Real Power to Surprise: The New Kia Stinger
"The Stinger is no flash in the pan pretender, nor a car that boasts credentials and masks capability."
Hopefully maturity makes us wiser too. But by the time we step over the half a century line, car buying becomes a much more complex affair than it used to be, mainly because we have memories associated with different stages of our past. Classics like Healeys, MGBs and Jags carry strong recollections of our youth – aspirational cars at the time, representing an era of motoring when engineering rather than technology played a dominant part. Yet lovely as they are, classics are often a labour of love, and even more often an unreliable one.
Now new technology in our vehicles is a fact of motoring life. It makes our cars handle better, makes them more reliable, more fuel efficient, and enables us to travel with all the communications interconnectivity that is now integral to modern life. Some argue that it has taken away the joy of motoring, but to many young people it is the only motoring they know.
Yet, just at the time in our middle journey of life that we can buy a car by choice rather than necessity, it leaves us with the paradox of old versus new, exciting/emotional versus contemporary, boring cars controlled by computers. Wouldn’t it be great to have the best of both worlds? A modern car with character, power, personality, presence, usability, and reliability, which also provides that reassuring comfort and convenience we have so got used to in riper years – something with a sting in the tail that doesn’t make you look like an old person in flared trousers and platform shoes, but more so someone with subtle presence, and age-appropriate style. Korean manufacturer Kia may well have the answer, and they call it the Stinger.
Keep those eyebrows raised. The Stinger will rocket you to a top speed of 168 mph, and will nudge the benchmark 0-62 mph in 4.7 seconds, courtesy of 365 bhp and 510 lb per foot of torque. That is serious performance by any measure, and marks Kia’s very first entry ever into the world of powerful sporting saloon GTs. Its keen driver credentials are underlined by a powerful 3.3 litre twin turbo V6 and rear-wheel drive.
Thankfully it’s a looker too. Nothing from established competitors such as Audi, Jaguar, BMW, Mercedes, Lexus, or even the likes of Tesla or Infiniti will embarrass the Kia Stinger in the company car park – though the name Stinger might.
The Stinger is no flash in the pan pretender, nor a car that boasts credentials and masks capability. It is a genuine performance saloon that happens to have every gizmo you can wish for at the standard price of £40,495, making it at least £10,000 cheaper than the equivalently spec’d competition. It is already a credible contender in the performance saloon market, if not ultimately carrying the segment pedigree of established brands.
The cabin of a Stinger is very comfortable for up to five people and their luggage, and highly equipped with all the latest in-car technology. The infotainment system includes 15 speaker Harman Kardon sound, DAB radio, MP3 compatibility, and Bluetooth with music streaming. There is too much equipment to name here but suffice to say it is all user-friendly and intuitive. Front seats are both heated and air-conditioned, and the heated steering wheel is just lovely in cold weather. There’s oodles of leg space back and front and nearon perfect front seat comfort is possible via ad infinitum adjustable seats – and for the driver electrically adjustable steering
On the road
So, the Stinger looks good and encases you in a cabin of luxury. That luxury extends to the refined ride, and the seamless transitions through the eight-speed gearbox. The engine adjusts to your mood with optional modes Smart (automatically altering the drive to your personal style), Eco, Sport and Sport Plus, allowing those who are confident enough to say goodbye to traction control to put their life completely in their own hands.
On first impressions behind the wheel it is the Stinger’s refinement you will notice most. This car was built first and foremost to be a GT, a long-distance refined sporting cruiser. It is far from the BMW M or Mercedes-AMG experience and was never meant to be such a tool. What it has is ample power and torque, and the benefit of rear-wheel drive, permitting the front wheels to control steering only – thus adding to driver enjoyment.
On the motorway the Stinger sits rock solid, and responds to any level of command from your right foot with obedient 3.3 litre V6 twin turbo charged urge. On fast, challenging A and B roads where you might be looking to optimise handling, acceleration and braking, along with using manual paddle shift for the gear change, the Stinger’s tuning emphasis on long-distance cruise ability shows. Whilst it has plenty of grip and acceleration, the gearbox is programmed to revert to auto after only a short period of holding a manual gear. As a consequence, your capacity for using natural engine braking in lower gears to keep the car balanced and flowing through twists and turns, is interrupted by a programmed tendency to select an eco-friendly higher gear. So you could end up unwillingly entering a fast bend in ‘D’ (drive) under braking, with the higher gear ratio the transmission automatically adopts feeding unwanted torque with your braking effort. This interferes with your driving plan of keeping a lower gear to enable natural engine braking flow into the bend, and firm acceleration out of it. Simply put, it takes away that ultimate driver control a keen sporting driver might be looking for. That said the specially manufactured Brembo brakes scrub off the speed decisively.
Whilst the steering is programmed to be stiffer for performance driving, a little more rooted feel to it would promote an ultimately more rewarding drive. For a GT saloon to strike the sweet spot with a keen driver, it has to ensure that the driver input is given emphasis over technology when high performance driving is demanded.
Yet the fact that Kia can enter this very competitive segment of the market so convincingly with a sound, gorgeous looking product is testimony to how seriously we need to treat this brand. Right now, nothing in this segment offers such great value enjoyment – it doesn’t tip established contenders off their podiums, but it is good enough to make them sweat.
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