Beauty deeper than the metal

Multisport Mecca - - Motoring - Grant Ed­wards

PER­FOR­MANCE matches the looks. Slick and sharp, the Stinger is the best performer ever to wear the Kia badge.

Quick off the mark with strong cor­ner­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties it pos­sesses all the hall­marks of a fun rear-wheel drive of­fer­ing, com­bined with the com­fort of a true grand tourer.

Much of that is courtesy of for­mer BMW M di­vi­sion leg­end Al­bert Bier­mann, who is now on the Kia payroll.

The two en­gine op­tions of­fer vastly dif­fer­ent per­son­al­i­ties. Opt for the V6, which about 75% of own­ers are ex­pected to do, and you get a hairy-chested brute. More lin­ear and lighter, the 2.0-litre turbo is still swift (it takes just over a sec­ond longer to reach 100kmh), yet man­ages the task with less fan­fare.

Pure mus­cle mo­ti­vates the V6, whereas the lit­tle sib­ling has fi­nesse.

The V6 vari­ants get some vi­tal me­chan­i­cal up­grades in­clud­ing Brembo brakes with the stand-out red calipers, a lim­ited slip dif­fer­en­tial which de­liv­ers torque to both wheels equally for bet­ter trac­tion when driv­ing quickly, while vari­able gear steer­ing ra­tio en­ables im­proved feed­back for keen steer­ers.

Range-top­ping GTs also have dy­namic dampers, which al­ter the sus­pen­sion feel when chang­ing be­tween sport, com­fort and other drive modes that also change the ac­cel­er­a­tion and steer­ing re­sponse. They felt a lit­tle busier and flus­tered in some cir­cum­stances than the stan­dard car, which has re­mark­able grip and bite when you re­ally want to push the lim­its.

Both en­gines are part­nered to an eight-speed trans­mis­sion which does a stel­lar job of find­ing the right cog for ev­ery oc­ca­sion. While there are pad­dle shifters, rarely do you need them…and there is no way of per­ma­nently en­gag­ing man­ual mode, it shifts back to auto if you don’t pull a pad­dle af­ter about 30 sec­onds.

Those want­ing more can look for­ward to an even hotter Stinger.

Un­der devel­op­ment is a leaner and meaner de­riv­a­tive which will go harder and ri­val some of the best in the busi­ness. Kia Aus­tralia doesn’t have any de­tails yet, but the engi­neers say Stinger has a whole lot more to give.

Com­fort

Fall­ing just shy of Euro­pean stan­dards, the in­te­rior re­mains wor­thy of com­par­i­son with Mercedes-Benz, Audi and BMW.

The hor­i­zon­tal lines, cir­cu­lar tur­bine-look­ing air vents, con­cave sur­faces and on the range-top­ping GT alu­minium fin­ish across the dash along with match­ing Har­man-Kar­don speak­ers, Stinger reeks of some­thing more ex­pen­sive. Sport­ing seats up front hug the oc­cu­pants into place with cushy lat­eral sup­port.

Ac­com­mo­da­tion best suits four adults. Get­ting three across the back seat can be done but the cen­tre pew is firm and the footwell is com­pro­mised due to the trans­mis­sion tun­nel.

The cen­tre con­sole has some good stor­age spots close to the USB and 12-volt ports, and there are two cup hold­ers in the con­sole and rear fold-down arm rest. Each door also has space for a bot­tle, al­beit only 375ml con­tain­ers.

Boot space is just over 400 litres (more than a 120 smaller than a Fal­con) which is enough for a cou­ple of large suit­cases. The cargo area is elon­gated due to the shapely rear, but the rear seats drop in a 60-40 con­fig­u­ra­tion to aid flex­i­bil­ity.

It could fit a bike with the han­dle­bars at the driver’s end.

Al­ter­na­tives

Com­pe­ti­tion will soon not ex­ist.

Pro­duc­tion of the Aus­tralian-made Com­modore is end­ing next month, and while you could get an SV6 for $40,490, to match the per­for­mance you’d have to shell out at least $47,490 for the 6.2-litre V8-pow­ered SS.

Next year the Com­modore name­plate will be on Euro­pean-sourced ve­hi­cles which of­fer impressive dy­nam­ics, but only in front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive con­fig­u­ra­tions.

Those chas­ing pure per­for­mance could down­size to the all-wheel drive VW Golf R ($52,990) or the Subaru WRX STI Spec R ($57,690), but there’s a com­pro­mise in size and you’ll have to con­tend with a much firmer ride.

When chas­ing like-for-like com­par­isons, you re­ally must head to­ward the Euro­peans where you’ll also need to take your bank man­ager.

Prices nearly dou­ble the Stinger when try­ing to match space and per­for­mance… think the Audi S5 Sport­back ($105,511), BMW 540i ($138,610), Jaguar XF 35t S ($124,450). Match that Stinger V6 power and torque and you’d be look­ing more at a Mercedes-AMG C43 ($105,112)…heck it’s got the same amount of power as a Porsche Car­rera 911 ($220,900) and it’s only 0.3 sec­onds slower in the sprint from 0-100kmh.

Ver­dict

Charg­ing in the Aus­tralian mar­ket, Kia has be­come the na­tion’s

fastest grow­ing main­stream brand through strong value and great look­ing pas­sen­ger cars and SUVs.

Sur­pris­ingly, it also makes an impressive grand tourer with a sport­ing bent. Don’t ex­pect raw edge-of-your-seat per­for­mance.

It’s cer­tainly quick and adept, which will al­low the driver to have an en­joy­able squirt when the go­ing gets twisty, yet then do the school and gro­cery run without pas­sen­gers need­ing a kid­ney belt. We’d go for the mid-spec Si for the ride and value propo­si­tion. Looks, fun and value.

You re­ally can have it all.

PHOTOS: WAR­REN KIRBY

The Kia Stinger will ar­rive in Aus­tralian show­rooms from Oc­to­ber 1.

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