At risk of puncturing the suspense, the new news is this really is a very agreeable car. The old news is it labours under a terrible name. No, not Kia, you fools. Stinger. What were they thinking of, calling a car Stinger? Anyway, they were stuck with Kia. They actually chose Stinger. The Kia badge does OK on stuff like the Soul and Sportage. But this slinky-looking rear-drive hatch-cum-coupe is diving into colder, choppier waters. The BMW 4-Series Gran Coupe is the main rival, or the Audi A5. No pressure, then. This is the twin-turbo V6 one, knocking on 170mph. But that won’t be the seller among the Stingers.
If any version does shift units in the UK, it’ll be the 2.0-litre turbo petrol or the 2.2-litre diesel. But we’re still at late-prototype stage and there are none of those to test, so the 370bhp V6 it is, then. Poor little me. It looks great. The long, low proportions set the cabin well rearward, and from the back you notice a voluptuous swell over the rear wheels.
It’s longer than a 4-Series, with more wheelbase, and this means it’s got decent room for four despite the laid-back seats. It’s striking and graceful, and not too aggressive. That matches its driving character. Just as Kia had built its first chassis-test mule for the Stinger (under a Genesis body) the parent Hyundai Motors Corporation took on Albert Biermann, ex of BMW M, to be its boss of dynamics.
Though the engine is fundamentally an existing job, the chassis is largely new. The front suspension is entirely bespoke, the rear heavily modified from a Genesis. Adaptive dampers are standard on the V6. A big proviso. No actual road test here. We were confined to track-testing it.
At the Nürburgring, ground zero for irrelevant road-car stopwatch tomfoolery. OK, let’s make of this what we can. Its blind tightening corners, bumps and dips and crests do make a good job of imitating an interesting hilly road. The Stinger’s great talent is how natural it feels. You sit low, and address the wheel and pedals straight ahead.
That’s good for the articulation of your arms and legs. Then its reactions are reassuring and predictable. Big saloons with ‘sporty’ bent sometimes give you initial sog followed by a sudden twitch. Instead the Stinger is progressive. The roll, of which there isn’t too much, also develops in proportion. Which makes it a reassuring car to drive briskly.
It will react to trimming the line by throttle. Traction out of bends is stout, helped by an LSD, and the ESP does its work subtly. It’s not razor-sharp but it’s game and dignified and doesn’t feel out of its depth even under this provocation.
At 1,730kg, the Stinger isn’t a light car, because the body is almost all steel and it’s longer than direct competitors. But it manages the mass well in undulating corners. At wide-open throttle it doesn’t hang about: 5.1secs 0–62mph, says Kia. The engine lags a bit until you’ve got some revs up, then it hits its stride with a nice warble.
The transmission shifts slickly, but the paddles won’t entirely override it. The suspension seems to avoid too much bang ’n’ crash on notorious bits such as the Karussell, but really it’d be premature to give a verdict on ride comfort. One of the cars was noisy at big speed on the long straight, the other less so.
It was wind rush doing it, but door seals are often among the last things to be fully sorted before a car goes into production so I won’t hold that against it. Inside, Kia has gone for lots of hardware switches – the climate, stereo and seat heaters all have their own buttons (rivals do some or all of that on screens). I prefer the Kia approach.
You can do common things by sense of touch alone. A head-up display is augmented by a configurable TFT between the real dials. Some 15 speakers of Harman Kardon audio goodness are on the options list. The connectivity or active safety line-up is free of glaring omissions, but on the Low and straight-ahead driving position helps you feel in touch other hand the Stinger isn’t going to try to drive itself.
It comes to the UK in late autumn. No exact word on prices, but the hints are that it’ll cost slightly less than an equivalently powered 4-Series, despite being a bit bigger. In this territory Kia has to carry a badge discount compared with the Germans. Kia’s hope must be for the Stinger to cause people to take the rest of its range more seriously.