► One-off, hardcore Stinger driven
► Race-spec modifications add thrills
► We've driven it at Silverstone
In the UK, the word ‘power’ in Kia’s tagline – the Power to Surprise – has always been more of a metaphorical thing. Not a reference to an actual surfeit of horses.
Here to tip that balance into the black is the Kia Stinger GT420, a stripped out, sharpened up, track special – Korea’s answer to the McLaren P1 GTR. Sort of.
It’s not a customer car or even a hint at a future model though, more of an after-hours experiment between Kia UK and some top brains from Hyundai Europe. And we’ve driven it at Silverstone.
Okay… um, why?
Good question – it begins with a tale of redemption for Kia’s pre-production homologation Stinger – a car that racked up 10,000 miles of final testing and tuning for the UK market.
As well as starring on TV and being photographed at Longcross proving ground for use in print and online road tests, this model was used as a show car at Kia dealerships across the UK.
At the end of that life, this car - the very first Stinger in the UK (LA66 HTG) – was unable to be used on the road and destined for the crusher. It was pulled back from the brink by a squad of petrolheads from Kia UK’s product, press and garage teams and reborn as the purposeful-looking thing in front of you.
What powers this Frankencar?
Increased output comes not from the V8 used in Kia and Hyundai models outside of Europe, but a tweaked version of the Stinger’s own 3.3-litre V6 twin-turbocharged petrol engine. Instead of the stock 365bhp and 376lbs ft, the GT420 produces 422bhp and 413lbs ft of torque – the same amount of power as the aforementioned V8.
The engine modifications read like your 18-year-old self’s fantasy mod list – HKS racing spark plugs, K&N sports air filter and Milltek Sport quad-pipe exhaust with a catalyst delete. That all has quite a profound effect on the noise this car makes, which we’ll get onto.
Gearbox-wise it’s as-you-were, albeit with a bigger cooler and software reflash for faster shifting in Sport and Sport+ modes, which is a welcome move. Although it’ll still shift up for you automatically at the redline.
Chassis tweaks, presumably?
Again, rewind to your teenage self and imagine what you’d do to make your first car faster, and you won’t be far off. Although Kia did a better job of it than you, obviously.
Anything not in the interest of speed has been removed - airbags, infotainment, interior trim, engine cover, parking sensors, boot and bonnet struts…you get the idea.
The rear windows have been glued into place and the sunroof is now a steel panel, plus the heavy heated and ventilated front seats have been swapped for lighter buckets. In total this car is 150kg daintier and that’s including the addition of those new chairs, a rollcage and fire extinguisher.
It’s still not a flyweight, but that’s a healthy weight loss, with the additional benefit of making the inside of the car rattle and ping like a real race car. Plus it amplifies the aggressive engine and exhaust note, which is similar to the sound of biscuit tin being cut in half with an angle grinder.
Under the floor you’ve got stiffened front and rear cross bars plus increased camber which required modifying the suspension hard-points. Eibach lowering springs and 25/17mm anti-roll front and rear complete the chassis improvements.
Six-piston Brembos bring things to a stop up front while the standard rears gain some new cooling ducts, while the biggest changes in overall character come courtesy of the lightweight OZ Racing Leggera rims with Pirelli Trofeo R tyres. Particularly the latter, in fact.
What’s it like to drive?
Unsurprisingly (and happily) it’s still like a Kia Stinger, so you get the same approachable limits and user-friendly stability as the road car with a few areas suitably tightened up.
Despite the intimidatingly sparse interior and savage noise, if anything it’s easier to drive on track than a normal Stinger - we did some back to back laps for scientific reasons. That’s largely because the brakes bite earlier and harder, giving you a much larger braking window, and the tyres offer up much more front end grip.
There’s still readily available oversteer, with the same sweeping, long-wheelbase arc you get in the road car but with more predictable limits. Despite the diet, it’s still quite a heavy car, and that’s felt in the corners where there’s a degree of bodyroll present. You can’t flick it between a series of bends like a sports car but if you give the chassis time to settle, there’s plenty of composure.
Most impressive though is the way it gets down the road and the racket it makes in the process – banging between shifts thanks to that overhauled gearbox programming and spitting unburned fuel into the exhaust like an old warbird. The actual speed isn’t really that important – the sensation of it is simply fabulous.
Driving this modified Stinger at a circuit alongside some of its contemporary stablemates was, in short, a really good laugh. The Ceed GT, which we’ve enjoyed driving on the road, felt surprisingly capable on track too. The Korean manufacturer has truly escaped the handling doldrums.
The whole GT420 project is clearly an exercise in ‘because why not’ and that rightly deserves to be celebrated in these sober, emissions-led, hand-wringing times.
It might not be the most accomplished track car in the world but who cares? It’s a Kia with bucket seats and a thunderous soundtrack. More please.
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