First Drive: Kia Stinger GT-S

Kia certainly has ambition, there’s no denying that…

For a manufacturer of capable, worthy but ultimately unexciting cars to throw out the rulebook and build a powerful, BMW-rivalling grand tourer is one hell of a statement of intent.

There’s brains behind the bravado; Kia headhunted Audi’s Peter Schreyer, the man responsible for the Audi TT, and the Korean brands cars have been getting better looking with each iteration since then. Now it’s backing up the design work with engineering from BMW M Power chassis expert Albert Biermann, lured to Kia after 30 years of playing with M3 and M5s.

The Stinger is the first time it’s all come together in one package. Longer, wider and taller than a BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe, the Stinger eschews the derivative designs that come out of Munich, Stuttgart and Ingolstadt, forging its own path amongst the high-selling German executive models. It may not be recognised as a Kia by the masses just yet, but it’s certainly unlike anything else on the road.

Under the bonnet is something unlike any other Kia. While there will be the predictable 2.2-litre diesel option, and a 2.0-litre turbo petrol, the GT S comes fitted with a beastly 3.3-litre twin-turbo V6 petrol engine that produces 365bhp. That translates into a 0-62mph sprint that takes just 4.7 seconds – quicker than a Bentley Continental GT – and a maximum speed of 168mph.

It’s not just performance, but poise too. While it’s a heavy thing, the Stinger handles curves with enthusiasm. The steering is precise, although lacking in feel, which allows accurate placement, while the power going to the rear wheels keeps things balanced. Unless you press the throttle too hard, and then the back end swings out, the limited-slip differential keeping both wheels spinning in a cloud of tyre smoke. The sheer bulk of the car makes it a little unwieldy on narrow roads, but the long wheelbase makes it easy to manage to any errant slides. It’s a surprise that it’s been engineered to be so tail-happy, but that could just be down to damp roads and near-freezing temperatures.

Electronic controls keep things mostly in check anyway, with a variety of drive modes allowing more or less assistance. There’s even ‘Smart Mode’ that monitors your driving and switches between Eco, Comfort and Sport; it works well, ensuring the Stinger is a comfortable ride most of the time, but stiffening up and becoming more responsive when twists and turns appear.

The switch sits right by the driver’s left hand, and forms part of Kia’s finest interior to date. The perceived quality isn’t quite up there with Audi or BMW, but it’s a fine cabin to while away a pan-European jaunt in, and it’s not short of technological toys. Heated and cooled seats, a heated steering wheel, autonomous emergency braking, head-up display, Bluetooth connectivity, Android Auto, satellite navigation and just about everything else you can squeeze into a touchscreen.

Despite the sleek proportions, there’s plenty of room. The front seats are fine for all, while there’s plenty of leg and shoulder room behind. Headroom might get a tad tight for some, but it’s not unreasonable. The boot is smaller than some rivals, but the 406 litres of storage is greater than the 380-litres you’ll find in the family friendly Volkswagen Golf.

Practicalities extend to ownership costs, although anything with a big petrol engine is unlikely to be defined as cheap. An eye-watering first year tax bill will hurt, but from then it’s not a bad investment; residual values promise to be similar, or even better, than those of its German rivals, while mpg in the low 30’s is possible on a cruise. Rear tyres might cost a bit, though…

Kia’s first effort at a Grand Tourer has turned out remarkably well. It’s a genuine rival to the likes of the Audi A5 and BMW 4 Gran Coupe, rather than simply a good-value alternative to those looking to save some cash. That Kia has priced it north of £40,000 shows its confidence in the car, and having spent a good number of hours behind the wheel, that confidence is not misplaced.

The Stinger is a great car. Not great-for-a-Kia great, but great full stop.

Model Tested: Kia Stinger GT-S 3.3 T-GDi V6
Price: £40,495
Range: £31,995 – £40,495
Top speed: 168 mph
0-62 mph: 4.7 seconds
Power: 370 PS (365 bhp)
Torque: 510 Nm (376 ft lb)
Monthly PCP*: £553
Official fuel economy: 28.5 mpg
Road test economy: N/A
CO2 Emissions: 225 g/km
Car Tax: £450
Insurance group: 42D
* Monthly PCP estimate based on 20% deposit, 36 month term, 5% APR, final payment of 40%.
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Phil is a motoring writer for print and web, failed racing driver, car hoarder and banger rally competitor. Nominated for the Headline Auto Rising Star award and a MGMW member, Phil freelances for outlets as diverse as Diesel Car magazine, and Cambridge Magazine, amongst many others. He also maintains a fleet of unloved motors, but spends most of his time driving an old Corvette.

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