Kia’s Stinger GT has been in the Australian market since 2017 and is the performance flagship of the South Korean manufacturer. With the close of local manufacturing of rear wheel drive sedans from Ford and Holden in Australia, viable alternatives are now few and far between. The Stinger GT aims to fill this void, being a four door sedan with a high powered twin-turbocharged 3.3 Litre V6 sending power to the rear wheels.
A new special edition of the Stinger GT has recently been released, known as the Kia Stinger GT Night Sky Edition, and this is the car being tested. Having previously driven a standard Stinger GT provides the opportunity to compare the standard car to the special edition. The Stinger GT Night Sky Edition is priced at $63,700 plus on road costs.
This Night Sky Edition of the Stinger GT features light grey Nappa leather interior, with this colour being bespoke to this model. This colour really suits the car, however being such a light grey, any blemishes to the seats will be easier to identify over time. Front seats are well equipped with eight-way electric adjustment, plus heating and ventilation. There’s also a two-position memory function and lumbar, bolster and thigh adjustment for the driver. The GT logo is also embossed on the driver and passenger seat headrests. There’s a flat bottomed sports steering wheel that has the GT logo displayed on the bottom spoke, as well as paddle shifters. Tilt and reach is electrically adjustable and the steering wheel can be heated. Pedals are well positioned and made of aluminium, giving the interior a sporty feel. With so many adjustments for the seats and steering, an ideal driving position can be found. Other interior features include two cup holders, a 12-volt outlet, USB charge point and wireless phone charging for front seat occupants, while in the rear, there’s a centre armrest with two cup holders as well as a 12-volt outlet and USB charge point. Boot space is 406 Litres, increasing to 1114 Litres with the rear seats folded down and there’s a spacsaver tyre in the boot. Although the rear window is quite small, overall I found it a relatively easy car to see out of. When sitting in the back seats, head room is restricted, but there’s good legroom.
Although the Stinger GT was released a few years ago, the design has aged well and still looks modern. This Night Sky Edition is finished in Micro Blue and the car still manages to stand out in traffic. Other exterior paint colours specific to this model include Deep Chroma Blue and Aurora Black. Kia designers have managed to make a four door car look like a coupe. I like the sweeping roofline, 19-inch alloys and the red Brembo brake calipers front and rear; even the rear side marker lights have grown on me over time. The 19-inch alloy wheels are wrapped in Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tyres; 225/40/19 profile at the front and 255/35/19 profile at the rear. Brembo supplies the brakes and the discs are ventilated, measuring 350mm in diameter on the front axle with four-piston calipers and 340mm diameter on the rear axle with two piston calipers. Front bumper and side vents are functional and help to cool the brakes however the bonnet and rear bumper vents are just for show. The chrome coated quad exhausts pipes and GT logo on the boot hint at the Stinger’s performance.
Standard equipment includes a 7.0-inch digital instrument display and there’s also an 8.0-inch dash mounted infotainment touchscreen featuring the satellite navigation system, climate control, digital radio and phone settings, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. An excellent 15 speaker Harman Kardon sound system is included. There are front and rear LED lights, a tilt and slide glass sunroof, powered tailgate, wireless phone charging, colour head up display, front and rear parking sensors, auto lights and wipers, adaptive cruise control, keyless entry and start, dual zone climate control and a wonderful 360-degree camera. Other features include autonomous emergency braking, lane keep assist, blind spot detection, rear cross traffic alert and driver attention alert, electric park brake and auto hold. Front, side, curtain and a driver’s knee airbag also enable the Stinger GT to achieve a five-star ANCAP safety rating. 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.
There are five different drive modes available in the Stinger GT Night Sky Edition, including Eco, Comfort, Sport, Smart and Custom, with Sport mode activating the launch control system. These modes can be activated through the Drive Mode selector switch located behind the gearshift or through the touchscreen. In Custom mode, the powertrain can be set to Eco, Comfort or Sport, steering can be set to Comfort or Sport and suspension to Comfort or Sport. There are five pages to toggle through on the instrument display. The first page displays oil temperature (50-150°C), torque (0-550Nm), turbo (0-40psi), a lap timer and g-force metre. Page two displays fuel economy (L/100km), accumulated information (km’s driven, L/100km and hours driven), current drive information, a digital speedometer and drive modes. Page three displays a compass while page four has the driver attention warning system and tyre pressures. Page five contains the user settings for the head up display, doors, lights and sounds.
Driving Impressions and performance
The Stinger GT Night Sky Edition has the same engine as the standard Stinger GT, with no increase in power or torque. Therefore, it has a 3.3 Litre twin-turbo V6 delivering 272kW of power and 510Nm of torque, with drive sent to the rear wheels. This edition of the Stinger GT is the only one that comes standard with the bimodal exhaust system, with this system designed in Australia. It works by routing gases away from the stock muffler canister into a more free-flowing resonated pipe. The system is a $2,660 option on V6 variants.
The engine’s fired by pushing a starter button to the left of the steering wheel. When started, the exhaust is certainly louder than those models without the bimodal system. The Stinger GT has been criticised for its lack of sound and I think that this system is well suited to the car. If driving in Eco mode, the exhaust is quiet but in all other modes, operation of the bimodal system is noticeable. It’s interesting that when driving with a light throttle in any mode other than Eco, you can hear the transition to the bimodal system at about 3,000rpm. In Eco mode, there’s also a coasting mode, where the engine is automatically decoupled from the transmission while the shift lever is in Drive. The engine stays at idling speed to reduce fuel consumption and increase coasting distance.
Power delivery is very linear the whole way through the rev-range. Although the Stinger weighs a hefty 1780kg, it’s still capable of sprinting to 100km/h in only 4.9 seconds, with launch control activated. It builds speed effortlessly, there’s barely any turbo lag and just a faint whistle from the turbochargers as they gain boost. The car’s most enjoyable when using Custom mode and setting the powertrain to Sport, steering to Comfort and suspension to Comfort. The biggest difference is between Eco mode and Sport mode, but I found Comfort and Smart mode to be very similar. Eco is great for cruising and fuel saving, whereas Sport enables faster gear changes and throttle response.
The engine is a real highlight. The Stinger GT Night Sky Edition car was driven on a mixture of different roads including the Reefton Spur, 80 kilometres east of Melbourne. The road is 19 kilometres in length and includes a great mixture of undulations, straights, sweepers and slow corners. The 3.3 Litre V6 turbocharged engine has enough power to dismiss hills like they aren’t even there. It’s a real powerhouse, made even better with the bimodal exhaust system. The engine has some real punch out of tight hairpin bends, when using Custom mode and setting the powertrain to Sport.
When the Stinger GT was released, it used Continental tyres, but there was a switch to Michelin tyres in mid-2018. There were complaints about the Continental tyres wearing too quickly and not providing the sheer grip and precision that the vehicle deserves. The Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tyres are said to be better suited to Australian conditions, including handling our ordinary road surfaces. The car is definitely more composed on the Michelins, and has more traction from the 255mm wide rear tyres under acceleration, even with traction and stability control turned off. The mechanical limited slip differential also certainly helps in putting the power down more effectively.
At 1780kg, the Stinger GT is never going to as sharp through the bends as something like a Lotus Elise, but body roll is minimal with sharp direction changes and confidence inspiring steering. The Brembo braking package looks good and does a great job of pulling up all that mass, with no brake fade evident. The car felt at its best in the Custom mode with steering and suspension set to Comfort. The steering is a bit too heavily weighted and the ride is a bit too firm in Sport, but these are minor criticisms.
Like the previously tested 2018 Stinger GT, I still feel that the eight speed automatic gearbox is the weakest link in this car. It’s perfectly fine for cruising around town and on long distance journeys, however under hard in-gear acceleration, feels like it doesn’t know what gear it wants. The best way to describe it is that it’s a very busy gearbox, particularly in Eco mode, when getting into the highest gears is its number one priority. The other frustration is that it doesn’t have a full manual mode. Sometimes it’s nice to experience acceleration in a single gear, but the Stinger GT is unable to hold the gear that you want. It wouldn’t matter so much in Eco or Comfort mode but in Sport mode it would be nice for it to stay in the gear that you choose. The gearbox is sometimes slow to respond when downshifting into a corner.
The Stinger GT Night Sky Edition is $2,710 more than the standard GT. This premium is justified considering the car has the much needed bimodal exhaust upgrade and the light grey Nappa leather interior. Its main competitors are the BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe, Audi A5 Sportback and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. The BMW 4 Series 440i M Sport Gran Coupe achieves similar engine performance to the Stinger GT Night Sky Edition, but costs roughly $25,000 more.
This Stinger GT is still a car that I’m very fond of. The only small problem is the gearbox, but apart from that there are many great qualities. It’s well styled both inside and out, fast, incredibly well equipped, practical, well priced, packed full of technology and safe. The engine is a powerhouse and the twin turbocharged six cylinder sounds great with the bimodal exhaust.
It’s unfortunate that the Stinger GT is selling at half the forecasted rate and there may not be a second generation model due to low demand. If this eventuates, it would be a real shame as the Stinger GT is a fantastic car and has many talents.