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Usually, I’m not inspired by anything that James ‘Captain Slow’ May does. But ever since I saw him drive Kia’s ostentatious new grand touring car, aggressively named Stinger, I have wanted to get my hands on it. The one I find myself staring at isn’t the same shade of maroon that May raced against a believe-it-or-not, a couple of skateboards! The Kia Stinger GT I have is in a particularly sparkling shade of white. It’s not blindingly beautiful like the Ferrari 812 or wildly aggressive like the F-Type but there’s an aggressive sportiness about its demeanour. Low slung, squat, wide, swoopy and with just enough bling to help you yank every eyeball on the road towards you, the Stinger GT cuts an impressive figure. Even in a crowd of cars that might be worth twice as much money. From the valet at the hotel in Delhi to pedestrians to IT guys car pooling themselves back home late at night when we were shooting, everyone stopped for a second (and sometimes third) glance at this svelte Korean.
“The slight twitch of the tail as you step on the gas exiting a corner leaves you in no doubt that you have a partner who’s willing to engage with the hooligan you.”
Step inside and you’re staring at top notch quality. Barring a couple of switches and buttons that look uncomfortably similar to the stuff you get in the far more sober surrounds of passenger cars sold by Kia’s Korean compatriot, everything feels like they’ve come from the top drawer. As far as design goes, it’s truly amazing how Kia seems to have been inspired by elements of design from other brands and has brought it all together. Sit inside and different parts of the cabin will remind you of different things. For instance the round turbo-fan like air con vents with the touchscreen popping out of the dash above it will take you back to the A3. The speakers on the door are unmistakeably Mercedes and the upholstery reminded me of the Lexus Sirish drove for our March issue of evo India. Under normal circumstances I would have berated Kia and accused it of plagiarism, but in the Stinger GT that’s not the case at all for it is a brilliant sum of its parts. When you look at the cabin in totality you quickly realise you are staring at a brand new car.
“Every gadget you can think of, or want, the Kia has. And more.”
It’s also an extremely comfortable cabin with plenty of space. This is a proper four-seater, five if you count a child in the centre of the rear seat, where the adults at the rear aren’t sitting with their knees into your back. The plush leather seats are well cushioned and offer excellent support. I particularly liked the function where you can increase lateral support at the touch of a button. My only crib with the Stinger GT was the fact that the read out from the head up display (of course it has an HUD) isn’t hundred per cent crisp and sometimes you can’t see it at all, especially when you put the headlamps on high beam.
Every gadget you can think of, or want, the Kia has. And more. It has enough safety features to eyeball a Volvo, which is really saying something. Apart from the usual electronic safety net offered by ESP, TCS and what not, the Stinger GT gives off blind spot indication warning, both on ORVM as well as on the HUD. There is the equivalent of Volvo’s City Safety wherein the car will apply the brake on its own if it senses you’re about to crash. But the Stinger also warns you of collisions from the rear. Hopefully they will provide this in all cars they sell in India. God knows we need it.
But a plush cabin, plenty of features and extraordinary safety kit isn’t what you’ll want this car for. What you really want this car for is under that long and sculpted hood. Pop that hood and you’ll find yourself staring at a 3.3-litre twin turbo V6 mated to a quick shifting 8-speed auto ’box. And please don’t ask if it is a petrol. The petrolhead in me would be offended if it wasn’t. Nor are we entertaining queries about fuel economy. The claimed 11.4kmpl really doesn’t matter in a car like the Kia Stinger. What matters are the 370 flashy stallions that gallop to the rear wheel accompanied by 510Nm of muscle. Makes you wonder if the Stinger was indeed born in the same country that provides our roads with the innumerable modest passenger cars.
“The Stinger GT cuts an impressive figure. Even in a crowd of cars that might be worth twice as much money.”
The shove from this Euro VI compliant unit is enormous. Smack her hard on the rump and you’ll find yourself propelled towards the horizon at a velocity that will pull your cheeks apart until you’re grinning from ear to ear. And speaking of ears that brraapp! from the exhausts when the Stinger takes off is so addictive it should be contraband. In kick down mode, there’s a slight pause as the turbos scroll up, and then all hell breaks loose as she cannons ahead.
Yet, if there’s a Mr Hyde in there, so is Dr Jekyll. When you are not in the mood to let loose, the Stinger is a silent and smooth operator. Potter through traffic or cruise on the highways and it’s all effortless. Exactly as it should be in a GT car. But if you want to have some fun, just tug on the left paddle behind the flat bottomed leather wrapped sporty steering wheel. The cogs swap and you’re back in Hyde zone, blasting up a canyon or around a race track as you go through the ’box.
Having spent half a decade of my life in Delhi NCR, I knew there wouldn’t be any opportunity to really test the Stinger GT’s handling. So I zeroed in on a few clover leafs and a couple of roundabouts. Stable at fast cruising speeds, the Stinger GT displays an endearing edginess when pushed really hard. The slight twitch of the tail as you step on the gas exiting a corner leaves you in no doubt that you have a partner who’s willing to engage with the hooligan you. Even so, all silly antics bear the mark of maturity. There’s an air of stability and confidence that doesn’t leave you feeling scared.
And you experience this maturity best when you’re faced with some patchy tarmac. A car of this nature, you expect her to be rough and skittish when the going is anything but smooth. Yet, over bad roads there is composure and a compliance from the suspension that is unexpectedly comfortable. Sure it’s firm. It has to be if it hopes to get ahead in life as a GT car, but it’s not uncomfortable and jarring as it could have been.
Wonderful product though it may be, there’s a catch to the Kia Stinger GT. Actually, a couple of catches to be honest. First, Kia’s current product plans don’t see this baby figure anywhere. At least, nowhere that Kia is willing to reveal at this point in time. The first Kia that will go on sale is the production version of the SP5 SUV that we’ve seen at the Auto Expo. The second and third could be the nine-seater Carnival MPV and the Rio sedan (the 5-door version of which Sirish drove in Russia when the World Cup fever was at its peak). As a matter of fact this car might not even come to India.
And while, we’re with you in your disappointment, there’s that slight issue of pricing that Kia will need to sort out before the Stinger GT can drive into an Indian showroom. With prices and duties on CBUs being the way they are, it is unlikely that Kia will be able to price this below the Rs 65-70 lakh bracket. Stretch your budget to 75 and you can also choose between a Ford Mustang or a Mercedes-AMG CLA 45. And if you opt for the Volvo S60 Polestar you’re also staring at nearly a million to a million and a half rupees saved. Given that the Kia badge simply doesn’t have the same brag rights a Mustang or an AMG and a million rupees is a lot to argue with, the Stinger GT will be a hard sell.
Such niggling issues aside however, there is no doubt that the Stinger GT is a brilliant product. One that deserves to be on our roads. Besides it would make for a lovely halo product for a Korean brand that has just started building a reputation for itself here in India. Kia, are you getting the hint that we at evo India are so helpfully offering?
|Kia Stinger GT|
|Engine type||Twin turbo V6 petrol|
|Maximum power||370bhp @ 6000rpm|
|Maximum torque||510Nm @ 1300-4500rpm|
|Top speed (claimed)||270kmph|
|0-100kmph (claimed)||4.9 sec|