If you’re thinking about changing your wheels and you’re in the hunt for something powerful and sporty, you probably won’t look for a Kia. Granted the South Korean firm has come on leaps and bounds in recent years (style wise at least), much like Hyundai or Skoda, but it’s more of a family brand than anything else. Until now.
Technically we’ve known about the Kia Stinger GT (not to be confused with the Grand Theft Auto version) for a few years now, but Kia has officially debuted its efforts at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, a very tasty rear wheel drive, four door saloon, which looks like a combination of an Audi, Jaguar and just a little pinch of Maserati.
Officially unveiled by Kia Motors America and bound for the US market later this year, the Stinger possesses purebred European genetics, developed in Frankfurt, Germany and refined on the Nürburgring. Clearly Kia is serious about this one. That’s underpinned by the powertrains on offer – a basic turbocharged 2.0L block producing 255hp is overshadowed by a more powerful 3.3L twin turbo V6 which Kia say will deliver 365hp, 0-100km/h in 5.1 seconds, and a top speed of 269km/h, describing it as the “highest performance production vehicle in the company’s history.” Not what you might expect from the badge on the front. At the moment the only available transmission is an eight speed reardrive automatic system, designed by Kia and which promises smoother shifting and better fuel efficiency. Flappy paddles will of course be available, but it would be nice to have a go in a proper manual version.
Designed to go head to head with rivals from BMW, Mercedes and Audi, the muscular and flowing Stinger has been developed with the GT ethos in mind – styling, power and precision handling combined with long distance comfort and luxury, and room for five people. Engineered from the ground up, the chassis is 55 per cent high strength steel, accompanied by a tuned MacPherson front and multilink rear suspension, which should make for some fun handling on the tarmac.
An extended wheelbase (beating the Audi A4, BMW 4 Gran Coupe and Mercedes CLS) delivers more space in the cabin which is very much designed with the driver in mind – alongside the usual vehicle information, the combination of analogue and digital gauges display performance data including cornering G-forces, lap times and engine oil temperature. Perhaps given the temptation for drivers to floor it, the Stinger is also bristling with safety technology, ranging from a system to combat distracted or drowsy driving and autonomous emergency braking to pedestrian detection and a smart cruise control system. None of that really sounds like it should belong in a Kia, but it’s something we could definitely get used to.
Time will tell as to how the Stinger GT performs in the real world, and whether it might suffer from badge snobbery from those more used to a German marque. But if that’s why some people overlook the Stinger, we’ve got a feeling that they’ll really be missing out.