How do you ensure you get attention on the first day of the 2017 North American International Auto Show? Launch a stunning new sports saloon the night before. It certainly worked for Kia and the bold new Stinger.
We’ve covered the Korean brands of Kia and Hyundai on ESM quite a lot. Their commitment to continuous improvement and rapid development, interesting design, and those lengthy warranties have always impressed us. The Hyundai i30 Turbo showed potential, and the Kia Cee’d GT has always garnered praise. So should we really be shocked by Kia launching a serious sports saloon?
Perhaps not, but there will still be a lot of people less open-minded to try to win over here. Thankfully, the genuinely handsome and attractive styling of the Stinger should go a long way to persuading them. It’s probably the best interpretation of the Peter Schreyer’s vision for how Kia models should look. We can actually bring ourselves to forgive the front end of the latest Sportage now, just. The Stinger features the most aggressive version of the ‘Tiger Nose’ grille at the front, with some fearsome scoops and apertures. The rear three-quarter view is perhaps our favourite, as it seems to channel both US muscle car influence, combined with European elements, too.
That international mixture is quite important, as the Stinger will be available on both sides of the Atlantic. But if the styling doesn’t quite do enough to convince buyers to consider it, the drivetrain will probably do the rest. The base Stinger features a 255bhp (with 260lb-ft of torque) 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine, using an eight-speed automatic gearbox. Most importantly power goes to the rear wheels, unless you happen to live in a market where AWD appears on the options list. But pick the rear driver regardless, as it comes with a mechanical limited-slip differential. Mmm, yes, there’s drift potential here.
However, the entry-level version isn’t what has got us most excited. No, the Stinger GT is the real reason that this becomes a big deal. Using the Lambda II T-GDI engine from the Genesis G90 saloon, the range-topping GT gets 365bhp from the 3.3-litre twin-turbo V6. Torque is an equally impressive 376lb-ft, with that peak available from just 1,400rpm. This all sounds suitably muscular, as does the claimed 0-62mph time of 5.1 seconds and top speed of 167mph. Indeed, we’re talking about a Kia with the potential to nail 0-60mph in 5 seconds. To think we wrote 2016 off as being crazy…
Most importantly, one of the five drive mode choices is a sport mode. This adapts the Dynamic Stability Damping Control of the suspension system, weights up the steering, and also quickens throttle response and paddle-shift gearbox changes. Textbook sport mode integration – well done, Kia. We also deeply approve of the staggered 225/40/R19 and 255/35/R19 tyres fitted to the Stinger GT, along with vented Brembo brakes front and back. Kia has attempted to kit out the Stinger with a sizeable performance arsenal, which should hopefully translate to a genuine driver’s car.
The interior is also driver focussed, with a TFT screen between the analogue dials detailing data such as lap times, G-forces, and engine oil temperature. The dashboard itself is neat, with slivers of satin chrome trim and circular air vents keeping it classy. We’re not huge fans of what resembles an iPad being stuck to the top of the dash, but the standard touchscreen will control what Kia promises to be an impressive standard sound system at least. There is also a Harman/Kardon 720 watt system, with 15 speakers and under-seat mounted subwoofers, on the options list as well.
Prices are not yet confirmed, but it’s safe to bet that this will be the most expensive Kia offered to date. European sales are expected to begin at the end of 2017, so we should get more information before then. Ultimately, we’re very impressed with the Stinger. Kia has produced a bespoke sports saloon, with genuine performance equipment and bold styling. We just hope it delivers on the high expectations it’s now set for itself.