DETROIT – Kia’s ad tagline – the power to surprise – never rang truer than it did in the cavernous environs of the Russell Industrial Center in midtown Detroit on Sunday night.
There, in front of a packed room of international media on the eve of the North American International Auto Show, the Korean auto giant unveiled its first bonafide high-performance sports sedan with the reveal of the 2018 Stinger.
If the Stinger name sounds vaguely familiar, it should, although a bit of explaining is required.
This car is NOT related to the GT4 Stinger coupe concept that Kia paraded through the auto show circuit a few years back, but is instead based on the GT sedan concept first revealed at the Frankfurt Motorshow in 2011.
Will a car based on the GT4 ever make it to production? We can only hope.
At any rate, the production Stingers – due to begin arriving in Canada by the end of the year – bring impressive credentials to the table.
While Kia Canada reps have yet to confirm the number of trims, pricing and whether or not rear-wheel drive models will make it to the Great White North (AWD is a a given), the nuts and bolts (no pun intended) of the Stinger have been laid bare, and it looks promising.
Overseen by Kia Global Design Chief Peter Schreyer, the Stinger is a product of the company’s Frankfurt studio (also responsible for the GT concept) and it bears a strong resemblance to not only its concept forebear, but other members of the Kia family.
It’s long, sleek lines punctuated by details like hood vents, front air intakes, side aero vents and rolled, quad-tip exhaust outlets framed with a large diffuser certainly make the Stinger look the Gran Turismo part.
“A true gran turismo, a car for spirited long-distance driving, is not about outright power, hard-edged dynamics and brutal styling, all at the expense of luxury, comfort and grace,” Gregory Guillaume, chief designer Kia Motors Europe said in a statement.
Underpinning the Stinger’s good looks is a shortened version of the Genesis G80 chassis that retains a longer wheelbase (2,906 mm) than some of its intended competition, including the Audi A4, BMW 4-Series Gran Coupe, Infiniti Q50 and Lexus IS.
At 4,831 mm, the Stinger is also longer and wider (1,869 mm) than not only those, but also the Lexus GS and Mercedes-Benz CLS.
The chassis will be comprised of 55 percent advanced high-strength steel designed to deliver a high degree of stiffness for enhanced ride and handling characteristics.
These aspects of the Stinger were led by Albert Biermann, head of Kia’s Vehicle Test and High Performance Development, and his group of engineers who put the car through its paces both in Korea and on Germany’s famed Nurburgring circuit.
Biermann, who joined the Hyundai Motor Group in December 2014, spent more than 30 years at BMW, most recently as vice-president of engineering for the M line.
The Stinger’s suspension is a MacPherson strut (front) and multi-link (rear) set-up, designed to provide optimal feedback for the driver. It will also have Dynamic Stability Damping Control, an electronically adjustable suspension (a Kia first) that will enable the driver to variably stiffen and soften the front and rear shocks to improve cornering and stability through five drive modes (also a Kia first): Personal, Eco, Sport, Comfort and Smart.
On the powertrain front, the Stinger gets a 2.0-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder (255 hp / 260 lb-ft.), while the Stinger GT will be powered by a 3.3-litre twin-turbo V6 (365 hp / 376 lb-ft.). Both will be mated to a Kia-designed and built 8-speed automatic that was previously only available in the company’s range-topping K900 sedan.
The Stinger version of the gearbox will get sprinkled with some bespoke goodness, however, with Kia’s first use of a Centrifugal Pendulum Absorber (CPA) torque converter designed to reduce torsional vibration in the drivetrain, a feature more commonly found in race cars and airplanes rather than sport sedans.
Beefier brakes and rolling gear are also on tap, with the Stinger due to receive 18-inch wheels wrapped in P225/45R18 rubber with vented disc brakes (320 mm front, 325 mm rear) at all four corners.
Stopping power for the Stinger GT is done via Brembo 4-piston caliper vented discs (350 mm) up front, while 2-piston caliper vented discs (340 mm) are at the rear corners, housed in 19-inch wheels wrapped in P225/40R19 (front) and P255/35R19 (rear) tires.
All of this should make for a car that will rival its German and Japanese competition in the go-fast department.
Indeed, Kia is targeting a 0-100 km/h time of 5.1 seconds and a top speed of 269 km/h for the Stinger GT.
It’s not just about being fast though, as Kia has gone to some length to stuff the Stinger with loads of premium content.
Among these amenities is an impressive suite of accident mitigation tech (forward collision assistance with integrated autonomous emergency braking, lane keep assist, rear cross-traffic alert, etc.) that also includes Driver Attention Alert (a first for Kia), which is designed to combat drowsy and distracted driving.
A head-up display, inductive charging cell phone pad, Kia’s slick-operating UVO entertainment system and an available 15-speaker, 720-watt Harman/Kardon stereo are but a few of the Stinger’s many features.
There’s more – a lot more, including some seat time eventually, we hope – but you get the idea.
The Stinger represents an incredibly audacious move for Kia, a company with no real performance pedigree to speak of, yet because of that it’s also free to be bold and take chances without having to worry about breaking with long-held traditions.
In that respect, the Stinger makes a lot of sense for a brand that was lacking high-performance character. It’s free to focus on the quality of the product alone, without being encumbered by worries about where the car fits within the brand’s pantheon of great sports cars.
Questions remain about how it will be marketed, where it will be slotted within Kia’s lineup from a pricing perspective and how it’ll be received once it can be driven, but in the performance realm the cliché rings true: go big or go home.
The Stinger is on the path of the former.
Note: The 2018 Kia Stinger will be on display in the Kia stand at the North American International Auto Show at the Cobo Center in Detroit from Jan. 14-22.
It will make its Canadian debut at the Canadian International Auto Show at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre next month (Feb. 17-26).
Photography by Lee Bailie