Ignition

I N STEAD, ACCORDING TO B I E R M A N N , THE ST I N G E R GT I S A G R A N D TO U R I N G CAR I N T H E C L AS S I C SENSE- O N E W I T H D I S T I N C T LY EUROPE A N I N F LUENCES.

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There really are very few production cars that can be thrashed around relentless­ly on a racetrack like the Ring—it just doesn't happen very often. The sharper BMWS are one of the few sets of cars that can withstand the punishment; I've seen this for myself in various generation­s of the M3, in the current M6 and in the latest X6M. They go like hell and then just keep on going.

This is what Biermann wants for the brands now under his wing as well and, given that Hyundai has an engineerin­g facility right outside the gates to the Green Hell, he's been given the resources to make it happen. Spoiler alert: The Stinger GT is not a track car. It's not even a sports car. The engineers based at the Ring have not been tweaking the car to threaten lap records; they're not even sharing lap times.

Instead, according to Biermann, the Stinger GT is a grand touring car in the classic sense— one with distinctly European influences. He made his team create a wheelbase long enough to allow people to ride in comfort in the back seat. He confessed to badgering his team whenever the centre of gravity for the car started to rise and the same goes with the driving position. Biermann wanted the Stinger GT to have an authentic connection to the road—roads like the autobahn and roads like the Ring.

As the Kia is intended for the global market, it comes with a variety of different engines and drivetrain­s for different markets. Our home and native land receives the Stinger GT fitted with the twin-turbo 3.3L V-6 engine and all-wheel drive. The engine develops 365 hp and 376 lb-ft of torque from 1,300 – 4,500 rpm; the broad torque band comes into play around the track's 73 corners. In fact, the engine feels perfectly at home around most of the track, apart from the steeper inclines, where additional performanc­e is always welcome. The car is quick, though. The sprint from 0-100 km/h takes less than five seconds. Blasting along the Döttinger Höhe straight, the speedomete­r hit a credible 250 km/h. Top speed is a reported 270.

The AWD system is well sorted; even under the most extreme situations, only 50% of the torque is sent to the front wheels (other markets, such as the U.S., receive a rear-wheel drive version). The Stinger GT also features a torque vectoring by brake system that helps bend the car into the corners. Despite the many hairraisin­g corners around the Ring, the Kia handles everything with remarkably little drama. The suspension system makes quick work of the corners, too, ably dealing with the numerous bumps, humps and jumps of the Nordschlei­fe. The steering is a solid effort, as well— composed and reasonably direct.

There are only two mechanical weaknesses to report and one of these needs to be marked with an asterisk. The braking system gets an incomplete score; although the anchors weren't completely reassuring, they were the focal point for a large percentage of the punishment being doled out lap after lap. The 8-speed automatic transmissi­on is an easier target— it may be suitable for highway cruising, but it's not reactive enough for track duty.

From an aesthetic standpoint, the fastback silhouette of the Stinger GT is both handsome and well proportion­ed. The long hood, long wheelbase and short overhangs make the Kia appear to be a much larger sedan. Design touches including the side reflectors, trunk lip spoiler and air vents are integrated seamlessly into the overall design. Inside, the Stinger GT is minimalist, light on outright luxury touches, but spacious and comfortabl­e. The deepset cargo area is competitiv­e for the segment, measures 406 litres and offers enough wiggle room for two full-size suitcases or two tour-style golf bags.

The 2018 Kia Stinger GT is a slick grand touring machine for a time when many manufactur­ers have forgotten how to offer affordable luxury, functional­ity and performanc­e in a single package. The base model will start at under $45,000; the GT Limited begins at under $50,000. Both versions are available for order now with deliveries beginning before the end of the year.

For the past year, all the rage in the auto industry has centred around crossovers and SUVS. Canadian sales in those segments have been at an all-time high and automakers are wisely adjusting its product lines to address this growing fascinatio­n of height and versatilit­y.

In the midst of the utility vehicle

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