► Competes with 4-series GC
► Handling by former BMW M guru
► Fastest Kia ever: 0-62mph in 5.1s
The Kia Stinger is Korea’s answer to the BMW 4-series Gran Coupe, a slinky four-door fastback that’s helping Kia dip its toe into the premium sector.
My, my, that is one striking looking car. And it’s a Kia, you say? It looks like…
…Grand Theft Auto just added an Audi S7 to its car line-up? Kia reckons the Stinger was inspired by big GTs from the 1960s, like the original Maserati Ghibli, but there are definite nods to contemporary premium cars too.
It’s a handsome shape, but some of the fussy detailing and chrome looks a bit tacky. And if you think Kia’s been here before, it has, in a way: the Stinger evolved from the Kia GT concept that was shown back in 2011.
What’s under that long bonnet? Delight or disappointment?
That’s up to your wallet. Almost all Stingers sold in the UK will come with one of two engines: a 197bhp 2.2 diesel (62mph in 7.7sec), or a 252bhp 2.0 petrol (6sec).
There’ll be a proper launch later in the year where we’ll get the chance to try those engines, but for now we had to settle for a brief drive in the top of the range V6-powered Stinger GT.
About 19 minutes, which is how long it took us to be bundled into a car and drive two laps of the Nürburgring behind Dirk Schoysman before being quickly ushered away to wonder what had just happened.
If Dirk’s name sounds familiar it might be because he was man at the wheel when the R33 Skyline pulled off the first 8min lap back in the 1990s.
And this pointless titchy test drive of a hopelessly optimistic new car in a totally unsuitable environment taught you what exactly?
Not to be so judgemental, for a start. The Stinger is actually a very handy piece of kit, and that’s despite being bigger and heavier than the opposition. Kia hasn’t disclosed exact kerb weights yet, but it’s likely to be a lardy 1800kg.
One of the reasons it’s so handy is that its chassis was signed off by Albert Biermann, a 30-year BMW veteran who spent his last eight at M Division. Just imagine the size of the cheque involved. Must have been like the ones people hold in lottery win publicity snaps.
What’s so good about it?
How about great body control from two-mode adaptive dampers, accurate and well-weighted steering, a decent resistance to understeer, and properly adjustable and pliant rear-drive handling that benefits from a standard limited-slip differential.
With apologies to Kia, this car is shockingly good to drive, feeling in no way out of its depth on the Nordschleife, even letting you indulge in cheeky oversteer slides coming out of the tighter corners.
There’s a four-wheel drive version available in some markets that won’t come to the UK. Don’t mourn it. We drove both and the rear-driver is far more engaging.
What about the engine?
Not quite as special, though it looks strong on paper. A 3.3-litre twin-turbo V6, it makes 365bhp and 376lb ft of torque. Like all Stingers it drives through an eight-speed gearbox of Kia’s own design, and can take the GT to 62mph in 5.1sec and leave German rivals trailing with its 168mph top speed.
But it’s not massively characterful. The noise being pumped through the speakers sounds okay, but is never going to wake your neck hairs up. US cars get a slightly louder exhaust but tighter European noise legislation means we’re not allowed it here.
What about the rest of the package?
Before I was frog-marched away from the pit lane I did manage to discover that the huge wheelbase means there’s stacks of rear legroom, and headroom isn’t terrible either, despite the sloping roofline.
A Jag XE feels like a supermini in comparison, and about as nicely put together. The Stinger’s not quite up to Audi standards in interior design and finish, but it’s handsome, feels good and being a Kia with an uphill battle on its hands persuading people to choose it over a BMW or Audi, will come loaded with kit.
Prices are TBC, but reckon on a £29k-ish starting point, rising to £40k for the Stinger GT.
It’s impossible to give a complete verdict on a car like the Stinger on the basis of two laps of the ’Ring. Too many questions remain unanswered. How does it ride on craggy UK roads? How do the ones people will actually buy drive? How competitive will they all be on CO2? How will your snobby colleagues contain their mirth when they find out you chose a Kia over a 440i?
But this car has real promise. It’s huge, it handles well and it’s guaranteed to be strong on value for money. Ten years from now no one will be laughing at the idea of a Kia taking on a BMW and winning.