Audi S5 vs Kia Stinger GT S

The new Stinger GT S is the quick­est and most strik­ing Kia yet, but can it match the daddy of fast coupés, the Audi S5 Sport­back?

What Car? - - Contents - Pho­tog­ra­phy: Will Wil­liams

One makes 349bhp, the other 365bhp. And there’s more to these big coupés

THE ABIL­ITY TO ef­fect change is a bless­ing, but it can be tricky to do – es­pe­cially when it comes to re­boot­ing an im­age. It’s doable though, as Ap­ple has proved; since lan­guish­ing for decades in the fis­cal shadow of Mi­crosoft – and nearly go­ing under in 1997 – it has done rather well. Re­brand­ing it­self as a vi­sion­ary tech com­pany of­fer­ing ‘must-have’ lifestyle ac­ces­sories, it launched a phone and is now worth a tril­lion dol­lars.

Which brings us to the Stinger – prob­a­bly best thought of as Kia’s iphone. This top-spec GT S ver­sion is a £40,000, rear-wheel-drive, fast­back ex­ec­u­tive model and clear in­ten­tion that the Korean brand is look­ing to mix it with the big boys: Audi, BMW and Mercedes-benz.

But has it come off? To find out, we’re giv­ing the Stinger no quar­ter. This is a straight head to head with the doyen of stylish, fast, ex­ec­u­tive trans­port: the Audi S5 Sport­back. If the Stinger can hold its own against the S5, then what might have seemed a dream for Kia may be­come re­al­ity.

DRIV­ING Per­for­mance, ride, han­dling, re ne­ment

In terms of fire­power, it’s pretty even: both cars have tur­bocharged V6 petrol en­gines, and while the Stinger’s is slightly big­ger and more pow­er­ful, the S5 coun­ters that by weigh­ing a bit less. Both cars send their power through eight-speed au­to­matic gear­boxes, although in the S5 it’s then fed to all four cor­ners, whereas in the Stinger it goes to the rear wheels only.

This makes a dif­fer­ence to how they get away from stand­still. Se­lect Dy­namic mode in the S5 to, among other things, sharpen its ac­cel­er­a­tor re­sponse and it cat­a­pults to 60mph in just 4.4sec.

Even af­ter de­ploy­ing its stan­dard launch con­trol sys­tem, hav­ing two fewer wheels to lay down the power means the Stinger is slower away from the line. But not by much: on a dry road, it still launches without drama and pings it­self to 60mph in 4.8sec. And be­sides, it’s only that ini­tial scrab­ble off the line where the S5 has the edge; bury the ac­cel­er­a­tor at 30mph and they’re neck and neck as they pile on speed.

Even in its Sport+ at­tack mode, the Stinger’s V6 sounds pur­pose­ful but re­strained, while the S5’s fruitier ex­haust snarl is more in­vig­o­rat­ing. It can get wear­ing af­ter a while, though; at a steady 70mph, that parp still res­onates in the back­ground, even in the car’s qui­etest Com­fort mode. So, de­spite hav­ing sim­i­lar lev­els of wind noise and slightly less road roar than the Stinger, the S5 is no more re­lax­ing at speed.

Then there’s the S5’s ride. You can add op­tional £900 adap­tive dampers, but our car came with stan­dard pas­sive sus­pen­sion, which is firm. It jolts and jos­tles you around town and fid­gets

con­stantly on any­thing but newly rolled as­phalt.

The Stinger comes with adap­tive dampers as stan­dard. Set these to Com­fort mode and, while it’s not as smooth-rid­ing as the best ex­ec­u­tive cars, for some­thing pur­port­ing to be a sporty GT it’s pretty darn good. It cer­tainly takes the st­ing out of all but the worst abra­sions, al­beit with a bit of sus­pen­sion noise.

How­ever, on twisty B-roads, the S5 is dev­as­tat­ingly fast. Even in slippery con­di­tions, its four-wheel drive lets you pour on the power out of slow cor­ners with min­i­mal fuss and, with the ex­cep­tion of its slightly lazy, an­o­dyne steer­ing, it gives you so much con­fi­dence.

Dis­ad­van­taged again by rear­wheel drive, the Stinger is slower along any twisty road. Yet the fact it’s more play­ful and feels more alive make it way more fun at sensible road speeds.

BE­HIND THE WHEEL Driv­ing po­si­tion, vis­i­bil­ity, build qual­ity

Both cars come with an elec­tri­cally ad­justable driver’s seat (and steer­ing column in the Stinger) and four-way ad­just­ment lum­bar sup­port. How­ever, the S5’s seat is mounted too high for a sporty GT; the lower-slung driv­ing po­si­tion in the Stinger feels more ap­pro­pri­ate.

Log­i­cal dash­board lay­outs make these cars easy to get to grips with. The Stinger doesn’t of­fer the S5’s op­tion of dig­i­tal in­stru­ment di­als (£250), which look great and re­lay im­por­tant information clearly, but its ana­logue di­als sand­wich a 7.0in screen that does a sim­i­lar job.

It’s rel­a­tively easy to see forward out of both cars, but not so much rear­wards due to their slop­ing rooflines. To al­le­vi­ate any park­ing woes, each comes with front and rear park­ing sen­sors, and the Stinger aug­ments these with a 360deg cam­era.

Where the S5 clearly wins is on in­te­rior qual­ity. The Stinger looks fetch­ing enough in­side – with brushed alu­minium, gloss-black pan­els and soft nappa leather seats – but com­pared with the S5, its switches don’t click so ex­actly, its plas­tics don’t have the same lus­trous sheen and in places it doesn’t feel so ro­bustly forged.

SPACE AND PRAC­TI­CAL­ITY Front space, rear space, seat­ing ex­i­bil­ity, boot

Leg room in the front of both cars is gen­er­ous, and while nei­ther of these low-roofed fast­backs of­fers quite the head room of the best ex­ec­u­tive sa­loons, they aren’t ex­actly cramped.

Although nei­ther of­fers gen­er­ous rear space, both have enough room for a cou­ple of tall pas­sen­gers. The steeper rake of the S5’s roofline means head room is tighter, while the Stinger has slightly less leg room and foot space under its front seats.

Both have good lug­gage space, too, ac­cessed eas­ily via their hatch­back tail­gates. Be­ing deeper and con­sis­tently wider, the S5’s boot swal­lowed seven carry-on suit­cases to the Stinger’s six. More room is avail­able if you drop their split-fold­ing rear seats; it’s a 60/40 ar­range­ment in the Stinger and a more use­ful 40/20/40 in the S5.

BUY­ING AND OWN­ING Costs, equip­ment, re­li­a­bil­ity, safety and se­cu­rity

Even with no dis­counts (yet), the Stinger is cheaper to buy in cash and on a PCP fi­nance deal, and should also lose you less in de­pre­ci­a­tion. How­ever, its run­ning costs over three years are slightly higher – al­beit only marginally.

Com­pany car driv­ers might think the Stinger’s higher CO2 emis­sions make it the pricier choice, but its P11D price is much lower than the S5’s so the ben­e­fitin-kind tax is cheaper, too. It is the thirstier car, though, so its run­ning costs end up marginally more ex­pen­sive over three years.

The Stinger comes with pretty much ev­ery toy you could want, so metallic paint is the only op­tion avail­able. The S5 isn’t poorly equipped by class stan­dards and does come with mas­sag­ing front seats and rear cli­mate con­trol, which the Kia doesn’t of­fer, but to align the S5 with the GT S on spec would ramp up its price mas­sively.

That goes for safety kit, too. Both get au­to­matic emer­gency brak­ing as stan­dard, but blindspot warn­ing, lane-keep­ing as­sist and traf­fic sign recog­ni­tion are all part of ex­pen­sive op­tion packs on the S5, all stan­dard on the Stinger. Both cars were awarded five stars by Euro NCAP; the Stinger scored higher marks for adult oc­cu­pant and pedes­trian safety but wasn’t found to be as good at pro­tect­ing chil­dren on board.

Un ap­pable han­dling, even in the wet, but the S5’s ride is rm

Rear-wheel-drive Stinger is more fun and more com­fort­able

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