‘If you do own one, do yourself a favor and drive it like you stole it’
It only takes a few moments for me to realize I’m driving something special. The control surfaces and where your body makes contact with the car should communicate the essence of the vehicle immediately. If, as a driver, you can tell right away what the car is all about, then the first half of the battle—from the perspective of an engineer or a designer—has already been won.
Here’s what I mean: As I slide into the cockpit, the bucket seat with its tall bolsters envelops my bum and thighs. A few button pushes and I’ve found my optimum position: seat low to the floor; seatback almost upright; slight bend at the knee. The brushed-aluminum gas and brake pedals have rubber studs that grab onto the soles of my driving shoes. The massive dummy pedal, finished the same way, surely isn’t there for aesthetic purposes.
The flat-bottomed tiller feels good in the hand. Tiny paddle shifters hide behind the three and nine o’clock positions. But the best part about this steering wheel is the amount of adjustment it has. I position it as close to my chest as possible. Given I have long legs—I’m 5’11”—finding the ideal driving position is tricky because with the proper bend at my knee, I’d have to reach for the tiller. This isn’t the case here—I can position the steering wheel right where I want it. This car is telling me that it is a driving instrument, built to satisfy the most demanding pilots.
How about fit and finish, and the overall design of the cabin? What do these reveal? If the massive logo on the center of the steering wheel were blacked out, I would think that I was sitting in a European car, but with the best bits from the big German brands. The shift lever, for example, does away with the notches, and only toggles fore and aft. Shifting to Park is done by pressing a button. We swear we’ve seen this before. There’s the massive multi-information display front and center, too.
This is the Kia Stinger, the current halo model of Kia Philippines. To be honest, we weren’t expecting its arrival so soon because of the conservative approach of Volkswagen PH (both companies are now under the Ayala Corporation), which had opted to unveil the brand’s affordable models way ahead of the performance toys. But hey, what a pleasant surprise. This early into the launch of the revamped Kia Philippines, it’s great to have a special and unique offering that will make enthusiasts excited about the brand. Every car company needs a model that people will drool over.
And here’s the best part: Its price will sting other European brands because at this P3,235,000 price point, its spec list is unmatched. The kind of kit that comes standard with the Stinger will put other European cars that cost roughly the same amount to shame. Features include a cooling and heating function for both front seats, an eight-inch multimedia touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, a killer Harman Kardon sound system with nine speakers and four tweeters, a 360-degree around-view monitoring system, a tire-pressure monitor, cruise control, a handy blind-spot detection/warning system, and wireless mobile phone charging.
And we are just getting started. For a car to completely win me over, it has to deliver on its performance-sedan promise.
The good stuff begins under the hood. The Stinger is propelled by a 3.3-liter direct-injection, twin-turbo V6. Peak power is rated at 370hp at 6,000rpm. Pull is 510Nm. In a car that weighs 2,250kg, those kinds of figures will give you a rush of adrenaline when you pin the go-pedal to the floor. You’ll get into trouble really quickly if you aren’t paying attention to the speedometer. Power is routed through a lightning-fast eight-speed automatic that drives the rear wheels.
Yes, the rear wheels. And in between those rear wheels is a limited-slip differential. It isn’t a super-aggressive unit as the outer wheel doesn’t claw for traction when you do tight maneuvers in the parking lot. However, you can feel it working when you power out of corners.
And there’s more: Depending on the drive mode (which is highly customizable), you can also fiddle with settings of the electronically adjustable dampers. That’s the kind the of stuff that belongs in the realm of more expensive cars. It’s nuts that you can adjust the damping of the Stinger on the fly. Oh, and let’s not forget the Brembo brakes all around. Twin-turbo V6 Engine? Eight-speed transmission? LSD? Adjustable damping? Brembo brakes? Sheesh. The Stinger is a whole lot of car.
Based on my experience of owning a raw sports car, finding the common ground between comfort, handling, and road feedback is a challenge for carmakers. It’s difficult to find a car that does it all. There will always be compromises. But in the Stinger, the suspension and steering elements combine to give a ride that is comfortable over the roughest patches of EDSA, and still offer excellent feedback and confidence-inspiring handling when the roads get twisty. The Stinger sits at the sweet spot, and you can further adapt it to your specific driving preference using the custom modes. And if you really want to lay down two strips of burnt rubber on the tarmac, you can.
It’s a quick blast to the Clark International Speedway and back for this photo shoot. It’s been a while since I’ve gotten behind the wheel of a car that excites me. I’m surprised at how good the Stinger is at satisfying my need for performance. At the end of the journey, I glance back at the Stinger as it rests in the office parking space. It’s covered in a layer of grime from the heavy deluge from the drive back from Pampanga. And it looks just right.
I can see myself owning a performance sedan such as this. It has a massive trunk underneath that flowing fastback silhouette. It can seat four people comfortably. It’s relatively efficient—in the right drive mode and with a light right foot. The long wheelbase means it’s super stable at highway speeds, but when the twisties come around, the Stinger can string the tightest corners together with ease. The low-slung body looks ready to pounce. It’s a car that begs to be driven.
If you do own one, do yourself a favor and drive it like you stole it. Halo cars aren’t meant to be put on a pedestal and babied. They are designed to spark a desire to get behind the wheel. The Stinger will do that and more, and you won’t feel bad about flogging it over and over again. That’s what it was built to do.
The Stinger reinforces what I’ve known about Kia all along—it can hold its own against the more established players, and, in some aspects, even surpass them.
Top Gear Launch Pad: 2019 Kia Stinger