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Owner Review

2017 Kia Stinger GT review

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I’ve been tempted to write a Stinger review for a while, but since so many people have already reviewed it, I thought I would wait a while, pile more kilometres on it and focus more on a longer-term ownership review. An ownership review of a newish car or something that you’ve owned for only a couple of weeks is maybe pointless since the purchase of the vehicle in the first place is a sign that you have a preference for such vehicle or maybe the brand in general.

Why did I decide to purchase the Stinger? In the days before the kids arrived, I would never have considered a SUV and I’ve always like sporty sedans. It would be no surprise to know that we have owned numerous BMW’s; no less than five 3 Series models. Okay I will admit it, I wanted a 340i but I am a bit over the fact that BMW will only give you a 3 year warranty and I also wanted something a bit bigger as well, since the two kids will still occasionally be transported.

The 340i ended up about $20k more than a similarly-equipped Stinger GT, but I was not going to buy a Stinger just because of features included; it had to drive like a proper sport(y) car. After a test drive, and 2 hours later, yes, Kia tried to copy the feel of a BMW and they have done a decent job at it.

So, a quick overview of the styling, interior and performance and then the stuff I don’t like. First of all, the interior is fairly premium. Not German luxury car premium but it sits somewhere between Mazda 6/Passat and the “Germans”. Everything is soft touch and the GT features real metal on the centre console and door panels. Add nappa leather, alcantara (or similar) headliner and it makes for a very nice place to sit in.

The exterior is probably not the epitome of stylish restraint but the sheer number of people that have asked me what it was clearly shows that Kia’s attempt at a halo car worked; personally the design has probably grown on me over the past 2 years of ownership. I’ve covered just over 30000km and the quality seems good enough with some minor niggles (I must add the following caveat that we live in a rural area with the last 4km to my house being a terrible gravel road, so about 8000km of the car's total mileage has been on these dusty gravel roads). The electric tailgate was subject to a recall to fix a rattle and the Android Auto USB port stopped working and had to be replaced.

The door rubbers block out dust well but seem to get dry from dust particles, which then makes them squeak. To stop that I must lubricate them with silicone spray every couple of months; to be fair our Volvo has the same problem, although to a lesser extent. Other than that the car only had scheduled maintenance and the front discs were skimmed lightly at the last service. Maybe it was Kia, or maybe it was us enjoying the mountains a bit too much. It also eats tyres at an alarming rate with the first (rubbish) set only lasting 20000km.

As for performance, this is why you would buy a Stinger in the first place. Why they offer a 2.0-litre version is beyond me, because at that point you can go to Holden or Toyota and save thousands. Okay, you will be missing out on rear-wheel drive and the interior is probably not as nice, but do you really need RWD dynamics with 180kW? The 3.3-litre twin turbo in the GT is epic and disappointing at the same time. It delivers torque low down in the rev range like nothing else at this price point and beyond. In fact, a friend driving a Guilia QV commented that if we raced with a 2500rpm limit the Stinger would probably win, and I think he is right.

That is unfortunately also a major drawback of this engine for me. A sporty car engine needs to love being revved out. His QV explodes into a symphony of sound, fire and fury beyond 4000rpm preparing to hurtle towards 7000rpm, and it's the same thing to a lesser extend in an M3 or even a 140i/340i. With the Stinger GT it is all over by 5500rpm as you shift to the next gear to ride the torque wave. Yes, it is brutally quick for a $55k car but it lacks drama. I do sound critical but I am not even going to compare it with Golf R’s or WRX STi’s or Arteons. Maybe your all-wheel drive and DSG “hard launch” can get you to 100km/h quickly, but in-gear these cars are not on the same level.

Not being content with Albert Biermanns work I decided to have the engine tuned/remapped to “fix” Kia's mistakes. The Stinger now makes around 540Nm and roughly 300kW at slightly higher RPM. I timed the 0-100km/h and it is still no better than 4.8 seconds, but the quarter-mile is now 0.2 seconds faster (12.9) although I still can’t match the 12.7 seconds CarAdvice got with the Stinger vs SS Commodore test (maybe Kia gave you guys a "special" Stinger :)). In a way, it still feels more like a very powerful diesel than a sports car, and overall my fix did not really work (Maybe this engine will do great work in a SUV Kia?).

Then we have the suspension. I know you were trying to build a GT Albert, but what have you done? The rear is too loose, period. With adaptive dampers you can select Sport, which makes it better but you still have a lot of side-to-side movement in the rear, and the front becomes too hard; unless the road is very smooth, which it is not because this is Australia. A custom setting to allow the rear to be in Sport and the front to be in Comfort would have been better, but this is by no means perfect.

On my “Sunday drive following the superbikes that uses a spotter” we have a regular who drives an M2. We’ve swapped cars twice and it is chalk and cheese. The M2 is just so composed and balanced. Both are a lot of fun but I probably would not see which way the M2 went in the twisties. My comparison is versus a BMW so it is a bit unfair but still… the feeling I have is that it was probably deliberately done to provide “space” for the Hyundai G70 to be tuned as a proper sports sedan while positioning the Stinger as a GT instead.

The other stuff is really not that important. It has a great stereo, is fairly economical at 10 litres per 100 kilometres (mid 7's on the freeway), a large boot, cooled seats, HUD etc etc. This car represents a big jump for Kia and as a value performance package it cannot be touched. It is also the end of an era. Mainstream performance sedans are dead and even the BMW/Audi/MB’s sedan numbers are plummeting. From a purely financial view this car must surely be a flop for Kia, but many people may for the first time notice Kia as a brand.

Well done Kia. Farewell fast petrol powered cars.

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