KIA STINGER

Look­ing at the Stinger, you would never have guessed that Kia was new to the sports sa­loon genre.

Torque (Singapore) - - CONTENTS - STORY EDRIC PAN LO­CA­TION MAL­LORCA, SPAIN

TTHE Kore­ans are at­tack­ing. No, I’m not talk­ing about warheads be­ing ran­domly fired into the Pa­cific by a dic­ta­tor with a bowl hair­cut. Rather, this threat is from South Ko­rea, and while the weapon of choice, the Stinger, is named af­ter a mis­sile, its target is Ger­man, not Amer­i­can.

More specif­i­cally, Ko­rean car com­pany Kia is on the of­fen­sive, and it has BMW in its sights. Be­cause a front-en­gined, reardriven sports sa­loon is clear BMW ter­ri­tory, and it is this very for­mula that Kia has cho­sen for its new con­tender.

The Stinger isn’t Kia’s first rear-drive sa­loon. The big K9 lux­ury car (not sold in Sin­ga­pore) has been there, done that, but the Stinger is cer­tainly the Ko­rean mar­que’s sporti­est of­fer­ing to date, in terms of both looks and dy­nam­ics.

The Stinger’s slinky, dra­matic shape is di­rectly trace­able to the Kia GT Con­cept from the 2011 Frankfurt Mo­tor Show. That wide, low fast­back was so avidly re­ceived that Kia re­solved to put it into pro­duc­tion, and ef­fec­tively spent the next five­plus years cre­at­ing some­thing wor­thy to be clothed in the GT Con­cept’s stun­ning body.

Kia’s own press ma­te­ri­als ad­mit that BMW’s 4 Se­ries was the bench­mark dur­ing the Stinger’s devel­op­ment (pre­sum­ably be­cause the Gran Coupe vari­ant of that car is a mid-size lift­back like the Stinger), but thank­fully, the Stinger is very much its own car and not a BMW clone.

Sit­ting low, wide and pur­pose­ful on 19-inch rims, it is 19cm longer than the Bavar­ian at 4.83 me­tres and looks far sleeker as a re­sult.

Its face sports Kia’s dis­tinc­tive “tiger-nose” grille, but sup­ple­ments that with feral-look­ing head­lamps and a prom­i­nent bumper book­ended by ver­ti­cal “air-cur­tain” in­takes at its ex­trem­i­ties.

The body flaunts old-school mus­cle-car pro­por­tions – long bon­net, short front over­hang, broad rear haunches, high-set fast­back tail and dis­tinct cab­back­wards stance.

Wisely, Kia has avoided over­selling the Stinger’s cre­den­tials by de­scrib­ing it as a hard­core per­for­mance sa­loon, as that would have pitched it into di­rect com­par­i­son with es­tab­lished (and vastly more ex­pen­sive) mid-size su­per­sa­loons such as the BMW M3 and Mercedes-AMG C63, a bat­tle­ground in which it would not have stood a chance.

Rather, Kia de­scribes the

Stinger as a gran turismo – a car for a swift, com­fort­able cross­coun­try jour­ney in­stead of a track day.

That said, Kia’s en­gi­neers did pound end­lessly around the Nurburgring de­vel­op­ing the Stinger’s chas­sis – to good ef­fect, as will be ex­plained fur­ther be­low.

Two engine vari­ants will be sold in Sin­ga­pore, both tur­bocharged – a 2-litre petrol 4-pot with 255hp and the range-top­ping 3.3-litre petrol V6 with 370hp.

Both vari­ants are served by an 8-speed ZF-built au­to­matic gear­box with pad­dle shifters, and while all-wheel-drive is an op­tion in some other mar­kets, the Stingers com­ing to Sin­ga­pore will be ex­clu­sively rear-wheel-drive.

De­spite the Stinger not be­ing touted as an out­right per­for­mance car, straight­line pace on ei­ther of the two Sin­ga­pore-bound vari­ants is very strong.

The 2-litre is claimed to hit 100km/h in 6 sec­onds, while the 3.3-litre needs just 4.9 sec­onds, with top speeds of 240km/h and 270km/h re­spec­tively.

In­side, the low-slung car is sur­pris­ingly roomy, with am­ple space all round.

The Kia’s in­te­rior space trumps the bench­mark 4 Se­ries Gran Coupe, par­tic­u­larly in rear legroom where it holds an al­most 7cm ad­van­tage thanks to its ex­tra body length. Boot space is up on the Ger­man’s as well.

The stylish cabin is a cut above the rest of the Kia range in fin­ish and build qual­ity. The low-line dash-top is trimmed in leather-like ma­te­rial, the brushed-metal fin­ish on the cen­tre con­sole and fas­cia is classy, and the trio of chrome-ringed eye­ball vents on the dash look very Mercedes-like, as do the per­fo­rated metal tweeter grilles on the front edge of the door pan­els. Much of the mi­nor switchgear has a pseudo-metal fin­ish, and has a sub­tlety of ac­tion which speaks of qual­ity. Stan­dard equip­ment is very gen­er­ous. Even the base 2-litre Stinger comes with adap­tive damp­ing, full LED head­lamps, a head-up dis­play, wire­less smart­phone charg­ing, a pow­ered tail­gate and a full suite of elec­tronic driv­ing and safety aids.

Added to the 3.3-litre Stinger are Brembo brakes, a Har­man Kar­don sound sys­tem and a stan­dard 8-inch in­fo­tain­ment touch­screen with satel­lite nav­i­ga­tion, An­droid Auto and Ap­ple CarPlay.

In­evitably given its sport­ing bent, the Stinger comes with a drive mode se­lec­tor to al­ter steer­ing weight, throt­tle re­sponse, engine sound, gear se­lec­tion, ride firm­ness and trac­tion con­trol. Five modes are on of­fer – Eco, Com­fort, Sport, Sport+ and Smart (where the car selects what it thinks are the best set­tings based on your driv­ing style).

It’s all put to good ef­fect, be­cause driven hard, the Stinger is ag­ile and play­ful

On the twisty Mal­lorca Cir­cuit where I was given a few laps in the 3.3-litre V6 ver­sion, the car felt planted and sta­ble, and out of tighter cor­ners the tail was happy to edge out un­der power for a bit of smoky drift­ing, with­out once feel­ing hairy or snappy.

The quick-geared steer­ing was slightly lack­ing in feel, but lin­ear in its re­sponses and very well-weighted. The ghost of oddly weighted, in­con­sis­tent steer­ing, which

EVEN IG­NOR­ING THE STINGER’S UNIQUE VALUE PROPO­SI­TION, IT IS AN IM­PRES­SIVELY AC­COM­PLISHED SPORTS SA­LOON IN ITS OWN RIGHT.

KIA HAS AVOIDED OVER­SELLING THE STINGER’S CRE­DEN­TIALS BY DE­SCRIB­ING IT AS A HARD­CORE PER­FOR­MANCE SA­LOON.

haunted Kias of old, has been ban­ished for good.

True to Kia’s word, the Stinger is not an ex­treme track weapon. Its re­ac­tions and re­sponses were keen rather than ra­zor-sharp, and on track it felt most at home be­ing driven at about eight­tenths in­stead of flat-out. The Stinger proved equally adept at tack­ling Mal­lorca’s hilly coun­try roads, which I ex­plored af­ter leav­ing the cir­cuit.

The 3.3-litre V6 all-wheeldrive Stinger which I tried first rode beau­ti­fully, soak­ing up the oc­ca­sional ruts and pot­holes on the hill roads with­out los­ing com­po­sure, even with the drive mode se­lec­tor in Sport+.

In fact, Sport/Sport+ were my pre­ferred modes for all oc­ca­sions. In Com­fort there was the slight­est bit of float over fast un­du­la­tions, and Sport/Sport+ reined this in, while still re­tain­ing a very com­pli­ant ride. In this set­ting, the car was pli­ant over ev­ery type of sur­face and flowed down the road with a lovely, loose-limbed flu­id­ity. The V6 engine was lusty, with solid low- and midrange punch giv­ing lazy­giant urge at all speeds, ac­com­pa­nied by a nice purr from the ex­haust. Less com­pelling was the 8-speed au­to­box. Its up­shifts were smooth, well­judged and nicely slurred, but down­shift re­quests from the pad­dle shifters could take a sec­ond or two to reg­is­ter, and when re­ally pushed hard, the shifts (up and down) lacked the im­me­di­acy of a du­al­clutch trans­mis­sion or even some of the bet­ter torque­con­verter au­to­mat­ics.

The 2-litre that I tried next had rear-wheel-drive, and as a con­se­quence weighed 200kg less than the all-wheel-drive 3.3 I had just stepped out of. The weight dif­fer­ence was im­me­di­ately ap­par­ent in the car’s keener turn-in, and ini­tially the 2.0 felt more ag­ile and lithe. But oddly, its ride was less com­posed, the car float­ing and bob­bing over un­du­la­tions and gen­er­ally feel­ing less planted through bends.

This was strange, be­cause its weight ad­van­tage over the 3.3 should have given the sus­pen­sion an eas­ier time, with the car’s mass more read­ily reined in. Still, my time in the 3.3 has shown that the Stinger’s chas­sis has qual­ity in depth, so fur­ther devel­op­ment of the 2.0’s damp­ing should fix the is­sue.

When it ar­rives here in early2018, the Stinger will mas­sively un­der­cut the BMW 4 Se­ries Gran Coupe (430i, 440i) and other com­pa­ra­ble con­tenders such as the Audi A5 Sport­back and Jaguar XE.

But even ig­nor­ing the Kia’s unique value propo­si­tion, it is an im­pres­sively ac­com­plished sports sa­loon in its own right – stylish, well equipped, fast and com­fort­able (2-litre model’s damp­ing notwith­stand­ing).

It de­serves to suc­ceed. This Stinger mis­sile is headed for a bulls-eye.

The Stinger is ag­ile when driven hard and flows down the road with a lovely flu­id­ity.

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