Ford Mus­tang GT vs Kia Stinger GT S

Ford Mus­tang GT vs Kia Stinger GT S £41,745/£40,535 WE SAY: TOPGEAR HOSTS ITS OWN KOREA–US SUM­MIT, AND THIS ONE’S MUCH MORE HOS­TILE

Top Gear (Malaysia) - - Contents -

Con­ven­tional wis­dom sug­gests the Kia Stinger ri­vals the usual Ger­man sports sa­loons. It’s got four doors, a £40k pric­etag and a 6cyl en­gine, af­ter all. The first time I drove one, though, it felt big-hearted and hairy-chested. It felt like a mus­cle car.

Forty grand can al­ready buy you a bona fide ex­am­ple of one of those, of course. We’ve been able to buy a Euro-fo­cused, RHD Stang for sev­eral years, but it’s been hard to find a di­rect ri­val for its rather unique recipe. In the

Stinger, I reckon we’ve fi­nally got one.

The Mus­tang’s just had a new round of up­dates, with a more aero­dy­namic body, an­other 34bhp from its 5.0-litre V8 and clever, adap­tive sus­pen­sion. You can have a 10spd au­to­matic trans­mis­sion, but it’s as un­able to find the right gear as you might ex­pect, so the 6spd man­ual re­mains the sen­si­ble choice. All told, though, it’s a pon­der­ous thing to drive, on first im­pres­sions. The steer­ing’s slow, the en­gine’s a bit lethar­gic. Here’s a big, orange Amer­i­can that’s rather stub­born. Why does that sound fa­mil­iar?

Drive a bit harder and it be­gins to make more sense. Aban­don some in­hi­bi­tion, trust in

its sur­pris­ingly strong trac­tion, and it starts to feel as ex­cit­ing (and loud) as its bright hue and rak­ish looks sug­gest. I know mus­cle cars aren’t meant to be pre­ci­sion in­stru­ments, but it would feel like a one-trick pony if it couldn’t roll up its sleeves and give that ‘han­dling’ malarkey a go.

Es­pe­cially when the Stinger’s so ex­cit­ing right from the off. Its 365bhp may be 79bhp down on the Stang, but it feels punchier, such is the thump­ing de­liv­ery from its twin-turbo

V6. That’s de­spite this GT S be­ing over 150kg heftier, at a chunky 1,907kg. Yikes. We may beat the drum for how re­ward­ing nat-asp en­gines are, but this com­par­i­son proves just what an in­stant hit tur­bocharg­ing can de­liver.

It also means the Kia plays the role of car­toon­ish mus­cle car far bet­ter than the Ford. Its rear axle gets ex­citable in a straight line on a dry road, never mind when you oafishly get on the throt­tle mid-corner. If you want to paint black lines on the tar­mac then the Korean sa­loon car re­ally is the one you want.

That doesn’t mean it’s a com­plete hand­ful, though. Far from it. Its body con­trol is leagues ahead of the Stang, and driven sen­si­bly this is a po­lite sports sa­loon, with a smooth auto ’box, comfy seats and un­ruf­fled re­fine­ment. It’s eas­ier to get on with than the Ford, but that makes it less spe­cial; it could eas­ily blend into every­day life as your only car, whereas the Mus­tang’s com­pro­mises make it more en­tic­ing for sunny days and spe­cial oc­ca­sions, and it boasts movie car chase and mo­tor­sport her­itage that’ll warm any­one’s cock­les.

Is the Stinger re­ally de­signed to com­pete with that, rather than rep-friendly sa­loons? Well, it doesn’t have one of those dull, let­ter­num­ber combo names that sound more like the seat reser­va­tion on a train ticket than a fun, funky per­for­mance car. It’s called the Stinger, a name of ag­gres­sive am­bi­gu­ity but with far more lin­guis­tic ap­peal than S4, 340i or C43.

Just like the Mus­tang, it has sta­bil­ity con­trol that turns off with one sharp but­ton press, too. No hold­ing the switch down for an ag­o­nis­ing amount of time, nor any mid­dle Sport set­ting to stroke your ego then save your blushes. The more par­al­lels I find be­tween this pair, the more I’m con­vinced Kia’s de­vel­op­ment team had a burn­ing de­sire to ap­proach those pre­dictable Ger­mans from an un­pre­dictable an­gle. The Stinger re­ally does ri­val the Mus­tang. And to­day, the Stinger beats the Mus­tang.

STEPHEN DO­BIE

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