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?
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