Kia Stinger GT: Test driving Kia’s BMW-beating muscle saloon

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The Stinger is a car you wouldn’t expect Kia to make. The Korean car manufacturer is synonymous with value and variety, but not necessarily with premium build and high performance. Things change.

The top-end Kia Stinger GT S is rocking a 3.3-litre twin-turbo V6, and is sculpted more like a muscle car than the BMWs and Mercs it’s taking on in the luxury saloon market.

We’ve had a chance to take the GT S and the ‘merely’ 2.0-litre Stinger GT-Line S for a drive. But a few facts first…

It’s the fastest Kia ever

OK, we’ve already established that this is new territory for Kia, so maybe it won’t shock you that this is the fastest car the company’s ever made. But perhaps you’ll be surprised at just how fast it is.

The GT S generates 365bhp, helping it reach a top speed of 168mph. It can do 0-60mph in plenty under 5 seconds.

Even the 2.0 GT-Line S produces 244bhp and can hit 149mph.

It’s fully teched up

As standard with all models, you get a HUD (head-up display) that can show your speed and the next sat-nav direction. That’s in addition to an 8-inch touchscreen offering satnav (with TMC), reversing camera, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The GT-Line S and GT S both ramp things up with a 15-speaker sound system tuned by Harman/Kardon, as well as a wireless charging plate for compatible phones.

Obviously you also get the standard USB ports, DAB radio and Bluetooth.

Here’s how it drives

I opted to take the 2.0-litre Stinger GT-Line S out before the top-dog GT S. You don’t want to start on wagyu beef and then switch to rump.

But comparing the 2.0 to rump steak is actually doing it a disservice. For most people, it’s all the saloon car you could want. Whack it in Sport mode and it leaps away quickly enough for any busy roundabout or short overtake, while Comfort offers a smooth, refined response. The handling is taut and poised, making for a supremely pointable car – yet there’s plenty of comfort there, cabin noise is fairly minimal, and the 8-speed auto box is smooth as silk. This is a grand tourer indeed.

Popping it into Sport+ mode, which drops the traction control, is like stepping back in time. There’s that liveliness that recalls rear-wheel-drive saloons of old, and it didn’t take much to get squirrelly – especially in the cold, on back roads still wet from melted snow. In better conditions, there was definitely fun to be had, but I value my life, so I put the demon back in the box.

If I’ve got one complaint, it’s with the Stinger’s brakes. Pushing through the long-ish travel of the pedal, I kept waiting for them to bite, but the stopping power never really came through. This certainly isn’t a light car, which may be part of the problem.

Moving into the GT S, the cabin felt identical. Kia really has done an excellent job of putting together a top-class interior. Externally the only big sign of being in the presence of the top model is a bigger, smarter set of 19-inch alloys and Brembo brake callipers. Internally it’s the engine. That 3.3-litre Twin-turbo V6 is a real firebreather, creating 365bhp and a fantastic throaty roar with turbo whine on top.

On the road you get stellar acceleration. The 2.0’s 5.8-second 0-60mph time is already impressive, but the GT S slices that to 4.7 seconds. This thing’s a beast. It takes on the more expensive BMW 440i and mostly wins out. Those spongy brakes aside – an upgrade to Brembo units on the GT S doesn’t seem to solve the problem – I’d take the Kia every time.

There will always be people who’ll want the 3.3 just, well, because it’s there, but the 2.0 already offers such excellent performance that the firebreathing GT S seems almost unnecessary. The GT S is for people who think with their heart. It’s the one I’d choose.

Kia Stinger price

The lowest-spec Kia Stinger GT-Line starts at £31,995/$43,513 for the 2.0 T-GDi and £33,895/$46,097 for the 2.2 CRDi diesel, while upping to the GT-Line S gets you to a starting price of £35,495/$48,273 and £37,395/$50,857 for the same respective engine options.





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