Kia Stinger a show­stop­per

Grand Magazine - - CONTENTS - | KATHY RENWALD

Kia de­sign­ers don’t know how to make a dud. Just look at the ve­hi­cle lineup. No ugly duck­lings to be found. Even the Rondo, once homely as a mu­tant potato, is bur­nished to a new shine.

Now the new­est wave maker, the Stinger, is top­ping the charts in the looks, per­for­mance and price cat­e­gories.

When it was just a sketch on the draft­ing ta­ble, Kia bosses gave the green light for the Stinger to take on the BMW 3 Se­ries. Big dreams for sure, but bol­stered by big tal­ent at Kia.

Peter Schreyer left Audi to be de­sign boss at Kia and has power-washed the frumpi­ness out of the ve­hi­cle lineup. The Stinger also has the fin­ger­prints of en­gi­neer Al­bert Bier­mann all over it. He ar­rived at Kia from the M sport divi­sion of BMW.

So, with that pow­er­ful energy, the Stinger ar­rived fresh as a debu­tante to take on the estab­lish­ment.

Right away, give top marks to styling. The Stinger looks tough and el­e­gant at the same time with its fast back and grand tour­ing lines. From all an­gles it ex­udes con­fi­dence and bal­ance, qual­i­ties that make it as good or bet­ter look­ing than a BMW. Just a few months af­ter its de­but, the Stinger won the Red Dot de­sign award for its bold and in­no­va­tive de­sign.

I was sur­prised that dur­ing a week of test-driv­ing, friends who rarely no­tice cars thought the Stinger was gor­geous.

The pro­por­tions, de­tail­ing and fin­ish­ing read ex­pen­sive, but it’s not out of line. I tested the top-of-the-line GT Lim­ited. Fully loaded, it costs just over $50,000. The en­try level model starts at $44,000, but it’s worth splurg­ing on the top banana. The GT ver­sion comes with an ex­cel­lent Har­man Kar­don au­dio sys­tem, pre­mium leather seats, eight-inch mul­ti­me­dia in­ter­face with nav­i­ga­tion, smart cruise con­trol and 360 cam­era mon­i­tor­ing.

Both mod­els share the same im­por­tant fun­da­men­tals: a V6 3.3-litre twin-turbo en­gine that pro­duces 365 horse­power and 376 lb.-ft of torque, paired with a snappy eight-speed au­to­matic trans­mis­sion.

Right out of the park­ing lot, the Stinger feels right. It has pre­cise steer­ing with alert and ea­ger ac­cel­er­a­tion, chew­ing-gum-sticky brak­ing and flat han­dling that makes for smug driv­ing on twisty roads.

Cana­dian Stingers in GT trim come stan­dard with all-wheel drive. Cold-weather han­dling un­der­went two months of test­ing

in icy Swe­den. Even in tame south­ern On­tario, the road sur­faces vary from glassy smooth to cratered to gravel, and for those vari­a­tions the Stinger han­dling can be mod­i­fied via five driv­ing modes: Sport, Com­fort, Smart, Eco and Cus­tom.

Com­fort does a good job at buffer­ing pas­sen­gers from bad pave­ment, and Sport, of course, lets loose the true com­pet­i­tive na­ture of the Stinger, along with en­hanced en­gine sound.

At first glance the in­te­rior of the Stinger makes a solid im­pres­sion, with a sim­ple, fluid lay­out and clear or­ga­ni­za­tion. The seats fit well and have the re­quired sporty bol­sters, the back­seat is roomy and dials and switches feel well made.

But it falls a few notches short of lux­u­ri­ous. The brushed alu­minum of the cen­tre con­sole is un­der­whelm­ing, and there is no tidy cover for the cup hold­ers. It’s a shade too aus­tere to make you fall in love. Also, driv­ers fa­mil­iar with BMW and Audi will find the cabin of the Stinger nois­ier than the Ger­man com­peti­tors.

The in­fo­tain­ment setup and cli­mate con­trols, how­ever, are pure magic, as they of­ten are in Kias. There are no be­wil­der­ing menus to perform sim­ple tasks, usu­ally just a twist of the dial or the poke of a fin­ger will com­plete an ac­tion. If only other au­tomak­ers could em­u­late the sim­plic­ity of the Kia sys­tem.

I thought the safety fea­tures, such as lane keep­ing and adap­tive cruise con­trol, were ex­cel­lent and the 360-de­gree cam­era views very handy when back­ing the Stinger into tight spa­ces.

The Kia Stinger re­ally is a su­per­star. The drive, the looks and the price are unas­sail­able. Is that enough to pry driv­ers out of the BMW 3 Se­ries? Who knows, but I bet any­one who snug­gled up to a Stinger wouldn’t be dis­ap­pointed.

Kathy Renwald

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