Car manufacturers love a special edition. It's an opportunity to add some bling or throw some extra equipment into the mix in order to shift more metal. Usually, this happens when a particular model is nearing the end of its life, presenting carmakers with an interesting dilemma of what to do with remaining stock.
And that’s almost certainly the case with the 2020 Kia Stinger GT Carbon Edition. There’s a new, facelifted Stinger slated to appear before the end of the year, so adding a generous helping of genuine carbon fibre and a smattering of Alcantara inside help maintain the Stinger’s appeal.
There’s a premium to pay for this embellishment, however, the Carbon Edition asking for $64,990 plus on-road costs, around $4000 more expensive than the regular Stinger GT, sans carbon. That circa-$65K price tag also makes it the most expensive Stinger money can buy, but you do get a level of exclusivity for your money, with only 130 of the carbon-fibre-shod GTs making their way Down Under. At last count, Kia Australia reckoned they only had “a handful left”. Get in quick.
|2021 Kia Stinger GT Carbon Edition|
|Engine||3.3-litre twin-turbo V6|
|Power and torque||272kW @ 6000rpm, 510Nm @ 1300-4500rpm|
|Drive type||Rear-wheel drive|
|Fuel claim combined (ADR)||10.2L/100km|
|fuel use on test||10.5L/100km|
|Boot volume (rear seats up / down)||406L / 1114L|
|ANCAP safety rating||5 (tested 2017)|
|Warranty||7 years / unlimited km|
|Main competitors||Holden Commodore (if you can find one), Skoda Superb|
|Price as tested||$64,990|
In terms of rivals, there really are none, not with a similar drivetrain or at that pricepoint. There’s the $51,990 Holden Calais, but it’s soon to disappear forever, if it hasn't already. The Skoda Superb is a closer match on price in 206TSI Sportline trim coming in at $56,790, but really, it’s not the same animal.
The Stinger, it seems, is a bit of a unicorn, underscoring just how unpopular the once mighty large sedan has become. Which is a shame, because the Kia Stinger GT, whether embellished with carbon fibre or not, is a cracking sports sedan.
Let’s look at what makes the Stinger GT Carbon Edition a carbon edition. Of course, it’s in the name, with generous helpings of genuine carbon fibre.
There’s a fair bit of the stuff to justify its circa-$4000 premium over the regular GT – the grille surround, mirror caps, side vents, rear diffuser and those fake vents on the bonnet (‘hood garnish’ in Kia-speak) are all finished in carbon fibre. And we have to admit, it looks pretty good, especially when it catches the sun lighting up that signature honeycomb weave. For good measure, Kia has thrown in an Alcantara-wrapped steering wheel as part of the Carbon Edition package.
In every other respect, it’s a Kia Stinger GT with the same 3.3-litre twin-turbo V6 making 272kW and 510Nm channelled straight to the rear wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission. And that’s no bad thing, the Stinger GT a throwback to another time when large and powerful sedans roamed the Earth with abandon and SUVs were still simply known as four-wheel drives.
Kia claims the Stinger GT will cover the sprint from standstill to 100km/h in just 4.9 seconds, and that feels about right. Previous CarAdvice testing has actually bettered that time, twice recording 4.8 seconds. It’s quick, then, proper quick.
It’s a crackerjack engine, too. Gruff and angry when it needs to be, composed and compliant when it doesn’t.
There’s a predictable nature to how the GT hunkers down and gets away, with a muted but still apparent angry growl. Ask too much too soon, and the rear does sometimes want to break free. But thanks to traction-control nannies, the Stinger GT remains facing the right way, and your right foot becomes a little more circumspect.
Cruising around town highlights several things, not least of all the effortless nature of that 3.3-litre V6. It’s quiet, powerful and entirely linear in its delivery. There’s no lag or hesitation from standstill, just an easy lope through the streets of your town. Some performance cars are too much for the daily 50km/h grind. This isn’t one of them, remaining relaxed and unruffled, but with the knowledge that it could leap into action when asked.
The daily grind also highlights Kia’s local suspension tuning, the Stinger GT remaining unflustered by the worst of Sydney’s suburban roads, certainly in Comfort mode. It is firm, even in Comfort, but it’s a pliant firm that doesn’t rattle your fillings.
Dial it up a notch to Sport and everything changes. The ride becomes firmer and flatter, but then it needs to be to harness all that performance lurking under the bonnet. Some spirited driving can’t help but elicit smiles as the Stinger GT simply roars at the skies and propels itself forward with intent.
Sport mode tightens the seat bolsters, adds some meatiness to the steering wheel, and sharpens throttle and transmission response. It all adds up to an engaging package that makes it so easy to understand why enthusiasts, although their ranks are dwindling, still cherish powerful, rear-wheel-drive sedans.
A spirited drive underscores how much fun the Stinger GT can be. With drive mode set to Sport, the big rear-wheel-drive sedan behaves predictably and with some mean intent. The staggered Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tyres (225/40ZR19 at front and 255/35ZR19 rears) provide plenty of grip, instilling confidence in the GT’s ability to hustle corners with some intent.
Our one gripe remains with the eight-speed auto transmission, which isn’t as eager to hold on to gears as you might think, especially in manual mode while using the steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters. There’s a tendency for the auto to override your own desires, shifting up or down when it deems necessary, not when you want. That said, leave it in auto and hustle on and the transmission offers sharp and responsive shifts at – mostly – the right time.
The steering remains nice and direct, and in Sport mode has some meat on its bones. There’s no mystery as to what’s happening under the wheels either, with feedback precise and predictable.
Stopping power comes courtesy of a meaty Brembo package and offers predictable and linear retardation, even under harder applications. Brake fade? Nope. Not even after repeated harder stopping. It’s comforting and confidence-inspiring.
Out on the highway, the Stinger GT lives up to its ‘GT’ badging, providing an effortless 110km/h cruise that seems almost pedestrian. The cabin remains quiet and the ride, back now in Comfort mode, gobbles up all the little joins and patchy repairs with barely a ripple felt inside.
Inside remains a pleasant place to be. Other than the Alcantara-wrapped wheel, the inside of the Stinger GT remains as it has been in the past. And that’s no bad thing. For a mainstream brand, Kia has done a decent job of presenting a premium cabin.
The choice of materials, the design, and the level of equipment are befitting a car that wants for circa $65K.
The leather seats are comfortable and supportive, electrically adjustable, and with heating and cooling for the front row. An 8.0-inch touchscreen anchors the Stinger’s infotainment with Apple and Android smartphone mirroring, sat-nav, a 360-degree camera, and DAB+ radio that’s played through premium 15-speaker Harman Kardon sound system.
There’s also wireless phone charging to complement the array of plugs and ports – two USB ports, one each for the front and second rows, and two 12V outlets, again one per row of seating.
The second row is spacious enough, but thanks to that sloping roof line of the Stinger’s liftback silhouette, head room does become a little impacted for anyone over 180cm. Still, the seats are comfortable, and knee and leg room are decent.
There are air vents back there, too, and the entire cabin remains light and airy thanks to the standard-fit panoramic roof.
For those with little ones, there are ISOFIX mounts on the outboard seats and three top-tether anchors across the back row.
Boot space measures in it at 406L with the back row in use, expanding to 1114L with that second row folded away. There are bag hooks back there, too, to help you secure your load, while a space-saver spare lives under the floor.
The Kia Stinger GT carries a five-star ANCAP rating awarded back in 2017. As well as a full complement of airbags for both rows, there’s plenty of advanced safety technology to help prevent or mitigate accidents.
Autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, active bonnet that lifts in the event of an emergency to lessen the impact with a pedestrian, and driver-attention alert are all standard alongside the mandatory systems like anti-lock brakes and traction control.
Fuel use comes in at a claimed 10.2L/100km with Kia reckoning it’ll happily drink 91RON. We’d recommend premium unleaded, however. Our week with the Carbon Edition returned a reading of 10.5L/100km against that claim, which is pretty decent considering the size and weight (tare mass 1780kg) of the Stinger GT. It’s even more impressive considering we did have some playful fun with the GT, usually not an ally of frugal fuel use.
Like the broader Kia range, the Stinger GT is covered by Kia’s excellent seven-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty, which continues to lead the way in the new-car world, even as some manufacturers are starting to match that surety.
Servicing intervals are on the slim side, certainly in terms of distance, with the GT needing a check-up every 10,000km or 12 months, whichever comes first. Kia also offers capped-price servicing, and for the Stinger GT that runs to $4068 over seven years or 70,000km, broken down in order as $336, $522, $457, $776, $378, $714 and $885.
There’s no question the Kia Stinger GT deserves a place in the automotive landscape, if only as a reminder of what cars can still be like in an avalanche of SUVs and utes. That it matches its ethos with a great driving experience should be applauded. The Carbon Edition neither diminishes nor enhances the driving experience, but it does add some flair to what is already a compelling car.