Kia Stinger GT

First signs are good, but we need a proper drive to fi nd out

by BEN BARRY

ENGINE 3342cc V6, DOHC, 24v, twin-turbo / POWER 276kW @ 6000rpm / TORQUE 510Nm @ 1300-4500rpm / WEIGHT 1750kg (est) / 0-100KM/H 4.9sec (claimed) / PRICE $50,000 (est) E LEVEN years ago, Kia poached Audi designer Peter Schreyer to transform its cars from dumpy to desirable. In late 2014, they found their driving dynamics equivalent, Albert Biermann. Today, MOTOR is sitting in a small wooden hut in the middle of a frozen Swedish lake with the ex-BMW M Divisionís engineering boss. A prototype of the new Kia Stinger shivers outside. Itís a production version of the 2011 GT Concept, the quickest Kia produced and the first fruit of Biermannís Korean defection.

Crucially, the German has the right tools at his disposal. The Ďfiveseat fastbackí is rear-wheel drive and based on the Hyundai Genesis platform. It gets a body made from 55 per cent high-strength steel, MacPherson struts up front, a multilink rear and adaptive dampers.

Three versions will be available, including a four-cylinder petrol and diesel, but weíre driving an early prototype of the Stinger GT. Itís powered by a turbocharged 3.3-litre V6 that combines with a paddleshift eight-speed automatic designed in-house and fitted as standard. With 276kW, it makes 36kW more than a BMW 340iís 3.0-litre straight six.

In fact, the Stinger was benchmarked against the 340i (the more comparable facelifted 440i GranCoupe wasnít on sale during early testing), but takes something of a Mondeo approach to the segment, its 4830mm length and wheelbase dwarfing the 440iís 4638mm and 2810mm. That means thereís extremely generous room for rear-seat passengers, and plenty of luggage room beneath the tailgate.

The first thing you notice, however, is the gangster-low driving position, which instantly feels extremely sporty. So too does the deep and cultured idle note when you press the starter button. Sadly, this test isnít going to be a full assessment of the Stingerís true road-going E performance, because weíre on a frozen lake Ė which of course is fun, lots of fun indeed. Almost our entire drive was spent doing fourth-gear skids on the frozen lake.

Despite this, it is clear that the Stinger has a nicely balanced, playful chassis with a limited-slip differential and standard 19-inch alloys.

The LSD wasnít confirmed when Biermann arrived at Kia, but of course the Stinger GT has one now the German is in control. The LSD always locked up the rear wheels very cleanly to provide a high degree of control over the slipping and sliding rear. Itís key to the Kia being so much fun.

At the opposite end, the steering Ė electric motor mounted to the rack, points out Biermann, not the column, to improve response and minimise vibration Ė feels quick and consistently weighted, with no dead spots as you twist it off-centre.

Towards its stingy 6000rpm peak, the V6 does start to strain and thrash, thereís a little turbo-induced mush to the throttle pedal, and the gearbox clearly wonít trouble an M Division dual-clutcher, though it does feel perfectly smooth and responsive enough. The Brembo four-piston brakes? Never used them.

Kia says the Stinger GT is designed to be a rounded performance car with high levels of comfort. Early impressions bode well, but we need to drive a finished car on land, not a prototype on a lake. We also need Kia to get off the fence and give us a price.

Early whispers suggest somewhere around the $50K mark (which is significantly cheaper than a 440i GranCoupe, and in the ballpark of our home-grown Commodore SS) when it lands in September this year.

Kia will need to pull off a 1990s Subaru-like reinvention to achieve that, but having Biermann behind the wheel is a good start. It also remains to be seen just how well it will be received by Australian buyers crying out for an affordable and fast reardrive sedan in the absence of Aussie offerings. Hereís hoping a proper drive on local tarmac isnít too far away. M

STAR RATING 4.0

Like

Driving position; chassis balance; performance; doing skids

Dislike

Engine thrashes at high revs; it might be less fun on bitumen

The LSD wasnít confi rmed when Biermann arrived, but it has one now that the German is in control