Kia Stinger

Koreaís Sting operation brings rapid advance from the rear

BARRY PARK

Model Engine Max power Max torque Transmission Weight 0-100km/h Economy Price On sale Kia Stinger GT 3342cc V6 (60į), dohc, 24v, twin-turbo 272kW @ 6000rpm 510Nm @ 1300-4500rpm 8-speed automatic 1780kg 4.9sec (claimed) 10.2L/100km $59,990 Now

FIRST AUSSIE DRIVE

KIAíS breakthrough car is finally here. Flipping the traditional transverseengined, front-drive formula for a longitudinal rear-drive layout that will have purists licking their lips, the muscular Stinger also signals a more exotic styling direction for the once-maligned Korean brand.

Six models make up Stingerís Australian line-up: the fourcylinder 200S ($45,990), 200Si ($52,990) and GT-Line with adaptive dampers ($55,990), each powered by the Optima GTís ĎTheta IIí 2.0-litre turbo-petrol with 182kW/353Nm; and the sixcylinder 330S ($48,990), 330Si ($55,990) and range-topping GT with adaptive dampers ($59,990), each sporting a twin-turbo ĎLambda IIí 3.3-litre V6 with 272kW/510Nm.

All versions pair up with the second evolution of Kiaís eightspeed automatic, and all have driving modes spanning Smart (an auto mode), Eco, Comfort, Sport and Custom.

Stingerís headline status attracts a rich equipment list, including sat-nav and digital radio, full smartphone integration, a rear camera and auto-dimming rearview mirror, though Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) and collision alert is missing from the base S models. Stepping up from the four to the V6 costs just $3-4K.

A back-to-back test around Wakefield Park (on stiffer Michelin Pilot Sport rubber, not the standard-fitment Continentals) showed the engines deliver their performance very differently.

In tight corners, the V6 easily overwhelms rear-end grip, turning a dash of understeer into mild oversteer as the turbos spool up and the full serve of torque pours to the rear wheels like water from an up-ended bucket, as Kiaís ESC tune allows a hint of playful tailwagging.

And thereís a standard mechanical LSD, which definitely helps the V6 carve a more aggressive line than the four.

In contrast, the 2.0-litre delivers its smaller complement of power and torque much less forcefully, though it has a lightness across its front axle that eludes the V6.

Thereís an 87kg weight difference between the two, aiding the fourís handling poise and crispness.

Kia Ozís dynamic brief called for the GTís adaptive suspension to match the other carsí passive set-ups in terms of firmness and control, but itís the adaptive dampersí more supple ride in Comfort mode that endows the GT with the additional polish its flagship status deserves.

In terms of suspension set-up, the differences are all at the front.

The V6 gets its own springs and a lower-rate front anti-roll bar compared to the 2.0, but the rear spring rates and anti-roll bar are identical. Graeme Gambold, the chassis engineer tasked with tuning the Australian-market Stingerís suspension, says the GTís set-up in Sport mode is only ďslightly firmerĒ than the passive V6ís, but in reality it feels significantly stiffer.

On the road, every Stinger is an effortless cruiser, soaking up even big potholes with luxurycar refinement. The V6 GT, in particular, shines as a long-legged and accomplished cross-country tourer, marred only by overly sensitive throttle response and the transmissionís lazy reaction to paddle-shift commands.

Ultimately, though, itís Stingerís high-quality, thoughtfully detailed interior and its stand-out style that will create foot traffic in Kia showrooms. And once some extra exhaust sizzle gets added to the menu (see right), Stinger will have the bark to match its visual bite.

PLUS & MINUS

Mere $3K jump to the V6; twin-turbo grunt; chassis balance; styling Dull engine note; laggy 2.0-litre turbo; no AEB for base version

01 PARTY ON

With the stability control switched on, the Stingerís V6 revs out to 6000rpm. But if you switch it off, the twinturbo donk will party on to its 6500rpm cut-out. And once ESC is turned off, itís fully off.

02 BALANCE OF POWER

The twin-turbo V6ís 57:43 weight distribution gives it a noseheavy feel on track. In contrast, the 87kg-lighter four-cylinderís 55:45 balance makes it feel more naturally poised, aided by an engine sitting almost front-mid.

03 BACKGROUND NOISE

Kiaís aim is to have a Ďhotdogí exhaust bypass valve, which will add much-needed aural excitement to the V6, ready by Stingerís October 1 on-sale. Itís also working on a similar set-up for the four-cylinder.

Whip it

Every version of the Stinger gets launch control. Select Sport mode, depress the brake pedal, hold the traction-control button down for three seconds until an orange ĎLAUNCH CONTROLí alert flashes in the centre of the cluster, and then mash the accelerator so that revs rise to sit below 3000rpm. Release the brake pedal within four seconds and the Stinger will try and nail its official 0-100km/h claims Ė 6.0sec for the four, and 4.9sec for the V6, which is two tenths better than we achieved from a preproduction version without launch control.

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