The Kia team have clearly found a taste for Carlsberg and having set out to create a five-door, rear-wheel drive grand tourer inspired by the French Riviera and hoping to inadvertently scalp a few sales away from Audi, BMW, Jaguar, Mercedes and the like, they’ve come up with an absolute cracker as far as the visuals are concerned.
The Stinger GT S turns heads wherever it goes, not just as it’s a new model but because it’s simply beautiful, partly thanks to ex-Audi and BMW designers having joined the untouchable Korean firm’s juggernaut. It may not look radically different and does seem familiar in certain senses, but full marks to Kia for at least making the GT S version truly dribble-worthy.
It’s just a shame the lesser diesel and petrol models can’t be specified with styling enhancements to mimic the range-topper, but the Stinger is still way prettier than most genuine and potential rivals.
Inside the Stinger is just as eye-opening and positive as it is on the outside, and on its first stab at producing a gran turismo, Kia has nailed it. The GT S’ Nappa leather seats perfectly balance continent-crossing comfort with the hugging support needed for chasing the horizon and drifting around corners in sport+ mode.
Apart from the ambient lighting, fragrance diffusion, shiatsu massages and other pompous options offered by some rivals, the Stinger GT S’ cabin has it all. The trio of air vents looks great amidst the contemporary centre stack, the modern gear selector adds sophistication, the harman/kardon audio system with QuantumLogic Surround Sound is excellent, the surround camera system and infotainment system don’t disappoint, and there’s even a head-up display.
Comfort in the back is pretty good with legroom slightly bettering the Jaguar XE, while the 406-litre boot that expands to 1,114 litres by folding the rear seats looks ample at first glance and works well in practice. Audi’s S5 Sportback and BMW’s 4 Series Gran Coupe each offer considerably more boot space though, at 480 litres a piece. Larger drivers may find legroom a little cramped around the Kia’s pedals, but gripes really are minimal. Some additional carpet and leather in the lower regions would be welcome, it’s sacrilege how the plasticy centre of the steering wheel has been overlooked, the electric window switches also slightly dilute the premium vibe and it’s a pain not having a rear wiper. These minor criticisms really are scraping the barrel, though, as the Stinger GT S’ interior is otherwise close to perfect. Audi still leads the way with perceived build quality but the Kia remarkably gives BMW a run for its money and leaves Jaguar’s XE behind.
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.’
The Stinger GT S’ 365bhp 3.3-litre twin-turbo V6 T-GDi engine holds its own against any playground bullies, though. In fact, it’s a corker of a motor. Except for people who’ve been reared on a diet of RS, M and ’63’ AMG engines, Kia’s powerplant will tickle the senses of most experienced petrolheads and certainly mere mortals. With a healthy 510Nm torque on tap between 1,300rpm and 4,500rpm, the Stinger GT S feels every bit as quick as its 0-60mph time of 4.7 seconds conjures.
Unfortunately there are no real theatrics in the sound department, however, the exhaust never really making itself heard, particularly at lower speeds. Let’s face it, British roads don’t allow fast car owners to fully wring the proverbial sponge, so it’d be nice to hear some crackles and pops from the pipes. Still, it’s only a minor observation, the 3.3 otherwise performing brilliantly whether cruising in Eco or Comfort modes or when rotated into Sport or Sport+ (traction goes off) when its anger and hunger can be felt by a chomping throttle response and neck-cricking propulsion.
The electronically-adjustable all-independent suspension does a superb job, the adaptable damping coping excellently with the UK’s rubbish roads while enabling the Stinger to be chucked round corners at speed. Kia’s first rear-wheel drive car for the UK, the GT S is eager to oblige in the fun department and will even wag its tail in Eco mode. Still, it never feels unmanageable, the whole package coming together really well to successfully balance sporting performance with continent-crushing speed and comfort. The Brembo brakes bring it to a halt without any issues while the rack-mounted Motor Driven Power Steering provides more feel and feedback than a comparable Audi, Jaguar and Mercedes – and although it can’t match a BMW for engagement, it’s a great achievement. While it’s not the fieriest chilli out there and theoretically competes with the S5 Sportback instead of the RS5 and the BMW 440i M Sport Gran Coupe rather than the M4, that’s fine. After all, some people prefer to keep their taste buds intact.
The Kia’s 28.5mpg average fuel consumption is, to its credit, achievable in the real world even with plenty of pedal-stomping antics, but sounds awkward against the S5 Sportback’s 36.7mpg and 440i M Sport Gran Coupe’s 41.5mpg figures on paper. So does the Stinger GT S’ CO2 emissions figure of 225g/km compared to 159g and 174g from the BMW and Audi respectively.
Apart from the standard 8-speed automatic gearbox occasionally breaking its usual incredible smoothness by behaving a tad jerkily during hesitant acceleration, and the car typically doing a one-time lunge when the parking brake is applied in stationary traffic, the Kia Stinger GT S is a phenomenal car, not just as Kia’s debut GT effort but in general terms.
The Stinger GT S is more powerful and faster than the 326bhp/5.1 seconds BMW 440i M Sport Gran Coupe and narrowly offers more horsepower than the 354bhp S5 Sportback, which dispatches the 0-62mph sprint in the same time as the Kia but isn’t as fun in the wild sense because of its quattro system.
Kia keeps things simple, so for anyone who has set their heart on leasing a range-topping Stinger GT S, the only option that affects the price is the colour, with our best monthly contract hire deal currently at an attractive £455.88+VAT/month on a 6+35 lease with 10,000 miles per year. For comparison, we currently lease the S5 Sportback on the same profile for £549.99+VAT/month and the facelifted BMW 440i M Sport Gran Coupe for £#
Looking as beautiful as it does, Kia would’ve been forgiven for taking a leaf out of SKODA’s book and naming their gran turismo debutant the ‘Stunner’ instead. With an equally remarkable interior, good if not excellent luggage space, a brilliant engine and gearbox combo and rewarding handling, the Stinger GT S really is a ‘pint of milk’ car that will leave its custodians itching to drive at every opportunity.