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Kia Stinger daily driver: up shift creek with a paddle

Published: 11 October 2018

► CAR lives with a Kia Stinger
► Twin-turbo V6, rear-wheel drive
► And Ben Barry at the helm

Month 4 living with a Kia Stinger: the transmission examined

We need to talk about the Kia’s gearbox. It’s an eight-speed automatic of Kia’s own design, and it spoils an otherwise highly impressive driving experience. It’s not that it’s truly bad, because mostly it’s smooth, quick enough and takes the heavy lifting out of swapping gears, but sometimes it can clunk a little rudely on downshifts, and sometimes stays in neutral when you’re certain you’ve pulled far enough for D.

The big one? You can’t lock it in manual mode. There are paddles on the steering wheel, so you can control the shifts manually to a certain extent, but it will always default back to auto, and quickly too. So imagine you’ve dropped to third manually, ready for an overtake. It’s clear, you move out, but suddenly you’re back in auto and you have no idea which gear you’re in.

Kia Stinger GT-S interior and cabin

It’s annoying at the opposite end of the driving spectrum too. Say you’re in Sport for firmer suspension, but travelling through a 30mph zone. Sport makes the gearbox more aggressive, but you don’t want it hanging onto revs at a steady 30mph. So you manually select a higher gear, but just a few seconds later it’s back in auto, revving like an OAP parking. If I could make one change, a dedicated manual mode would be it.

By Ben Barry


Month 2 of our Kia Stinger long-term test: long-distance cruiser

Driving over 1000 miles in a Kia would once have struck the fear of God into me, but I'm enjoying the Stinger GT S. The ride quality particularly impresses, with a supple, long-legged stride that more than delivers on the GT credentials Kia promises. The trade is body roll and a lack of ultimate focus, but all movements are nicely controlled. And because V6 Stingers get adaptive dampers as standard, you can quickly tighten up the body control.

Kia Stinger long-term test review

Front grip and rear traction are lower than the BMW 440i I'm handing back, but the Kia felt nicely balanced when I chucked it about for photos – it's length is an advantage in that regard. It's very much a road-optimised saloon, and quite right too, but I'm plotting a Nürburgring trip – I'll be fascinated to see how the Stinger copes with those crests and dips.

Last month I mentioned Kia's official mpg figures were a way off the 440i (41.5mpg versus the Kia's 28.5mpg). So far, reality looks slightly better, with the BMW just sticking its neck out of 29mpg territory and the Kia almost reaching 24mpg. This suggests the Kia will cost over £500 extra in fuel every 10,000 miles, though – and need three services to the BMW's one – so fingers crossed the fuel economy improves as the V6 beds in.

By Ben Barry

Logbook: Kia Stinger GT-S

Engine 3342cc 24v twin-turbo V6, 360bhp @ 6000rpm, 376lb ft @ 1300rpm   
Transmission Eight-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive   
Stats 4.9sec 0-62mph, 168mph, 225g/km CO2  
Price £40,535
As tested £41,180  
Miles this month 1198
Total 1959
Our mpg 23.7
Official mpg 28.5
Fuel this month £283.34


Month 1: is this the dawn of a new age?

Just over a year ago, I was sitting inside a small hut on a frozen Swedish lake with Albert Biermann, Kia and Hyundai's head of vehicle testing and high-performance development. We were about to slide a prototype of the new Kia Stinger GT S around on the ice, and Biermann – poached from BMW's M division in 2014 – explained that the Stinger had been benchmarked against the BMW 340i. He did, however. concede that the 440i Gran Coupe was more relevant because the Kia, too, is a 'five-door fastback' – the facelifted 440i wasn't on the market during Stinger development, but the 340i was.

Kia Stinger long-termer cornering

Anyway, a year later I'm considerably warmer, about to hand back a 440i Gran Coupe after over 9000 miles, and have just taken delivery of a new Stinger GT S. That's a pretty sound bit of context, I reckon, ahead of running Kia's first high-performance rear-wheel-drive saloon to land in the UK.

The Stinger is not a completely clean sheet for Kia: the platform is derived from the (Hyundai) Genesis G70 and Kia K9, models that aren't sold in the UK. It comprises 55 per cent high-strength steels, with a pretty unusual combination of MacPherson front suspension and five-link, double-wishbone rear suspension. Kia claims 'the Stinger exceeds all competitors' for crashworthiness.

You can get sensible versions of the Stinger, with both four-cylinder turbocharged petrol and diesels available. We've gone for the mad GT S version, which will sell in tiny numbers in the UK – Kia hopes to shift 1800 Stingers of all types in 2018, with the GT S accounting for perhaps 400 of those units. The idea of one person a day buying a GT S seems optimistic, but it'll be a pleasant surprise if they do.

If the badge struggles to divert your attention from the default German triumvirate, the spec sheet might: a 3.3-litre twin-turbocharged V6 produces 360bhp and 376lb ft, enough for a 4.9sec 0-62mph dash and 168mph top speed (BMW 440i: 322bhp, 332lb ft, 5.1sec, and a limited 155mph top end). The Stinger GT S is also 190mm longer at 4830mm and with a 95mm longer wheelbase (the boot, though generous, is 74 litres smaller at 406 litres). The strong mechanical specification continues with four-piston Brembo brakes, adaptive dampers, 19-inch alloys, a limited-slip diff and eight-speed auto as standard.

In fact, standard equipment is generous throughout, as it needs to be when it's up against premium German competition. It includes adaptive LED headlights with auto full-beam, rain-sensing wipers, front and rear parking sensors, nappa leather heated/ventilated eight-way adjustable memory front seats, rear heated seats, electric steering column adjustment, heated steering wheel, keyless entry and start, head-up display, sat-nav with traffic updates, reversing camera, 15-speaker Harman Kardon stereo system, DAB radio, Bluetooth with music streaming and a very large sunroof. Phew.

Kia Stinger Ben Barry interior

All this costs from £40,535, with our test car increasing that to the maximum possible £41,180 courtesy of the 'Premium' red paint. That's not a huge saving over the £45,490 440i Gran Coupe (but note that our 440i is optioned to £57,605).

Without wishing to spoil the suspense, after a few early miles I reckon the Stinger is a pretty fantastic drive, and I'll have the space to explain why soon. But there could also be a sting in the tail to this loan: Kia is quick to shout about its incredible seven-year/100,000-mile warranty, but all petrol models require a service every 6000 miles or six months, and fuel efficiency of 28.5mpg and 225g/km is a lunar-mission from the BMW's 41.5mpg and 159g/km. At 1855kg, the Stinger is also 165kg chunkier than the BMW. Will these downsides cause the Stinger's downfall in regular use? A long-term test provides the perfect chance to find out.

Logbook: Kia Stinger GT-S

Engine 3342cc 24v twin-turbo V6, 360bhp @ 6000rpm, 376lb ft @ 1300rpm   
Transmission Eight-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive   
Stats 4.9sec 0-62mph, 168mph, 225g/km CO2  
Price £40,535
As tested £41,180  
Miles this month 250
Total 761
Our mpg 27.4
Official mpg 28.5
Fuel this month £49.79

Check out our long-term test reviews

By Ben Barry

Contributing editor, sideways merchant, tyre disintegrator

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