Kia Stinger GT takes on the big boys

Smoking hot looks for Kia's first gran turismo. Performance is pretty decent too. Picture: SUPPLIED
Smoking hot looks for Kia's first gran turismo. Performance is pretty decent too. Picture: SUPPLIED

Handed the keys to the Kia Stinger GT early last month, it felt like Christmas had come early. While one normally associates the Korean brand with catering for more sensible, bread-and-butter motoring tastes — with vehicles like the Picanto, Rio and Cerato — the Stinger doesn’t just break the traditional Kia mould, it shatters it.

First showcased at the 2017 Geneva Motor Show, the vehicle had motoring journalists and the industry as a whole applauding the brand’s radical departure from tradition.

Admittedly there was a little outside help with new recruit Albert Biermann on hand to oversee the design process. The name will most likely not ring a bell, but Biermann is an ex-BMW M Division chief, and his influence shines through.

First up, the vehicle’s smoking-hot silhouette. Making a rather large car appear both sporty and elegant — which is, after all, what a Gran Turismo is all about — is no easy task.

What the designers did with the Stinger is blend rather smooth, functional lines with acute angles. Take for example the front of the vehicle. Apart from Kia’s signature “tiger nose”, the long-slung look is aggressive — slender bi-functional LED projection headlamps, LED daytime running lights, LED fog lamps. Perhaps standard features in this class of vehicle, but the way they are displayed is what is striking.

What the designers did with the Stinger is blend rather smooth, functional lines with acute angles. Picture: SUPPLIED
What the designers did with the Stinger is blend rather smooth, functional lines with acute angles. Picture: SUPPLIED

Let’s not forget the most dominant feature — the long, sweeping hood that incorporates two air coolers — essential for the high-performance 3.3-litre twin-turbocharged V6 engine  underneath.

At the rear are LED tail-lamps and a stonking four exhaust pipes and integrated diffuser.

The only element to the exterior of our test vehicle that I didn’t fancy were the additional spoilers to improve stability at high speeds. In my view they distort the aesthetics of the design in the hope of improvement.

With the Stinger, Kia is clearly going toe to toe with the likes of the BMW 4 Series and Audi A5 Sportback — cars that set the standard in the segment and tend to dominate sales.

But where the South Koreans perhaps have an edge over their rivals is when it comes to the interior — or more specifically what it is packed with.

It’s a trademark of the brand to equip their vehicles with a high level of features — both from a comfort and safety perspective. And let’s just say the Stinger wants for nothing.

Electrically adjustable Nappa-leather seats (heated and ventilated, of course) with memory function, sunroof, a 20cm colour touchscreen incorporating infotainment, navigation, climate control, Bluetooth, a wireless smartphone charging pad and voice recognition.

It’s a trademark of the brand to equip their vehicles with a high level of features and the Stinger wants for nothing. Picture: SUPPLIED
It’s a trademark of the brand to equip their vehicles with a high level of features and the Stinger wants for nothing. Picture: SUPPLIED

Extremely useful is the height-adjustable colour head-up display that provides key information like speed, turn-by-turn navigation, audio and cruise control settings and blind-spot-detection information.

Last, but by no means least, an excellent Harman/Kardon audio system pumping out 720 watts through 15 speakers and a couple of subwoofers under the front two seats.

So I guess the only question left is: “Does it drive as good as it looks?” Absolutely.

All 272kW and 510Nm of torque is fed through a slick eight-speed automatic gearbox to the rear wheels and pushes the car to an impressive sprint time of 4.9 seconds before running out of steam at a staggering 270km/h.

It’s a lethal combination that makes the Stinger Kia’s most powerful and fastest-accelerating production vehicle yet.  Even sticking within the speed limits of our roads, the vehicle still feels incredibly quick — and in quite a deceptive way.

The delivery of power is linear with gear changes smooth as silk. In fact, it is only when you check the head-up display that one realises just how quick it really is. The vehicle comes equipped with five drive modes: personal, eco, sport, comfort and smart. I didn’t spend too much time before dialling in to sport, but whatever your choice, the vehicle delivers on expectations.

Another Kia first is the introduction of an electronically adjustable suspension known as dynamic stability damping control.  Other manufacturers use similar technology in their performance cars and it basically adjusts the agility of the vehicle depending on road conditions, what drive mode is selected and driver behaviour.

A few days with the Stinger simply left me wanting more and is a vehicle that should be judged solely on what it actually is and capable of and not that it doesn’t carry a more “prestigious” logo on its grille.

A select group of motorists obviously think along those lines, with an allocation of just 23 Stingers SA received sold out even before it landed here.

Price: R849,995 which includes a five-year unlimited kilometre warranty, roadside assistance and a five-year/90,000km maintenance plan.

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