KIA STORMS INTO SPORTS CAR TER­RI­TORY WITH THE STINGER GT

With up to 365 horse power lurk­ing un­der the bon­net, the Stinger GT isn’t your av­er­age Kia. Si­mon Davis takes it for a spin

Belfast Telegraph - NI Carfinder - - Front Page - FIRST DRIVE BY SI­MON DAVIS

WHAT IS IT? What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Kia? Most likely, it’ll be a small, rea­son­ably-priced hatch­back that’s well-built but not par­tic­u­larly ex­cit­ing. Some­thing along the lines of a Rio or a Cee’d.

Chances are, a 365bhp, twin-turbo V6 sports saloon would be the last thing you’d ex­pect. How­ever, with the new £40,495 Stinger GT S, the most pow­er­ful model in the new Stinger GT se­ries, that’s ex­actly what Kia has gone and built.

Quite a bold move for a com­pany that’s tra­di­tion­ally made cars you’re more likely to see at the lo­cal gar­den cen­tre than the race track.

WHAT’S NEW? The Stinger is an all-new car for the South Korean man­u­fac­turer, as well as its first at­tempt at a proper per­for- mance saloon.

It’s an evo­lu­tion of the Kia GT Con­cept that was un­veiled six years ago at the 2011 Frank­furt Mo­tor Show, and has been de­vel­oped un­der the watch­ful eye of Al­bert Bier­mann – the former head of BMW’S M Di­vi­sion and the man re- spon­si­ble for the crack­ing new Hyundai i30 N hot hatch­back.

That de­vel­op­ment process has seen the Stinger put through its paces, too. It saw the new ‘gran turismo’ lap the in­fa­mous and un­for­giv­ing Nur­bur­gring Nord­schleife at least 480 times, and also travel to all cor­ners of the globe as part of its ex­treme cli­mate test­ing.

Launch­ing a car such as the Stinger GT could be seen as quite a risky move. It comes at a time where emis­sions reg­u­la­tions are be­com­ing in­creas­ingly strin­gent, and con­sumers are shift­ing away from big, pow­er­ful sa­loons.

It al­most seems like the Stinger GT S would be the last car a sen­si­ble, vol­ume man­u­fac­turer

such as Kia would then go and pro­duce. Based on our first drive, though, we’re cer­tainly pleased com­mon sense ap­pears to have been put to one side.

WHAT’S UN­DER THE BON­NET? Be­low that long, low bon­net, sits the Stinger’s party piece. The top-spec GT S model is pow­ered by a 3.3-litre twin-tur­bocharged V6 en­gine that de­vel­ops a con­sid­er­able 365bhp and 510Nm of torque – all of which is sent to the rear wheels via an eight-speed au­to­matic trans­mis­sion.

That V6 al­lows the Stinger GT S to com­plete the bench­mark sprint from 0-60mph in just 4.7 se­conds, mak­ing it the fastest-ac­cel­er­at­ing Kia ever pro­duced. Top speed sits at a re­spectable 168mph.

As far as fuel con­sump­tion’s con­cerned, Kia claims the Stinger will man­age 28.5mpg on the com­bined cy­cle, while CO2 emis­sions stand at 225g/km.

WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE? Kia is adamant the new Stinger GT S is a gran turismo and not a sports car – though you’d tra­di­tion­ally con­sider a GT to be some­thing like an As­ton Martin, with a big V8 en­gine.

Re­gard­less of how you de­fine the Stinger, as a first at­tempt at a prop­erly per­for­mance-ori­en­tated ve­hi­cle, it’s se­ri­ously im­pres­sive.

That V6 isn’t the shouti­est or most char­ac­ter­ful en­gine in the world, but it lends the Kia some real straight-line pace and means over­tak­ing ma­noeu­vres are dis­patched with ease.

Twisty roads won’t cause the Stinger to break a sweat, ei­ther. While the steer­ing doesn’t pro­vide a huge amount of feel, it’s nicely weighted and al­lows you to place the car with con­fi­dence.

Pop the car into sport with the drive mode se­lec­tor and it be­comes a bit live­lier – in short, it pro­vokes the Stinger just enough to make it the right level of an­gry.

Move out onto a dual-car­riage­way or mo­tor­way and the Stinger set­tles down to be­come a com­fort­able, re­lax­ing long-dis­tance tourer. This is where you can see the claimed ‘gran turismo’ char­ac­ter­is­tics shine through the most.

HOW DOES IT LOOK? While I’ve never re­ally been fans of the way fast­back-style cars such as the Audi A7 and BMW 4 Se­ries Gran Coupe look, the Kia Stinger man­ages to pull the im­age off rather well.

It’s by no means the pret­ti­est car in the world, but it is hand­some in its pro­por­tions, and that swept-back roofline re­ally adds to its vis­ual ap­peal.

WHAT’S IT LIKE IN­SIDE? Kia has re­ally stepped its game up as far as the Stinger’s in­te­rior is con­cerned. There isn’t a great deal of cheap and nasty ma­te­ri­als on dis­play, and the cir­cu­lar air vents in the middle of the dash look like they could have been lifted straight out of the cabin of a Mercedes-benz.

In­te­rior space is gen­er­ous too. The driver and front seat pas­sen­ger are treated to plenty of head­room, and they cer­tainly won’t be short of any el­bow room thanks to a fairly wide cen­tre con­sole.

That swoop­ing roofline does cut into rear head­room some­what, al­though the 2,905mm wheel­base means there’s no short­age of legroom.

The Stinger’s hatch­back-style boot of­fers 406 litres of stor­age ca­pac­ity, mean­ing it can eas­ily swal­low a cou­ple of suit­cases or a large weekly shop.

WHAT’S THE SPEC LIKE? At £40,495, the Stinger GTS isn’t ex­actly cheap, but you do get a lot of car for your money.

In ad­di­tion to the per­for­mance from the 3.3-litre V6, how­ever, the stan­dard kit is also in­cred­i­bly gen­er­ous.

The en­try-level model starts from £31,995, and are three trim lev­els: Gt-line, Gt-line S and the GT S.

All mod­els ben­e­fit from an eight-inch touch­screen in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem that in­cor­po­rates satel­lite nav­i­ga­tion, DAB ra­dio, Blue­tooth con­nec­tiv­ity, Ap­ple Carplay and An­droid Auto as stan­dard.

There’s also leather-up­hol­stered seats with heat­ing and ven­ti­la­tion up front, as well as a 15-speaker Har­mon/kar­don sound sys­tem.

A suite of safety sys­tems that in­clude au­ton­o­mous emer­gency brak­ing and lane-keep as­sist are also fit­ted for that added peace of mind.

VERDICT The Stinger GT S strikes an ex­cel­lent bal­ance be­tween be­ing a fast, com­fort­able long-dis­tance cruiser and a prop­erly ex­cit­ing sports saloon.

While it’s not quite as rau­cous as we’d hoped it might be, its dy­namic abil­i­ties are im­pres­sive and are (hope­fully) a sign of things to come from the South Korean man­u­fac­turer.

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