Meet the Kia Stinger GT. It’s a car made to take on the Audi S5s and Mercedes-AMG C43s of the world. With 365hp from a 3.3-litre twin-turbo V6 petrol engine that sends power to the rear wheels and a claimed 0-100kph time of 4.7sec... wait, what? Let’s back up a second. You’re probably thinking: “Doesn’t Kia do everyday family cars?” Yes, the Korean carmaker has built a solid reputation the world over for its stylish, well-put-together and reliable, if still mass-market models, but the Stinger is different. It’s been conceived with the very purpose of pushing the boundaries.
With me is the very car that drew the crowds at Auto Expo 2018, and even today, away from the arc lights of the motorshow, it has the very same effect. Heads are turned, camera phones are pulled out, and through the window I can even lip-read the odd expletive-heavy appreciation of fellow motorists. For many who see the car on my journey from Gurgaon to Delhi to Greater Noida and back, this will be their first sighting of a Kia. And I’m sure they are not going to forget this car any time soon. How could they? The Stinger has lots of star value; even in this relatively unflattering shade of white.
Gills at the sides are a stylish touch and help aero too.
The Stinger’s got a lovely fastback shape, and the proportions are spot on. At 4.8m long, it is a lot of car but the tight skinning means the big GT also steers clear of looking bulky. Kia’s trademark ‘tiger nose’ grille is the focal point at the front and is flanked by smartly detailed headlights that curve with the body work. The large central air dam adds suitable aggression to the face and I quite like the effect of the vertically oriented side vents. A close look reveals the vents on the bonnet are just for show, and what I’m also not too taken by is the glossy bronze finish on the shiny bits; it’s a bit kitsch, really.
What is rather nice, however, is how the functional ‘gills’ have been incorporated at the sides. And don’t those 19-inch wheels just look sexy? To my eyes, however, it’s the portion aft the B-pillar that really makes the Stinger’s design click. The thick C-pillar adds muscle to the body, there’s a grace with which the shoulderline leads on to the short rear deck, and the tail-light extensions at the sides are unique too. High-set LED lights, quad exhausts and a diffuser round off the look.
Glossy bronze embellishments look overdone.
In the interest of a well-rounded review, I did check the boot and rear seat before starting out. Suffice to say, the luggage bay is cavernous and there’s a lot more room in the back than seen on German rivals. The seat of power, however, is the one behind the steering wheel.
There’s not all that much I can make out about the Kia’s finer bits in the initial part of the drive. But some things stand out. For one, it’s easy to get comfy in this car. The driving position is really well judged, you get a good view out and you also get used to the size of the thing quickly. This show car also has the full suite of driver aids. There’s a blind spot indicator and I’m even disciplined by the car’s lane keep assist – there’s a strong tug at the wheel when I inadvertently change lanes without flashing the indicator. The Stinger is also quite easy-going on the long stretches of highway that lead into Delhi. It cruises quietly and ride quality is quite polished too. I don’t think I’d be much worse for wear were the shoot location changed from Greater Noida to Agra at the other end of the Yamuna Expressway.
There’s more space in the back than a C 43 and S5.
Photographer Shafiq jumps in at the mid-way mark and has the same high opinion of the Stinger’s cabin. Quality is almost up there with the German cars, and that’s a big deal. The larger surfaces are really well finished, there’s a rich use of soft-touch plastics, and the metal inserts and exposed stitching look properly premium too. If there’s anything, it’s that some buttons on the lower portion of the dash and the controls on the doors aren’t that special.
The dashboard is a bit plain but the high-set position of the floating 7.0-inch touchscreen makes it easy to view on the go. The graphics and layout of the screen’s menus aren’t cutting edge but I’m not too bothered. There’s Android Auto (and Apple CarPlay too) so my infotainment and navigation requirements are well taken care of.
Drive modes alter engine, steering and damper settings.
There’s a high possibility of rain, so Shafiq gets clicking away as soon as we reach the location. The good news is the roads are empty and there will be a chance to finally open the Stinger up. The first serious prod on the throttle pedal introduces me to the Kia’s dark side. It’s quick and responsive, alright. The twin-turbos ensure there’s a strong swell of power all through the rev band, and it even sounds rather nice. The V6 snarls, though it’s not as loud or angry as an equivalent V6 engine from AMG. Expectedly, the engine doesn’t rev to the heavens, and by 6,000rpm or so, it’s best to upshift. The thing is, the Stinger’s eight-speed torque converter auto gearbox isn’t as snappy in its shifts as it ought to be. There’s no option to shift manually via the gear lever, and the paddles don’t always grant a shift when you want.
The Stinger is an easy cruiser but can also be a hard charger when you need it to be.
And that’s probably the only blemish in an otherwise engaging driving experience. There’s a delicacy to the steering, and a fluidity in the way Kia changes direction. It feels balanced and keeps to its line when I power out of the corners. ‘Honed at the Nürburgring’ is something we hear about every quasi-performance car but the Stinger really does feel properly sorted.
STING IN THE TAIL
First impressions suggest this is a car that can take the fight to its more illustrious rivals. For Kia that’s never done a sport-oriented car like the Stinger before, that’s a huge compliment. And not just that. This is also a car that does luxury well. The question is, would you spend Mercedes money on a Kia?
It’s got the right proportions and carries the fastback look with grace.
There’s also the little matter that the Stinger might actually not even go on sale in India. With the first model for India – the production-spec SP SUV – to launch in 2019, Kia’s focus will be on the mainstream segments, and a Rs 70 lakh (with duties) sports sedan doesn’t quite fit in with the carmaker’s larger plans. But, given the interest in the car, who knows, it could just consider bringing in a few units as a ‘halo’ product. Seeing one at your closest Kia dealership is sure to have a tremendous rub-off effect on the rest of the carmaker’s range. Of that I’m sure.
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