THE HYUNDAI-KIA NAMYANG DESIGN CENTRE, 40KM south of Seoul, is a sprawling R&D facility, part gritty and industrial, part ultra-chic. We drive past a huge car park stuffed full of competitor cars, and in among the sea of monochromatic Passats and Mondeos I spot a BMW M4, a Lotus Evora and even a Porsche Cayman R.
Another of Kia’s big-money transfers is Albert Biermann, the former head of BMW’s M division. The affable German has the air of a man who is happy in his work, one who feels at home. At 6ft 4in tall and always decorated with a smile, he bounds around the presentation room at Namyang talking frankly and enthusiastically about the Stinger GT.
‘The brief was to make a sporty car,’ says Biermann, ‘but it still needed to have good long-distance comfort. It could not be a harsh car. We make a big effort on isolation on all our cars, but the GT follows a different philosophy. It’s more about precision, response and feedback, better wheel and chassis control. It’s nicely balanced and precise, but still the isolation levels are high. That is what makes it an excellent car.’
The Stinger GT uses an adapted version of the Hyundai Genesis platform and the group’s existing 3.3-litre twin-turbo petrol V6, modified extensively for improved response and sharper delivery. It develops 365bhp and 510Nm of torque. The only transmission option is an eight-speed automatic, which Biermann claims offers better shift times than the ubiquitous ZF eight-speed ’box that the likes of BMW, Audi and Bentley fit throughout their ranges.
Kia quotes a 0-100kmph time of 5.1 seconds, which makes this the fastest accelerating Kia to date, but in an age of sub-five-second hot hatches it’s brisk rather than electrifying. At more than 1900kg the GT is quite a lump, partly because it’s bigger in every dimension than its nearest rivals, BMW’s 4-series Gran Coupe and Audi’s A5 Sportback.
The MacPherson front suspension is all-new compared with the Genesis’s and the multi-link rear end has been reworked, too, while additional bracing improves the stiffness of the steel body by two per cent at the front and 14 per cent at the rear. In a first for Kia, the Stinger GT uses adaptive dampers, while the Drive Mode Select system enables the driver to choose between five modes – Eco, Comfort, Sport, Smart (which adapts to your driving style) and Individual – that adjust all the usual parameters including steering assistance, damping, throttle response, gearshift strategy and ESC intervention.
The steering is an electronically assisted rack-type system, which is said to give better precision and response than a column-mounted setup, while braking is by high-spec Brembos. The standard-fit tyres are 19-inch Michelin Pilot Sport 4s. The Nürburgring was used for both durability testing and chassis tuning, and Biermann says he and his team will soon travel to our shores for UK-specific chassis tuning.
‘A limited-slip differential is standard and, for those who like the drift sensation, the ESC can be switched off fully,’ says Biermann. ‘So you can have some drifting fun in a Kia. It’s time you got used to this!’