LONG-TERM ER S

Evo - - CONTENTS - John Barker (@evojb)

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

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