Kia's 'simplified' Stinger GT S now an even stronger contender
David Roy gets to grips with Kia's revamped Stinger, the South Koreans' fastest ever production vehicle which combines striking sports styling with value-for-money V6-powered GT comfort…
INTERCEPTOR. Charger. Mustang. Firebird. Scirocco. Defender. Stag. Once in a blue moon, motor manufacturers come up with a model name so cool that people (OK, men) are practically queuing up to buy the car in question before they've even seen one in the metal.
We're already picturing the ensuing pub/work/date conversation that begins with the question "So what are you driving these days?" and continues (for example):
"Oh, an Interceptor."
"You are the coolest person I think I've ever met. Fancy a pint/promotion/cooked breakfast in the morning?"
Kia definitely tapped into this primitive psychology when they launched their Stinger GT back in 2017. Not being a car maker previously associated with anything remotely fast or exciting (sorry, Kia), the South Koreans were perhaps wise to err on the side of overcompensation by literally poaching the name of a guided missile for their first foray into sporty motoring – presumably the 'Kia Armageddon GT' was a close runner-up.
However, the Stinger GT is also a car which sells itself from the moment you lay eyes on it: this handsome five-door fastback is blessed with head-turning lines courtesy of Kia's head of European Design, Gregory Guillaume, a self-confessed 1970s GT car obsessive weaned on classic Pininfarina and Bertone lines, and former Audi TT designer Peter Schrayer.
Indeed, while the name 'Stinger' might instantly conjure up a mental picture of a fire-breathing track-devouring sports car, it's the GT part of its badging you need to pay attention to: the new Stinger GT might be Kia's fastest ever production model, but it's always been primarily a comfortable long-range tourer.
Yet it's also far from being all show and no go: the Stinger actually has the underpinnings to back up its sporty good looks thanks to the Bavaria-tuned input of BMW M Division's former vice president of engineering, Albert Biermann, now president and head of Research and Development for Hyundai/Kia.
While BMW and Audi aren't quite quaking in their boots – yet – in terms of sales, the Stinger already has a healthy cult following and the new model looks set to further cement its status as a seductive South Korean alternative to the established German GT car oberherren.
Externally, Kia have sensibly decided not to muck about too much with what is already a great looking car. So, the 'blink and you'll miss them' updates for 2022 include new 19-inch alloys hiding front and rear Brembo disc brakes, snazzy LED headlights and rear indicators featuring a chequered flag motif, plus a revised full-width rear light bar which follows the line of the rear spoiler (now slightly upturned for extra downforce) and looks damn cool at night.
Sadly, the fake bonnet vents which have been mystifying buyers and motoring journalists alike since 2017 – especially since the Stinger actually has functional aero vents by the front wheels – are still in place on the new model. Come on Mr Kia, get your dremel out.
Bigger changes are afoot under the bonnet. The previously available diesel and four-cylinder petrol engine options have now wisely been dropped, leaving only the much more desirable 3.3l twin-turbo V6.
This delivers 361 bhp and 376 lb ft of torque to the rear wheels (though an AWD version is also available in other markets) via your right foot and an eight-speed autobox, and was always the engine of choice for the Stinger.
It sounds good when you plant the loud pedal – admittedly, the V6 engine note is artificially enhanced within the cabin via Kia's Active Sound system – and the latest version is also very slightly more powerful than the outgoing model. A whole 3 bhp, in fact, the result of a redesigned exhaust system.
Thus, the new Stinger is capable of taking you from 0-60 in 4.6 seconds and onward up to a maximum speed of 167mph, though the speedo does read up to 180mph just in case you find an extremely long downhill strait on which to harness gravity.
With on-the-road pricing starting at £42,905, that's quite a lot of vroom for not a massive amount of money – especially as Kia have also done away with trim options in favour of simply sending every Stinger out of the factory 'fully loaded' and badged as a GT S.
That means you now get Kia's latest 10.5-inch infotainment system with Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity and a premium Harmon/Kardon speaker set-up as standard. There's also a newly refreshed HD digital driver info display between the retro analogue speedo and tachometer, a customisable windscreen projected head-up display, extremely comfortable eight-way adjustable heated and ventilated seats with intelligent bolsters which 'inflate' and extend to grip you tighter when Sport mode is activated, a heated steering wheel, a wireless mobile phone charging pad and an electric sliding glass sunroof.
Other nice touches include a padded flip-down storage pod for your sunglasses in the roof console and a frameless rear-view mirror – though, to be honest, rear visibility is pretty limited due to the Stinger's raised flank. Happily, there's a very good 360-view reversing camera to help with parking manoeuvres.
That all adds up to a level of standard trim you definitely won't get from the Germans with their love of expensive 'option packs' – nor can they compete with Kia's industry-leading seven-year/100,000 mile warranty.
However, it's likely you will still want to spend a bit more than the Stinger's base price: unless you really want one in its standard 'ember orange', you'll be paying £675 for a colour you actually do like, and then there's stuff like premium floor mats (£110) and a rear load liner (£65) to consider as well.
Inside, the Stinger's cockpit isn't quite as luxuriously plush as some of the premium German offerings out there, but it's not far off it either. Fit and finish is impressive, with plenty of soft touch leather/leatherette across the dash and door cards, and all but the most freakishly proportioned rear passengers will be perfectly comfortable on long journeys.
On the road, the new Stinger GT S is a great cruiser. Although it's just a shade under five metres long, it really doesn't feel like 'a long car', pleasingly planted on twisty B-roads and entertainingly lively whenever you feel like pushing it on.
There are five driving modes in total, Eco, Comfort, Sport, Sport+ and Smart. As you might expect, the car's default Comfort mode softens up the ride for maximum cruising comfort, though the system will automatically firm up slightly under heavy cornering.
As mentioned, select 'Sport' mode and the driver's seat grips you tighter as throttle response is heightened, the steering becomes slightly more precise and the adjustable dampers firm up the ride to allow you to attack corners more aggressively.
Selecting Sport+ and manually turning off traction stability will open up a world of steer-from-the-rear fun, until you run out of talent and are suddenly left facing the wrong way – or worse, the wrong side of a hedge.
The autobox is quick enough to shift up and down as needed. Although they do work when required, the flappy paddle manual gear shifters in the Stinger do let it down slightly. They are quite 'plasticky' and it's certainly harder than it should be to persuade the car to remain in manual mode.
Being a twin-turbo V6, the Stinger's fuel economy is not exactly frugal. Kia claim you can average around 28mpg, but the reality is probably somewhere in the lower 20s unless you drive in Eco mode the entire time.
Then again, no-one is really buying a twin-turbo V6 GT car for hypermiling purposes. Purely in terms of smiles per miles, the new Stinger GT S is definitely an under-rated class leader – and it's surely the outright best value-for-money GT car on the market today.
Forget the badge, feel the buzz.
KIA STINGER GT S PERFORMANCE: AT A GLANCE
- Engine: 3.3 T-GDi
- Transmission: 8-speed automatic ISG
- Power: 361 bhp
- Torque: 376 lb ft
- 0-60mph: 4.7 secs
- Max speed: 167 mph
- Combined mpg (WLTP): 28.0
- CO2 (WLTP): 229 g/km
TECH AND SAFETY
- 10.25-inch infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay with voice control fitted as standard
- 15-speaker Harman/Kardon premium audio system features a subwoofer, external amplifier and front centre speaker
- Wireless smartphone charger
- Bluetooth multi-connection enables the use of two mobile devices at the same time
- Remote engine start system using smart key
- Driver Safety Systems: Safe Exit Warning, Blind-Spot View Monitor, Lane Following Assist, Highway Driving Assist, Rear Occupant Alert, Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist, Lane Keeping Assist, Blind-Spot Collision-Avoidance Assist, Intelligent Speed Limit Assist, Driver Attention Warning, Navigation-based Smart Cruise Control, Rear Cross-Traffic Collision-Avoidance Assist
- 360-degree Around View Monitor and front and rear parking sensors