LONG-TERM ER S
Kia’s Stinger GT S and BMW’S M5 join the fleet as the MX-5 RF and Golf GTE depart. And the Lambo heads to Sweden
Kia is intent on upsetting the established sports saloon applecart, and first impressions of our new Stinger GT S long-termer suggest it just might succeed
‘I came to the Stinger with an open mind and so far it has impressed me’
THERE’S A LOT OF INTEREST AROUND the Stinger. You can see people on the streets watching it go by, and lots of friends have asked about it. I have to say I’m a fan. A £40k Kia is a hard sell, even one with 365bhp, but I came to the car with an open mind and so far it has impressed me, delivering most of what I’d expect of a sports saloon to rival… what? There’s not much else with this much power, space and kit for £40,535, but that’s rather the point, isn’t it?
Kia is out to challenge the established premium brands, undercutting rivals from Audi, BMW, Jaguar and Mercedes. The Stinger is imposing and stylish like an A7, CLS or XF, and bigger than a 440i Gran Coupe, but costs much less. Its absolute closest competitor is the Infiniti Q50 3.0T Sport. You know the one? Me neither. Will Beaumont does, though: ‘It has the worst steering of any car I’ve ever driven.’
This ambition to get noticed probably explains why the standard colour for the GT S is yellow. Any other colour is a £645 option. Right now, our car is the only blue Stinger in the country because it’s a one-off that Kia Motors UK brought in to see if it wanted to add blue to the colour options (it does).
It’s a decent-looking saloon, low and long, with elements of the Maserati Quattroporte around the rear door/pillar, and an imposing nose. There’s a big boot, roomy interior, and the leather-trimmed cabin is neat, with quality, Mercedes-like metal details and a huge amount of standard kit. This includes the usual suspects – satnav, air con, electric memory seats and a glass sunroof – plus the less expected: Apple Carplay, a heated and electrically adjusted steering wheel, heated and cooled front seats, heated rear seats and a head-up display.
It’s been a gentle run up to and beyond the 1000-mile mark. Impressive right away is the refinement, of the engine and drivetrain, and also wind and road noise. The ride is good in terms of overall control; slightly lumpier than I’d hoped, but better with more speed, and it may still be settling in. No matter, the seats are comfortable and supportive, and it’s a fine place to rack up the miles – exactly what a big saloon ought to be able to do.
Early on I’ve concluded there are three things that Kia has absolutely nailed. The first is the steering, which is connected, communicative and perfectly weighted for me. Then there are the Brembo brakes, which have superb top-of-the-pedal feel and step-in response. In this respect they’re the best I’ve tried for a while. The third is the Harman Kardon sound system, which, cheekily, has metal, pepper pot-style speaker covers like you find on Burmester systems in top-line Mercs. But, likewise, it’s one classy-sounding set-up.
I’ve stretched the engine a few times and the performance is more subtle than the blistering, sub-5sec to 60mph time suggests, but only because it’s such a refined car. Switch to Sport mode and the V6 twin-turbo is more vocal, in an authentic-sounding way, too, even though I suspect some of it is through the speakers. The handling is going to take a bit more getting to know, I think. It’s poised and surprisingly agile most of the time, in a big-car way, and traction is surprising given the torque (376lb ft), so it can flow remarkably well, but it does feel heavy. So far, though, the Stinger is ticking a lot of boxes.
Top: 365bhp twin-turbo V6 is refined, but gets pleasingly vocal in Sport mode. Above: leathertrimmed cabin features supportive seats