Kia Stinger GT

Kia proves there’s life in the rear-drive sports sedan yet

by LOUIS CORDONY

ENGINE 3342cc V6, DOHC, 24v, twin-turbo / POWER 272kW @ 6000rpm / TORQUE 510Nm @ 1300-4500rpm / WEIGHT 1780kg / 0-100KM/H 4.9sec (claimed) / PRICE $59,900

STAR RATING 4.0

Like Proper grunt; decent chassis; loads of kit Dislike Turn-in; quiet exhaust; no manual mode ANBERRA’S an ironic place to launch the Kia Stinger. It will occupy a segment left vacant by the end of local manufacturing, an outcome some argue the nation’s capital could have avoided.

The upside to this is we’ve driven new Kia’s five-door just as you lot would. We’ve trundled through road works, cruised down the highway to Wakefield Park and cut a couple of laps in anger, cycling through the lineup as we went.

Engine capacity splits the six variants into two groups, with a 182kW/353Nm 2.0-litre turbo four kicking things off before a 272kW/510Nm 3.3-litre twin-turbo V6 fills out the premium spots. Both are C married to an eight-speed auto.

We’ve focused on the V6, partly because it features more toys, like Brembo brakes, variable-rate steering, and a mechanical LSD, but mainly because there’s an extra 90kW/157Nm spinning the rear boots, putting the Stinger V6 lineball with a first-gen VF SS or XR6 Turbo.

Four cylinders or six, though, Aussies will find the Stinger’s dimensions familiar. Its 2.9m wheelbase matches the Commodore’s, while its lift-back body is 85mm shorter (4830mm) and 28mm narrower (1870mm).

Settling into the front pews – nappa leather in our top-shelf GT variant – suggests the raked turret and sloped silhouette have penalised interior space a tad. Inside feels snug for a 178cm bloke, and headroom would seem cramped for anyone over sixfoot.

There’s little else to fault inside.

Besides some buttons hinting at the maker’s cheap and cheerful origins, the cabin is a classy affair with tech that feels worth the GT’s $59,990 ask.

Although you’re aware of tyre and wind noise, they don’t spoil the ambience. Unfortunately, pushing the start button doesn’t either. A muted, artificial note is all the 3.3-litre V6 currently produces, however, Kia says its optional dealer-fitted exhaust will be ready by the time you read this.

Power is easily accessed due to the throttle pedal’s short-travel and sharp mapping. The V6 might lack an LS3’s pipes, but the good news is it’ll punch the Stinger sideways and

lay fat elevens, furiously piling on the pace whether on the move or from a standing start.

On the right surface, Kia’s 4.9sec 0-100km/h claim is realistic. Launch control isn’t just a stall up, either, but an ESP mode that monitors traction for the first 20 metres or so. Still, 510Nm from as early as 1300rpm catches out the 255mm rears tyres easily.

Meanwhile, Kia’s eight-speed auto upshifts smoothly, kicks down quickly, and obeys paddle commands, but sadly doesn’t have a true manual mode and can get a little flustered when downshifting.

Spilling out on to Wakefield Park reveals the Stinger is no track car.

Hard braking can unsettle it while the front-end lacks communication. Its ContiSportContact 5s can’t cope with a day’s work, either.

What’s promising is how much lighter the Stinger feels than its 1780kg. The GT’s stiffer front suspension and adaptive dampers sharpen its changes of tack, at times approaching the poise and balance of Holden’s hallowed SS-V Redline.

Out on the highway the Stinger’s lesser siblings gain the upper hand.

The GT’s damper modes, selected via a dial on the centre console, range between too soft in Comfort and too stiff in Sport, whereas the regular S ($48,990) or SI’s ($55,990) passive setup is suppler, yet controlled – an excellent compromise.

So the Stinger GT isn't quite a Commodore SS-V Redline slayer yet, but Kia’s first stab at a large reardrive sedan is a solid one. Even the four-cylinder car is an entertaining steer. With only a short drive, we’re salivating to spend more time in one.

And if lugging four people across country in a fast, well-appointed sedan for less than $60K sounds like your bag, you should be too. M

The twin-turbo V6 will punch the Stinger sideways and lay fat elevens while furiously piling on the pace