With the unfortunate recent demise of local manufacturing of rear wheel drive sedans from Ford and Holden in Australia, viable alternatives are now few and far between. When news broke of Korean company Kia introducing the Stinger GT in early 2017, I wondered if this car would be a viable substitute for our homegrown Falcon’s and Commodore’s.The good people at Kia recently offered me the opportunity to test a 2018 model Stinger GT finished in Aurora Black with red leather seats. Without options, the Stinger is priced at a reasonable $59,990; however this car also has the premium paint option, adding another $695. Without options, the GT model is roughly $5,000 cheaper than a Volkswagen Arteon and similar money to the outgoing Australian built performance cars including the Ford Falcon XR8 Sprint FG X and Holden Commodore SS-V Series 2 VF.
The Stinger GT is a striking looking car and pictures really do not do it justice. I like the sweeping roofline, 19 inch alloys, red Brembo brake calipers front and rear and how Kia have managed to make a four door look like a coupe. There is some Aston Martin and Jaguar in some of the lines, particularly towards the rear of the car and boot line. The rear side marker lights, although not to my personal taste, remind me of a narrower version of the ones found on the 1990’s Subaru SVX. Front and side vents are functional and help to cool the brakes however the bonnet vents are just for show.
Interior quality of the Stinger is excellent and I found the standard Nappa leather seats to be supportive with a range of electric adjustment to get the perfect driving position. Having seats that can provide heating and cooling is a welcome change. The steering column is electrically adjustable for both tilt and reach. There is a good looking flat bottomed steering wheel and high quality paddle shifters to operate the eight speed automatic gearbox. Rear seat passengers have ample legroom and headroom, certainly more than what is offered in the VW Arteon that was recently tested. Boot space is also generous but falls short of the Arteon’s capacity (406L vs 563L). The view out of the rear window is not great but the side mirrors are excellent.
Standard equipment of the Stinger GT includes a panoramic sunroof, powered tailgate, Harmon Kardon stereo, wireless phone charging, colour head up display, LED headlights, auto lights and wipers, adaptive cruise control, keyless entry and start, dual zone climate control, rear seat air vents and a 7 inch TFT instrument display. Standard infotainment equipment includes an 8 inch touchscreen, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, satellite navigation, Bluetooth connectivity, Aux and USB inputs and an AM/FM/DAB+ radio. The Stinger GT’s safety equipment includes seven airbags, blind spot detection with rear cross traffic alert, dynamic cornering headlights, a 360-degree camera system, autonomous emergency braking, driver fatigue detection, lane keeping assist, rear park sensors, rear-view camera and front seatbelt pretensioners. The Stinger GT has a fantastic 7-year unlimited km warranty, capped price servicing and roadside assist. It also runs on 91 octane petrol and has a 60 Litre fuel tank with combined fuel consumption of 10.2L/100km.
Drive modes include Eco, Comfort, Sport, Smart and Custom with Sport mode activating the launch control system. All modes have a performance page including g-force, lap timer, oil temp, torque and boost. You also have the option of adjusting the engine/transmission between Eco, Comfort and Sport, the steering wheel between Comfort and Sport, suspension between Comfort and Sport and active engine sound between minimised, neutral and enhanced
Driving impressions and performance
The Stinger GT was driven on some of my favourite roads in the Yarra Ranges including the Healesville-Kinglake Road and Myers Creek Road. Both of these roads offer a good mix of fast and slow corners and straights. The Stinger GT packs a punch with its 3.3 Litre twin-turbo V6 delivering 272kW of power and 510Nm of torque from 1300-4500rpm. The power delivery is very linear the whole way through the rev-range. Although the Stinger weighs a hefty 1780kg, it is still capable of sprinting to 100km/h in only 4.9 seconds. It builds speed effortlessly, there is barely any turbo lag and just a faint whistle from the turbo’s as they gain boost. The engine sound is a bit dull at lower revs but it sounds better at higher revs. I also did not notice much difference in engine sound between driving modes. There is a big difference between Eco and Sport in the engine/transmission mode. Eco is great for cruising and fuel saving whereas Sport enabled faster gear changes and throttle response.
The gearbox shifts smoothly when cruising around town. Unfortunately though, it will only hold a gear when you do not depress the throttle 100%. If you give the car full throttle, it will either kick down or shift up when you do not want it too and this is concerning when cornering as it tends to unsettle the car. In Eco and Comfort mode it is perfectly fine for the car not to hold gears, but it would be nice to be able to choose the gear that you want in Sport mode. If only the Stinger was offered with a manual gearbox!
The Stinger’s electric steering system is a highlight and offers great feedback. You can position the front of the car right where you want it and there is only a hint of understeer when pushed hard. Steering was sharpest in Sport mode and was confidence inspiring. The Stinger GT has 19 inch alloy wheels as standard, with 255/35 profile tyres at the front and 255/35 profile tyres at the rear. The Stinger uses Continental ContiSportContact 5 tyres and also features a mechanical limited slip differential. It delivers a comfortable ride on a smooth road but is not as composed over rough surfaces. Over imperfections in the road surface and under heavy throttle, the rear of the car felt skittish and could potentially catch out the inexperienced, particularly with so much power and torque on offer. I did not notice a big difference in Comfort and Sport in the suspension mode and felt like the ride was too firm, a surprise given that the Stinger has local suspension tuning for Australian roads.
It felt more reassuring to drive the Stinger with stability and traction control off. This is a personal choice and I do not like having a computer intervene in the driving experience. Driving with the aids on felt like the car could have a mind of its own at times. A car with this much go needs a decent brake package and there is strong, fade free braking from the 350mm ventilated discs with four piston Brembo’s up front and 340mm ventilated discs with two piston Brembo’s at the rear.
I think that Kia has produced a great first effort with the Stinger GT and it is a car that will only get better with future updates. Kia should be commended for building a high performance rear wheel drive sedan that offers a similar experience to our homegrown Falcon’s and Commodore’s. It is an exciting car to look at and drive, and in a sea of humdrum cars it really stands out and offers something different for the motoring enthusiast.
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