2018 Kia Stinger GT Crashes the German Party: 7 First Impressions

5. Interior impresses, but only to a (price) point

Like nearly any Kia or Hyundai, the Stinger goes head-to-head on features with cars that cost more. A short list of available goodies includes a 16-way power driver’s seat with adjustable bolsters; soft Nappa leather; a knockout Harman Kardon audio system with 15 speakers, 720 watts, seat-mounted subwoofers and resonance chambers in the center roof pillars; a head-up display; and 18 different driver assistance systems. There’s even some genuine metal trim. The whole thing looks remarkably spiffy for a car that starts below $33,000, despite obvious shout-outs to the Germans like the yacht-like (and Audi-esque) console shift lever, or “turbine wheel” vents straight from the Mercedes playbook. But in terms of perceived luxury, not to mention design originality and sophistication, the Kia won’t be confused with pricier Audis, Bimmers, and Benzes that it competes well with in other areas. Though at these prices, it’s probably unfair to expect everything.  

6. Don’t car designers have to sign non-compete clauses?

Even after spending a half-day in a convoy of Stingers, my eyes glanced at the tail of a silver car, and my brain said: “Hey, what’s that Audi doing here?” Peter Schreyer was a leading Audi designer, likely destined for the company’s top spot, before Hyundai poached him as its design chief. (Schreyer now leads global design for both Hyundai and Kia.) Like Ian Callum—the chief designer who moved from Aston Martin to Jaguar, and promptly cribbed from his own DB7 to create the Jaguar XK—before him, Schreyer clearly has no compunction about pilfering his sketches from the Audi wastebasket. Kia executives in Los Angeles, to their credit, didn’t even argue when I called Stinger an Audi A7 homage. “Oh, absolutely,” one said. (Now, if I had said “shameless rip-off,” an argument might have ensued.) There’s arguably a touch of Jaguar in the roofline and sinewy flanks, as well. But hey: If you’re going to copy, copy from the best, right? 

7. If styling traces to Ingolstadt, performance inspiration hails from Munich

Schreyer isn’t the only top talent plucked from Deutschland. Albert Biermann was the longtime chief engineer of BMW’s renowned M Division before taking his talents to South … Korea. As director of high-performance development for Hyundai and Kia, Biermann has worked his Bavarian magic on the Stinger. That includes personally leading 6,000 development miles on the Nürburgring Nordschliefe, and 1 million miles of testing overall. Those ‘Ring miles helped develop robust cooling for engine and transmission oil, and all manner of performance goodies: An adaptive suspension, torque vectoring, Brembo brakes with four-piston front calipers, an optional GKN limited-slip differential (for GT models), and, for AWD models, a rear-biased AWD system.

A five-position drive mode selector adjusts the electronic suspension, steering, throttle, stability control, and an eight-speed, paddle-shifted automatic transmission, which was developed in-house. To smooth aerodynamic function at that lofty 167 mph, the Stinger gets front wheel air curtains with functional vents, a full belly pan with engine-cooling NACA ducts, and an elegantly curling trunk-lid spoiler that does its job with no weighty motors and moving parts. New Michelin Pilot Sport 4 all-season tires, tuned especially for the Stinger, are derived from Formula E racing experience, with Michelin claiming best-in-class dry- and wet grip, excellent steering reactivity, and generous wear characteristics. How well does it all come together? Check back on Oct. 6 for all the relevant beeswax on the Stinger.

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