Apart from being “probably the sportiest production car” Kia’s chief designer has ever penned, Gregory Guillaume says the Kia Stinger is also very much a modern interpretation of iconic Gran Turismo models from the 1970s.
Speaking to Australian media at the Geneva motor show this week, Guillaume said that while building a traditional, two-door sports car would be a fun project, he’s smitten with the four-door, rear-drive Kia Stinger.
“Sure, [a ‘proper’ sports car] would be great,” Guillaume said. “But if you had told me seven years ago, ‘Gregory, you’re going to be launching in Geneva a four-door coupe for Kia,’ I would’ve said, ‘You’re kidding’.
“I’m very, very happy we got the chance to work on something like [the Stinger]. It’s probably the sportiest production car I’ve done in my whole career – and I’ve worked a long time before that at Audi and Volkswagen, and God knows how many proposals of coupes I’ve done that just don’t make it.
"And the one that makes it, is at Kia. I mean, how cool is that?"
Calling out practicality and rear passenger space as key reasons the South Korean brand opted to make the Stinger a large car over a mid-sized BMW 3 Series rival, Guillaume said the original Kia GT concept – shown at the 2011 Frankfurt motor show – was born out of a single question.
“That concept car was just the result of a question that we were asked by the headquarters: If we were going to go into a front-engine, rear-wheel-drive car in that segment, in that size, what should Kia do?
“And the reference in that segment worldwide is 3 Series BMW – everybody wants to beat that. But we said from the start, we actually don’t believe that’s what Kia should be doing. We thought, with us, it should be more about style and a car that’s more dynamic looking, and we started to go for this modern interpretation of a Gran Turismo.
“I always had in mind iconic GTs of the early 1970s [with] elegance. Sure, power and speed, but this Italian Gran Turismo. I had in mind one car always: it was the original, the very first Maserati Ghibli. The car has raw power and it’s fast, but that’s not what it’s about. It’s elegance. It’s style."
Guillaume says, growing up in France, legends like that first Ghibli were the ones he expected to see on the motorways, cruising from Paris to Saint-Tropez. "Work hard in Paris, go and have fun in the Cote d'Azur."
“We were looking for the modern interpretation of that. So, yes, Gran Turismo is about the long journey – yes, spirited driving – but it’s the long journey. You need comfort, you need style. So that’s why we went for that car, which has a much longer wheelbase than a 3 Series – or any car in that segment actually – because you give the occupants space.
“And automatically, if you make those choices, you’re not going to be as competitive in handling as a four-door much more compact solution like a 3 Series, but that was the choice we made. And we thought that was the right thing for us to do."
"But it is damn fast,” he adds, as though the Stinger's design and packaging needed any further justification.
The Kia Stinger is due to arrive locally later this year, with prices tipped to range between $40k-$50k for the 190kW/353Nm turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder and 272kW/510Nm twin-turbocharged 3.3-litre V6 engine options.
That said, Kia Australia has made clear that it fully understands just how crucial final pricing and positioning will be for the potentially Commodore-killing model.