St­ing Like a Bee

Ever lusted af­ter a Kia? You have now

Sharp - - CARS - BY PETER SALTSMAN

IN THE SCHEME OF CAL­I­FOR­NIA’S GREAT DRIVES,

the An­ge­les For­est High­way is an un­der­stated con­tender. It lacks the screech­ing ocean views of the Pa­cific Coast High­way; it’s less sto­ried — and less ver­tig­i­nous — than the Mul­hol­land High­way; it’s less colour­ful than Route 66. But that’s just if you’re be­ing picky. It is, in truth, an ex­cep­tion­ally fun drive, stretch­ing from Bur­bank up the forested moun­tains be­hind the fa­mous Hol­ly­wood sign and back down again through pro­tected forests and over sandy cliffs. It’s a sleeper hit, a win­ner with­out the pomp and cir­cum­stance. And it is, there­fore, the per­fect place to be driv­ing the brand new Kia Stinger.

For­give us, for a mo­ment, while we geek out. Kia, the hard­work­ing South Korean brand whose sturdy fam­ily cars rarely make it into these pages, has been teas­ing the Stinger since at least 2011, when a sim­i­lar con­cept de­buted at the Frank­furt Auto Show. This was to be an en­tirely dif­fer­ent kind of Kia — a car that would prove the brand had more up its sleeves than just de­pend­able com­pacts and crossovers. It was to be a truly ex­cep­tional car. En­ter the Stinger.

This new Kia was cre­ated in Europe by a top de­signer poached from Audi and a chas­sis-setup guru from BMW’S M Di­vi­sion. It was tested ex­ten­sively on the Nür­bur­gring Nord­schleife. Fash­ioned in the old Gran Turismo style, the car is meant to be spa­cious, prac­ti­cal, and fast. To that end, it has all-wheel drive and a 3.3-litre twin-turbo V6 that pumps out 365 horse­power and 376 lb-ft of torque.

These are not in­sub­stan­tial num­bers. In fact, Kia has taken great pains to point out just where those num­bers fit on the cur­rent au­to­mo­tive spec­trum — its own list of com­pa­ra­bles in­cludes the Audi A5 Sport­back, the BMW 4 Series, the Lexus GS, and the Porsche Panam­era (which, fully loaded, can cost al­most three times the Kia’s top-end $49,000 price tag). Talk about am­bi­tious.

Luck­ily, the car more than de­liv­ers. On the An­ge­les For­est High­way, the Stinger proved it­self a phe­nom­e­nally ca­pa­ble long-dis­tance tour­ing car, putting a slight em­pha­sis on ride com­fort rather than cor­ner-carv­ing pre­ci­sion. It hits 0–100 km/h in 4.9 sec­onds, faster even than some of the afore­men­tioned Ger­man ma­chin­ery. And while it lacks the pol­ish of some of those lux­ury cars — es­pe­cially when it comes to their in­te­rior com­fort and de­tails, ar­eas where the Kia’s fin­ish evinces its price tag — it is un­de­ni­ably, un­abashedly fun to drive. Con­sider Kia’s point em­phat­i­cally proved.

SPECS En­gine: 3.3-litre twin­turbo V6 (GT) Power: 365 horse­power Price: $44,195

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