Cape Town - Even before the Stinger had been confirmed for SA release (it will be here in August 2018) Kia’s first grand tourer was attracting attention from South African petrolheads, as much for its distinctive styling as for its performance credentials.
That’s particularly true in the case of the 3.3-litre biturbo V6 GT version we’ll be getting in South Africa, rated for 272kW at 6000rpm and 510Nm from 1300-4500rpm; Kia quotes 0-100 in 4.9 seconds and 270km/h flat out, making it officially the fastest-accelerating car in Kia’s history. And this is not a sports car; it’s a luxury five-seater that weighs 1740kg ready to go.
Now let's delve under the skin and into the minds of the designers of this exciting newcomer:
One: It’s rear-wheel drive.
This is not a Sonata with attitude; it’s based on the Kia GT Concept from the 2011 Frankfurt motor show (which shows you how much work Kia has put into it - it’s been six years in development) and it was built from the ground up with an in-line powertrain, presumably on a Genesis G80 platform.
That’s not as important as it used to be, but serious drivers, drivers who spend a lot of money on their cars, still prefer it.
Two: it has high-tech running gear.
It comes with a paddle shift transmission, adaptive suspension with five drive modes, a limited-slip differential, Brembo brakes and variable-assistance steering as standard.
Three: It has credentials
The development team under engineering head Albert Biermann drove the test mules the equivalent of 27 times round the world, in every conceivable climate, on four continents. And every version of the developing design did at least 480 laps (that 10 000 km!) on the tortuous Nurburgring Nordschleife.
Four: It’s an entirely European design.
The Stinger was designed in the Kia design studio at Frankfurt in Germany, under the guidance of chief design officer Peter Schreyer and European head of design Gregory Guillaume.
Guillaume in particular has said that he was influenced by the elegant luxury tourers that wafted the rich and famous from Paris down to the Riviera for the summer when he was growing up in France in the 1970s.
Five: It’s a classic shape.
The Stinger combines the classic ‘Gran Turismo’ proportions - long bonnet, short front and long rear overhangs, cabin set well back over the rear wheels - with a fashionable sweeping roofline that meets the waistline just ahead of the lip spoiler.
This is a profile that has come to epitomise luxury Grand Touring, from the prewar Hudson Terraplane, to the Bentley Continental of the 1950s, the Jaguar E-Type 2+2 of the 1960s, the Lamborghini Espada of the 1970s and the Alfa Romeo GTV of the 1980s.
Six: Defining the design.
The front treatment shows a wider, more classically proportioned (but still recognisable) ‘tiger nose’ grille between slim headlight clusters with fashionably complex multi-LED architecture, while the rear is kicked up, tucked in and chopped off, with four tailpipes and more than a hint of a Kamm tail (think Aston Martin DB6, Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona) in the lip spoiler.
Seven: It’s actually a five-door hatchback.
Ever since certain German carmakers started referring to sedans with swoopy rooflines as coupés, which is wrong, because a coupé is specifically a two-door car (‘coupé’ means ‘cut off’ in French and originally referred to a shortened version of a standard open tourer with only two doors and two seats) the distinction between sedan and hatch, two-box and three-box, has become blurred.
The way we see it, if it has a window in the boot-lid, it’s a hatchback; if the rear window is fixed and the boot opens separately, it’s a sedan (four doors) or a coupé (two doors). By that definition, the Stinger is a luxury five-door hatchback.
Eight: it has lots of bells and whistles.
If grand touring is all about luxury, comfort and convenience features the Stinger qualifies, with full leather trim, eight-way adjustable heated and ventilated sports seats, dual-zone automatic aircon, virtual instrumentation, head up display, a 20cm colour infotainment touchscreen, front and rear USB ports and wireless cellphone charging.
Driver aids include autonomous emergency braking, lane keep assist, high beam assist, driver attention warning, speed limit information, blind spot detection with rear cross traffic alert and vehicle stability management with dynamic torque vectoring.
Nine: But the sound track is fake.
That spine-tingling V6 growl is coming to you from the car’s 15 speaker harman/kardon sound system, not the engine compartment - and can be ‘tuned‘ via the drive mode selector switch. Not cool, even when BMW does it.
Ten: It has a mountain to climb
The Stinger will be competing against the Audi A3/S3, BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class; most of the Teutonic Triumvirate’s previous challengers from the Far East, however, have fallen short in those elusive criteria, classy design and perceived quality.
Kia hopes to overcome that with a car created in Europe by Europeans, for a sophisticated and discerning target market. Time, and the buying public, will tell if they got it right.