First drive: Kia's new stinger GT S
What is it?
What's the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Kia? Most likely, it'll be a small, reasonably-priced hatchback that's well-built but not particularly exciting. Something along the lines of a Rio or a Cee'd.
Chances are, a 365bhp, twin-turbo V6 sports saloon would be the last thing you'd expect. However, with the new Â£40,495 Stinger GT S, that's exactly what Kia has gone and built. Quite a bold move for a company that's traditionally made cars you're more likely to see at the local garden centre than the race track.
The Stinger is an all-new car for the South Korean manufacturer, as well as its first attempt at a proper performance saloon. It's an evolution of the Kia GT Concept that was unveiled six years ago at the 2011 Frankfurt Motor Show, and has been developed under the watchful eye of Albert Biermann - the former head of BMW's M Division and the man responsible for the cracking new Hyundai i30 N hot hatchback.
That development process has seen the Stinger put through its paces, too. It saw the new 'gran turismo' lap the infamous and unforgiving Nurburgring Nordschleife at least 480 times, and also travel to all corners of the globe as part of its extreme climate testing.
Launching a car such as the Stinger GT S could be seen as quite a risky move. It comes at a time where emissions regulations are becoming increasingly stringent, and consumers are shifting away from big, powerful saloons. It almost seems like the Stinger GT S would be the last car a sensible, volume manufacturer such as Kia would then go and produce. Based on our first drive, though, we're certainly pleased common sense appears to have been put to one side.
What's under the bonnet?
Below that long, low bonnet, sits the Stinger's party piece. The top-spec GT S model is powered by a 3.3-litre twin-turbocharged V6 engine that develops a considerable 365bhp and 510Nm of torque - all of which is sent to the rear wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission.
That V6 allows the Stinger GT S to complete the benchmark sprint from 0-60mph in just 4.7 seconds, making it the fastest-accelerating Kia ever produced. Top speed sits at a respectable 168mph.
As far as fuel consumption's concerned, Kia claims the Stinger will manage 28.5mpg on the combined cycle, while CO2 emissions stand at 225g/km.
What's it like to drive?
Kia is adamant the new Stinger GT S is a gran turismo and not a sports car - though you'd traditionally consider a GT to be something like an Aston Martin, with a big V8 engine.
Regardless of how you define the Stinger, as a first attempt at a properly performance-orientated vehicle, it's seriously impressive. That V6 isn't the shoutiest or most characterful engine in the world, but it lends the Kia some real straight-line pace and means overtaking manoeuvres are dispatched with ease.
Twisty roads won't cause the Stinger to break a sweat, either. While the steering doesn't provide a huge amount of feel, it's nicely weighted and allows you to place the car with confidence. Pop the car into sport with the drive mode selector and it becomes a bit livelier - in short, it provokes the Stinger just enough to make it the right level of angry.
Move out onto a dual-carriageway or motorway and the Stinger settles down to become a comfortable, relaxing long-distance tourer. This is where you can see the claimed 'gran turismo' characteristics shine through the most.
How does it look?
While we've never really been fans of the way fastback-style cars such as the Audi A7 and BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe look, the Kia Stinger manages to pull the image off rather well.
It's by no means the prettiest car in the world, but it is handsome in its proportions, and that swept-back roofline really adds to its visual appeal.
What's it like inside?
Kia has really stepped its game up as far as the Stinger's interior is concerned. There isn't a great deal of cheap and nasty materials on display, and the circular air vents in the middle of the dash look like they could have been lifted straight out of the cabin of a Mercedes-Benz.
Interior space is generous too. The driver and front seat passenger are treated to plenty of headroom, and they certainly won't be short of any elbow room thanks to a fairly wide centre console. That swooping roofline does cut into rear headroom somewhat, although the 2,905mm wheelbase means there's no shortage of legroom.
The Stinger's hatchback-style boot offers 406 litres of storage capacity, meaning it can easily swallow a couple of suitcases or a large weekly shop.
What's the spec like?
At Â£40,495, the Stinger isn't exactly cheap, but you do get a lot of car for your money. In addition to the performance from the 3.3-litre V6, standard kit is also incredibly generous.
All models benefit from an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system that incorporates satellite navigation, DAB radio, Bluetooth connectivity, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard. There's also leather-upholstered seats with heating and ventilation up front, as well as a 15-speaker Harmon/Kardon sound system.
A suite of safety systems that include autonomous emergency braking and lane-keep assist are also fitted for that added peace of mind.
The Stinger GT S strikes an excellent balance between being a fast, comfortable long-distance cruiser and a properly exciting sports saloon. While it's not quite as raucous as we'd hoped it might be, its dynamic abilities are impressive and are (hopefully) a sign of things to come from the South Korean manufacturer.
FACTS AT A GLANCE
Model: Kia Stinger GT S
Price as tested: Â£40,495
Engine: 3.3-litre twin-turbocharged V6
Power (bhp): 365
Torque (Nm): 510
Max speed (mph): 168
0-60mph: 4.7 seconds
MPG (combined): 28.5
Emissions (g/km): 225