The Stinger GT S garnered incessant and wholly positive attention wherever it went, nobody failing to be mesmerised by its near-perfect proportions and adept balance of aggression and sophisticated style. Unlike the French who love to experiment with sometimes bizarre designs, the Stinger is unarguably fairly formulaic and, indeed, flashes of Jaguar and Maserati can be found within its form. It’s unimaginable that someone would complain that their husband looks too much like Hugh Jackman or their wife overly resembles Sophie Raworth, though, so the beautiful Stinger should just be enjoyed for what it is.
Yellow is offered in the palette for extroverts but the consensus seems to be that Ceramic Grey complements its angles and shapes brilliantly. For disclosure’s sake, the air inlets on the bonnet look great but are fake, and lesser versions of the Stinger can’t be specified with exterior styling enhancements to make them look as stunning as this GT S at the top of the tree.
The Stinger’s interior is not far off perfect, too, with Nappa leather that doesn’t feel at all cheap and seats that match the French and Swedes for comfort, which is a massive compliment and bolsters the car’s grand tourer aspirations.
From surround cameras, heated seats all round plus a cooling function in the front, to a head-up display, QuantumLogic Surround Sound harman/kardon audio system and a powered boot, the Stinger GT S incorporates more than most people could wish for. All that’s missing compared to some potential rivals is ambient mood-lighting, a television, branded puddle lights and a few other equally unnecessary luxuries.
The Stinger is even pretty good storage wise, with decent door bins and a fairly large glove compartment and central cubby. Space in the back is comfortable but although the fastback-style 406-litre boot along with rear seats that can be split and folded to create 1,114 litres when required seem good at first glance, they fall well short of the 480 litres provided by Audi’s S5 Sportback and BMW’s 4 Series Gran Coupe, somewhat limiting the Kia’s genuine long-distance tourer capabilities.
Grumbles are few and far between, wider or taller drivers perhaps finding the pedal area cramped, the rear window takes a while to clear when wet, and it’s unfathomable why Kia didn’t put a few quid extra towards cladding the door bins with leather and improving the quality of the steering wheel centre. These and the electric window switches are the only plasticy components detracting from what is an otherwise uncannily excellent cabin.
Kia can’t be expected to equal or overtake Audi who shall conceivably remain the leaders in interior quality, but the Stinger GT S’ cabin is remarkably on par with the BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe in terms of fit, finish and specification, and leaves the Jaguar XE S in the shade.
Judging by previous efforts from lower-placed brands wanting to grab a cheeky slice of the prestige marques’ pie, some people may preconceive that the Kia Stinger GT S doesn’t really stand a chance. After all, Kia admits that it’s not been designed to be a ‘hard-edged sports car created to be brutally fast at the expense of comfort.’
This is no David and Goliath contest, though, the Kia Stinger GT S’ 365bhp casting a shadow over the 300PS XF S 30t and 326bhp 440i M Sport, leaving it a smidgen more potent than a 345bhp Audi S5 Sportback.
Kia’s 3.3-litre twin-turbo V6 T-GDi unit is a belter of an engine that everyone from seasoned petrolheads to amateurs will be able to eke plenty of thrills out of on the UK’s less than perfect roads. The Stinger GT S is the swiftest Kia produced to date and its 0-60mph sprint time of 4.7 seconds is mightily impressive, again bettering the aforementioned BMW while matching the S5.
It’s sadly not the greenest, cleanest engine, though, its 225g/km CO2 emissions significantly exceeding the S5 Sportback’s 174g/km and 440i M Sport Gran Coupe’s 159g/km, while the Stinger GT S’ average combined fuel economy of 28.5mpg doesn’t look great alongside the Audi’s 36.7mpg average or 41.5mpg from the BMW. Nearly six hundred miles of varied driving including plenty of heavy right foot antics did, though, see the Stinger actually slightly exceed its on paper figure with a 29.2mpg average.
Aside from people who’ve been reared on a diet of RS, M and ‘63’ AMG engines, Kia’s 3.3 engine will satiate most others courtesy of a healthy 510Nm torque on tap between 1,300rpm and 4,500rpm. There are no real theatrics in the sound department, though, the burble-bereft exhaust keeping its voice down most of the time and not even obliging with a crackle and pop using the paddles, which is admittedly in line with the GT S’ grand tourer intentions.
Fun is guaranteed by the bucket-load, though, the rear-wheel drive Stinger happy to necessitate a dab of oppo’ any time one’s mood suits. Its manageable proportions, good visibility, raft of safety aids and engaging handling make Kia’s landmark creation an absolute hoot to drive fast while ensuring that it never feels daunting.
Potholes, crests, speed bumps and other surface annoyances are dispatched effortlessly by the GT S’ electronically-adjustable all-independent suspension with adaptable damping, which enables the car to be chucked round corners with aplomb. In Sport+ mode where traction control is deactivated, the Stinger feels hungry, it feels angry, chomping towards the horizon with each prod of the throttle like a lion intermittently seeing a sirloin steak dangled in front of it.
Rotate the mode dial into Comfort or Eco and sporting performance morphs into buttery-smooth, continent-crushing pace, silly speeds registering all too apologetically briskly. The holed, grooved and ventilated Brembo disc brakes, here with quad-piston red callipers, bring it to a stop without any fuss.
Steering feedback, responsiveness and engagement are also impressively strong, bettering slightly numb Audi models and equalling sports-focussed Jaguars and Mercedes while not quite matching a BMW for feel and crispness. Bearing in mind that pricing for comparable Germans kicks off at around £8,000 more than the Korean before any options are ticked, it’s a remarkable achievement.
Flaws with the overall Stinger GT S experience are very sparse, barrel-scrapers perhaps noting that the usually silky-smooth standard 8-speed automatic gearbox can occasionally be jerky under hesitant acceleration and when using the paddles, and engaging the parking brake in stationery traffic can result in the car jolting. That’s it, really.
The £40,000 fully-loaded Kia Stinger GT S looks stunning, has an immensely comfortable Nappa interior with an equipment list as long as one’s proverbial arm, offers good if not excellent luggage space for long-distance road trips and combines remarkably pleasing handling with an engine and gearbox mating that is hard to fault. Unlike previous budget pretenders like the Vauxhall VXR8 and Volkswagen W8, Kia’s gran turismo debutant isn’t just the obvious alternative for cash-conscious buyers but is a stonking car in its own right. All style and no substance? Not a bit.