Engine at the front, drive at the back. It’s a formula that once dominated the local motoring landscape.
When plated up properly, these ingredients offer something for the vast majority of car owners. Sure, there can be a packaging issue or two, but in the scheme of things the compromise was well worth it for the handling benefits the format could deliver.
Irrespective of the dynamic prowess, the market has spoken and large rear wheel drive cars are now in decline. SUVs now capture the lion’s share of new car attention and the momentum is with those who prefer to sit high.
Now it might be the neanderthal in me, but there’s something romantic about the legends – Sinatra, Presley, Dylan, McCartney and rear wheel drive.
Unfortunately for enthusiasts, the mainstream presents slim pickings. It’s the premium end of the market that houses the sporty sedans.
In an act of defiance, Kia is going against the trend and has invested heavily to keep the torque going exclusively to the rear axle. Obviously, the bean counters in the big office at Kia are fans of Kenny Rogers.
The 2018 Kia Stinger is now the flagbearer of obtainable, rear wheel drive performance. On test here is the GT variant, the flagship of the Stinger range, it’s priced at $59,990 plus on-road costs.
All the fruit is included, Nappa leather trim, heated and ventilated front seats, powered sunroof, 15-speaker Harmon/Kardon audio system, 360-degree camera and a head-up display are all standard.
Along with luxury and convenience features, safety is taken care of with autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian recognition, adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, high beam assist and rear cross-traffic alert. ANCAP has awarded the Stinger a five-star safety rating.
With so much standard equipment, the Stinger GT’s options list resembles a hastily constructed text message. The only things left to consider are the bimodal exhaust and colour.
Speaking of colour, our tester was dressed in Hichroma Red which greatly adds to the Stinger’s visual presence. And, it’s obviously faster.
While we could argue the toss all day, the Stinger is a looker. Kia’s latest design language woven through those classic GT proportions is beautifully executed. The tiger-nose grille, long bonnet, fastback roofline and quad exhaust deliver a sporty aesthetic that’s aiming for an emotional response.
Cabin quality is where Kia has made the greatest gains to its brand image. Kia is now consistently delivering classy, well thought out interiors and the Stinger GT is one of their best.
Occupants are ensconced in soft-touch materials that offer a premium tactile experience. Kia designers have got their eye in (Australia’s current top order should take note), there are plenty of details which give the GT the ammunition to challenge the status quo. Things like the lovely Nappa leather, sport steering wheel, brushed finish in the centre console and an instrument cluster that balances the modern convenience of a 7.0-inch digital driver’s display with traditional analogue gauges. From the front vantage points, the GT’s cabin blends sport and elegance.
The Stinger isn’t insulated from compromise. The sumptuous lines and curves of the fastback silhouette come at the cost of space in the second-row, especially headroom. There is some good news for those who aren’t riding shotgun, to keep the peace on long runs, Kia has included rear charging options.
Very few cars reach showrooms surrounded by the amount of hype that accompanied the Stinger, the drive needs to deliver, good simply won’t cut it.
Getting comfortable behind the wheel is easy courtesy of the electrically adjustable steering column and seat.
Press the button and the Stinger lets out a resolute growl that instantly justifies the purchase of the optional bimodel exhaust ($2660). It adds character. The standard exhaust is just too civilised.
Powering the Stinger GT is a 3.3-litre twin turbo petrol V6. The numbers are good, it develops 272kW of power, but it’s the 510Nm of torque available from only 1300rpm that’s most appealing. All that torque effortlessly propels the car in a straight line. For those chasing a fire, or just pretending to be Batman, launch control is there to help you achieve a fast start.
Aside from the power, to deliver a sporty drive, all V6 Stingers feature a limited-slip differential, variable gear ratio steering and Brembo brakes.
The eight-speed automatic transmission is an in-house unit. The shifts are crisp, changes in the lower ratios are often undetectable. In this application, the changes tend to happen far too early in pursuit of fuel efficiency. Switching to sport mode and using the paddles gives the driver the illusion of control, however, the omnipresent electronic supervisor is never far from the action. Keen drivers will want to feel as though they are calling all the shots.
Corner carving is where the Stinger holds a strong hand. Even at modest (road legal) speeds the bends reward keen drivers with a sense of accomplishment. The sharp steering and stiff chassis provide the foundation for uninhibited confidence to push a little harder. From behind the wheel, it’s easy to acknowledge the GT’s dynamic poise under pressure. It’s all about the balance baby!
Additional confidence is derived from the standard high-performance Brembo brakes comprising of 350mm discs with quad-piston calipers up the front and 340mm discs with dual-piston calipers at the rear.
The GT features an electronically-adjustable suspension system, named Dynamic Stability Damping Control by Kia. Operated via the drive mode selector, the system allows drivers to adjust the dampers to match their driving style and road conditions. The adjustable dampers do a much better job than the conventional set-up on the 330S and 330Si.
Essentially, the more sophisticated suspension means the Stinger remains comfortable regardless of the road. Even with 19-inch wheels wrapped in low profile Michelin hoops, poor surfaces pose no problems - important for a car designed to chew up the miles.
The letters GT get posted on the rear of many cars, very few are worthy of the designation. The range-topping Stinger is a proper GT car, it provides exceptional long-range refinement. It’s a great car to pilot during a long highway run.
We covered 1135 kilometres during our test week, returning a combined fuel consumption figure of 9.1L/100km. It’s worth noting, the majority of our driving was on the open road which is where the Stinger is most potent. If you’re anchored in town, the frequency of servo stops could prove tiresome.
Every Stinger is backed with a seven-year unlimited kilometre warranty, seven years of roadside assistance, along with seven years of capped-price servicing, which can be transferred to subsequent owners.
Maintenance is required every 12 months/10,000km with costs under the capped-price structure averaging $487 for each visit back to the dealer.
So another mountain has been climbed. Kia has delivered a genuine driver's car in the mould of a classic GT. It’s painfully ironic it comes at a time when SUVs dominate local roads.
Keen drivers who regularly encounter the open road will find the Stinger’s performance and comfort highly enjoyable.
This is one of those exceptionally rare examples of the hype being perfectly legitimate and easily justifiable. Kia’s first attempt at a car of this type has hit the target with such precision, Michael Diamond would be jealous. It’s cars like the Stinger that will be missed when the steering wheel is eventually removed.
In the mainstream, the Stinger is literally the last man standing. Without Kia, rear-wheel drive performance would be reserved for premium segments of the market and out of reach of the majority of enthusiasts.
Kia has plenty riding on the Stinger, it’s tasked with elevating the brand’s image. Not an easy task, but the car is up to it. To fully appreciate the Stinger, preconceived ideas need to be left at the door. While there is no winner in a conversation with a badge snob, the German equivalents are not worth the extra $40-$50k.
In GT spec, the Stinger makes the leap from a good car to a great car simply because it over-delivers. Even with all the hype, the Stinger is a better car than many would expect it to be. It’s a brilliant interpretation of a classic GT which brings to life the succinct words of Muhammad Ali.
2018 Kia Stinger GT Specifications
Price from $59,990 plus on-road costs Engine 3.3-litre turbocharged V6 petrol Power 272kW @ 6000rpm Torque 510Nm @ 1300-4500rpm Transmission eight-speed automatic Combined Fuel Consumption 10.2L/100km Tank Capacity 60L Performance 0-100 4.9 seconds Length 4830mm Width 1870mm Height 1400mm Wheelbase 2905mm Turning Circle 11.2m Tare Weight 1780kg Service Intervals 12 months/10,000km Warranty seven year/unlimited kilometre
More: All Reviews