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Kia Stinger review: A Korean missile to put on your radar
HAVE you grown bored of BMW or Benz? Help is at hand, although it comes from the most unexpected quarters.
Meet the Stinger: A gorgeous, modern-day grand tourer that was created to celebrate the European tradition of loading up a car with friends and luggage, and bombing across the continent for a weekend of pleasure.
Made by Kia, it's capable of 270km/h - which goes to show that Kim Jong Un isn't the only Korean determined to build a missile at the moment.
Two versions of the Kia Stinger will go on sale in Singapore next year, and The Business Times tried out the 370hp 3.3T-GDI model. Not only will it do triple the national speed limit, it'll pass 100km/h in just 4.9 seconds along the way. If you have a friend with a 1990s Ferrari, you might be able embarrass him with this Kia, although that would make you a pretty rotten chum.
A 2.0-litre turbo model will also be launched here, and it's no tortoise, either: With 255 horsepower, it can hit 100km/h in 6 seconds flat.
We drove the car on the Nürburgring, which is not just any racing circuit but the Pantheon of motorsports. Every true petrolhead wants a lap here under his belt (because what could possibly put more swagger in your step than driving on a circuit deemed too deadly even for Formula One?), but car companies put their latest and greatest through the 'Ring wringer routinely.
It's such a gruelling piece of tarmac that a single kilometre here is equal to 15km of normal road use, yet Kia ran a Stinger for 20,000km on the track, all within 95 per cent of the car's best laptime.
By that measure, my laps probably didn't count. But they were good enough to reveal that the Stinger is as potent a car as Germany's best.
Unleash the twin-turbo V6 engine's 510 Newton-metres of torque, and though the acceleration isn't quite enough to pin you to your seat, it will certainly pull the corners of your mouth into a grin.
It's the handling that's astoundingly good, with surgically-precise steering that lets you exploit the chassis' ready agility. The Nürburgring's countless jumps, blind crests and high-speed corners tend to leave a rookie's buttocks clenched for a week, but the Stinger showed such built-in stability that mine took only a day to relax.
If it can tackle the 'Ring with such flair and aplomb, there isn't a mountain road or high-speed highway that could rattle the Stinger.
Its brakes are mighty, too. Kia sourced them from Brembo, a specialist in the trade, and said that after 10 hard stops, the brake pedal's travel elongates by only 23 per cent compared to 38 per cent with regular brakes.
Such nerdy attention to detail pervades the Stinger. Kia engineers seem proud that its centre of gravity, at 525mm above the ground, is 3mm lower than that of a "competitor" car, recognisable in the press presentation slides as a BMW 4 Series from its silhouette.
The BMW comparison is a valid one, because the Stinger was tuned by Albert Biermann, the former chief engineer of BMW's high performance "M" division. Having created legendary BMWs that car enthusiasts worship, Mr Biermann was poached by the Hyundai-Kia group to work on fast Hyundais, but he volunteered to join the Stinger team when he saw how good it looked.
That seductive quality also applies to the inside with a jet fighter theme to the cockpit and the use of classy materials. In the top-spec GT versions, the dashboard is trimmed with either aluminium or carbon-fibre.
You sit lower in the car than in other coupes to emphasise the sportiness of the experience behind the wheel. The moment you climb behind the wheel, it's possible to sense that Kia tried immensely hard with the Stinger. It has to, in a sense, because people are yet to be convinced that Korea's cars are as world-class as its phones.
You would think it has a built-in market of car enthusiasts who value good looks, outstanding handling and plenty of engine power, and all at the price that will presumably undercut the German offerings (we'll find out about this when the car is here in January). But never underestimate the power of snobbery, and it's likely that those who aspire to own a German car would never spend their coin on a Stinger.
If anything, the Stinger is probably for drivers who have long since scratched their BMW or Mercedes itch, and are too secure in their social status to worry about being seen in a Kia.
Whether or not you end up buying one out of boredom with BMW, Benz and all, one thing's for sure: Driving the Stinger itself is never going to be dull.