Kia Stinger GT S long-term review
This is a 365bhp, rear-drive sports saloon with something to prove. Let’s see if it can
Why we’re running it: To get fully familiar with the dynamic successes and foibles of an alluring driver’s car. And to see if the UK public can ‘get’ the idea of a truly desirable Kia
Life with a Kia Stinger GT S: Month 1
Welcoming the Stinger GT S to our fleet – 14 March 2018
You’ll have perhaps seen those large, glass-walled, ritzy-looking showrooms just off London’s Great West Road. Imagine being dropped off outside one of them on your way to collect your new three-hundred-and-something-horsepower, luxury sports saloon. It’s a good day, obviously – but an otherwise ordinary Monday morning on the likes of which three-hundred-and-something-horsepower sports saloons are quite commonly handed over to their new owners in the dealerships around these parts.
Funny thing is, you’ve already driven past the nearby Audi, Mercedes, Jaguar and BMW showrooms to get to where you’re going – and you’ve done it without a single twinge of regret.
As you enter the building through huge sliding panes, you’re aware that this showroom stretches for another two storeys above your head and far enough to your left and right to accommodate more gleaming new cars than you can count. You find yourself in a white-walled, pristine handover area, greeted by a sharp- suited ‘relationship manager’ with textbook customer service patter.
He brings you coffee and then walks you around a car with knockout styling, 19in alloy wheels, quad pipes, heated nappa leather seats, masses of standard equipment, a turbocharged six-cylinder petrol engine, driven rear wheels and a limited-slip differential nestling purposefully in between them. It looks every inch an authentic, sporting, premium product and, as you’ve already found out on an earlier test drive, it behaves like one, too. You are a happy bunny.
Shortly thereafter, the man in the sharp suit hands over your keys, and away you drive to set about drawing admiring glances for your new acquisition. You’ve received what you can only conclude has been a f lawless premium-brand customer service experience. And it was brought to you by a brand that, just a few years ago, you’d never have thought capable of any of it: Kia Motors.
That’s pretty much how the road test team assumed custody of Autocar’s latest long-term test car, the Kia Stinger GT S. And what a fascinating prospect this car is turning out to be. We’ve reported on it in first drives and in a group test, where it took on the BMW 440i and a Jaguar XE S and came very close indeed to upsetting the form book in quite spectacular fashion.
In case you missed the test in question, the Stinger certainly didn’t lose out because its 365bhp turbo V6 engine isn’t gutsy enough, its ride supple enough, or its rear-driven handling engaging enough. In all three respects, the sports saloon mustard was well and truly cut by this car.
Now, we plan to spend six months living with this intriguing alternative to one of the obvious German or British-made, rear-driven performance executive options. We’ll be digging more deeply into the car’s dynamic capabilities to put our fingers on exactly where, if anywhere, Kia already surpasses the likes of Audi, BMW, Mercedes and Jaguar; where it can easily improve; and where progress may prove harder.
Moreover, though, we’ll just be using the Stinger – on long trips, short commutes, weekend errands and in every other way we can – to find out how well it stands up to the scrutiny of the everyday. We expect premium-brand cars to tackle this stuff well, after all; to be slick and easy to operate yet technologically rich and sophisticated too. But, for a car maker new to the luxury fold, will the necessary depth and attention to detail be evident? Time – and extended familiarity – should tell.
There’s something deliciously simple about the prospect of a top-of-the-line saloon that comes so laden with kit that you could hardly find a single optional item worth adding to your order. Kia has been trading on this fully loaded appeal with its bigger cars for years, but it’s particularly telling to me that, even now that it has created a four-door as stylish as almost any other on the market, the firm is still offering the flagship V6 turbo version of its newbie with only a handful of footnote options.
Would sir like chrome-effect door handles? Footwell illumination? A spare headlight bulb kit, perhaps? No, thanks. Not when we’ve got LED headlights, a head- up display, electric heaters for all four chairs, a powered tailgate, a wireless phone- charging pad, surround-view cameras and a 15-speaker premium stereo for sweet Fanny Adams, we don’t. The new Stinger GT S looks just fine to us exactly as it comes.
And, usefully, you couldn’t confuse it for the next style-conscious executive GT in the office car park in this Sunset Yellow paint, could you? The attention-grabbing hue serves our purposes well since gauging the reaction of the UK public to a 365bhp rear-driven sports saloon from Kia will be a key part of our long-term test. If you’re buying one of your own, however, it may be as well to note that the Stinger GT S comes with the choice of only one no-extra-cost colour – and it’s the one you’re looking at. There are two shades of grey, a white, a black and a red – but all cost £645 as ‘premium’ colours. And if you’re not engaged, like us, in some six-month public opinion temperature test experiment, I dare say having ‘premium’ paint would be money well spent.
— Matt Saunders (@TheDarkStormy1) February 6, 2018
The reactions of the public are already telling, by the way. Having been dropped at home by a cabbie just a few days after we’d collected the Stinger, the driver in question said he liked what he saw: “Wow, what an amazing-looking car. You could cover up those badges and easily pass that off as a Maserati or something. I love it; even though it’s a Kia.”
A man who earns his living in 30-pence increments of 225 yards each can clearly be relied upon for a chastening dose of reality; and, glassy west London showrooms or not, it’s plainly a long way from his line of thinking to ‘I love it because it’s a Kia’. Still, it’ll be fascinating to observe first-hand how far the Stinger can take its maker along that particular road in a relatively short space of time.
My first outing in the GT S coincided with the so-called Beast from the East. Not that I should have worried – despite rear drive, modest tyres and big power, the Stinger took all that snow in its stride thanks to lazy torque, calm steering and an indulgent chassis balance.
Kia Stinger GT S specification
Specs: Price New £40,495; Price as tested £40,495; Options none
Test Data: Engine 3342cc, turbocharged petrol; Power 365bhp at 6000rpm; Torque 510lb ft at 1300-4500rpm; Top speed 168mph; 0-62mph 4.7sec; Claimed fuel economy 28.5mpg; Test fuel economy 27.4mpg; CO2 225g/km; Faults None; Expenses None
Source: Autocar Online