The Kia Stinger was a shock and surprise to pretty much everyone when the car first came to light in early 2017. The midsize sports sedan (well, it's actually a fastback or Sportback since the rear isn't a boot but is a hatch lift gate) has been designed to establish Kia's prowess and potential by squarely taking aim at the performance set from Germany. So it's not surprising that its lead designer and engineer are German! The latter is Albert Biermann, former deputy at BMW's M Division. And that perhaps tells you why the car is a rear wheel drive - Kia's very first!
Of course you can opt for all wheel drive on the Stinger, and speaking of options, there are 3 powertrains to choose from. Yes this becomes academic since there are no realistic plans for the car to come here. But it creates a tantalising flagship for the brand for sure. And given its promise of performance, I figured its best to test it on the road and also on the track. Adding to my resolve was the fact that I had range-topping V6 petrol model with me.
Now that you do know what the Stinger is all about, I simply had to bring it to what's the ideal location to really test it correctly. And in India the best place to do that is the BIC or the Buddh International Circuit. And so I had the track at my disposal, I had got the car, and off I went! Now I haven't the foggiest why Kia chose to ship one to India in white. Hi Chroma Red or Micro Blue Pearl would have been my choice! Oh well, what can I say? Now I had already enjoyed driving it in traffic, but it was time for some real fun! Yes, even though it's a boring white!
Globally, in the markets, where the Stinger is offered, Kia has three engine options. There is a 2.2-litre CRDi diesel - which I am told is not so hot. There is 2.0-litre petrol, and of course the 3.3-litre petrol V6 as well - which is the car I was driving. On all three you can pay extra for the optional all-wheel-drive system. And all three of them use the same 8-Speed Automatic Gearbox. The 3.3-litre twin-turbo Lambda II V6 puts out 365 bhp and a massive 510 Nm of peak torque, that comes in as low as 1300 rpm. The car is quick and you get that sense from it straight away. Of course I didn't need to go to the track to tell you that, having experienced that out on the open road. But on the track, when it is truly uninhibited, is really when you get a sense of its big claim - 0 to 100kmph in just 4.7 seconds!
For a car that is 4830 mm long, the chassis is well tuned to give you a sense of a much shorter car. The chassis balance is what grabs you about the Stinger and also its very responsive and precise steering. The V6 doesn't scream the delicious note you get from the AMGs but will certainly stay on par with the Audi S5's V6. The car cruises with ease, and gets to triple digits very easily too. The Stinger GT takes corners with surprising precision, though it can feel a bit floaty over undulations.
So could the engine have been more powerful, more potent? Sure! But then you know it's a sports sedan; it's not trying to be a sports car. It does the job and does it well. But speaking of doing the job, that's almost just about all you get from the gearbox. That's the one chink in its armour. Out in traffic, I had no real complaints, but on the track, you see what's missing. It's just not quick enough and doesn't keep pace with the rest that's happening on the drivetrain. Even when you use the paddle shifters, it's just not quick enough.
I have to admit, a part of me wanted the Stinger to make more noise in Sport mode. Speaking of which there are way too many modes on this car. And they're not a whole lot different from each other. Sport mode is where it stays its stiffest and it's noisiest. And that's where I kept it here at the Buddh Circuit. On the road though, I had tried other modes extensively. There is a little knob down below the gearstick that lets you access the modes. The default is Comfort mode, and then you can go up to Sport, Custom or Individual mode that lets you customise settings as per your preference, Eco mode and something called Smart mode. That's something new and frankly it's a nice idea. I am not sure it works very well; I haven't spent enough time with the car to fully judge it. But what it's meant to do is actually respond to your driving style. So it will give you the most optimal, the most efficient performance, without taking away anything that you want from your kind of drive intent. And frankly I think that is something that could really catch on.
The Stinger GT certainly looks the part of a high-end, well built, performance sedan. The proportions, lines and styling scream quality, and it's in the face that you will find its at it sexy best. In fact up front is where the car is at its most attractive for sure. The front grille has the same diamond like effect as the previous A-Class and the AMG GT. The double J-like daytime running light graphic is a bit Jaguar-like. But the grille shape is unmistakably the Kia trademark tiger nose. And like the mirrors it's finished in a smoky bronze finish - which you may or may no like. But on the whole, the car looks very stylish, is well finished and certainly looks more high-end than what you'd expect from the Kia badge. At the back it's got that typical GT like profile. It's technically not a sedan because it's got a 'lift back' tailgate.
Inside the cabin, the Stinger will really impress. Of course, you could have had better quality when it comes to leather or plastics. But given what you really expect from a brand like Kia, this completely knocks you out. And that is in terms of layout/design, materials and equipment. A 7" screen between the dials gives you a whole lot of information like the selected drive mode, the temperature and a very handy trip computer.
The big screen in the central console is done in a floating style, and it's almost a little difficult to reach when you are driving - kind of a good thing from a safety point of view. But when you do fiddle with it, it's packed with features, and is very easy to use. The touchscreen is intuitive and gives you access to navigation, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, and loads more.
The flagship product for the Korean brand, the Kia Stinger GT is a very capable, cleverly designed and well-built sports sedan. It truly lives up to Kia's tag line - The Power To Surprise! The car will impress you enough to want one. And maybe, just maybe you may be able get one sometime soon.
So, will the Kia bring the Stinger to India? Well that's a million dollar question and frankly no final decisions on that from the company. But 'should' it bring this car to India? My answer is a resounding YES. I have several reasons for saying that. Not only will it be a great flagship - and mind you it shouldn't be the first launch, it should probably be the third or fourth - but it could really set a different kind of benchmark for people here in India, people who want a sport sedan and can't afford the ones that are currently available. So we are talking about taking on the likes of the Audi S5 - potentially its chief target - but at a much lower price - say about ₹ 55 lakh? Now can I take it you're interested?
(Images By: Pawan Dagia)