed: 270 km/h, fuel consumption: 12 L/100 km
Weight: 1,717-1,909 kg