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
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.