Three GTs flashing in front of my eyes at 161mph (259kph) along one of the UK’s longest runways at Newquay Airport was my first sighting of the latest offering from Kia.
Alas, I did not get the opportunity to try the high speed potential of the newcomer, but I did manage to take in seven counties, the longest drive on a new car launch since what used to be the annual one from the French coast to Geneva for the annual motor show.
This is a giant leap for the South Korean carmaker who claim that their target is not to be a premium brand but rather to challenge. Audi, BMW and Mercedes had better look in their rear view mirrors because that challenge has arrived.
Over dinner in the impressive Bovey Castle Hotel, (Cornwall’s answer to our own Ashford Castle), I was able to chat with one of the development team responsible for bringing the Stinger to market.
When he first took the wheel of a pre production version, immediately he identified it as being sterile. His input and that of others with tweaks here and there assisted in producing the final goods.
There is something very old school about the Stinger GT S; purists will adore it as it delivers power to the rear wheels. For those who have shrunk in despair with the array of front wheel drive and all drive cars, their day has arrived.
However I must add that in Europe all wheel drive will be available and the biggest market, not surprisingly, will be the USA.
Having driven the Ford Mustang in its new form, those who purchased will be disappointed should they venture behind the wheel of the new Kia.
Bringing the Stinger GT S to market included a punishing development programme with prototypes having completed 1.1 million kilometres of testing, the equivalent of driving 27 times around the world, as well as 10,000 kilometres, 480 laps, around the Nurburgring. Think of the fun those test drivers had!
The five door fastback style does bring back memories of a golden age and the S version is the fastest and most powerful of the planned five strong line-up.
Looking back to 2011 and the Frankfurt Motor Show one can see that the inspiration for the Stinger GT S came courtesy of the GT Concept which managed to turn a few heads.
So what makes the heart beat of this must have Kia, a 3.3 litre direct injection twin turbo V6 T-GDi with 365bhp. Enough to take you from rest to 62mph (100kph) in under 5 seconds and- if you can get permission at your local airfield- on to 168mph (270kph)
Power delivery is fast and accurate, the glorious sounding engine in harmony with the eight speed automatic transmission. Of course there is a limited slip diff and with five different shift modes and a throttle programme accessed via the electronic Drive Mode Selector, sporty motoring is assured. A Vehicle Stability Management system incorporates dynamic torque vectoring for exceptional cornering performance. There was additional suspension work for right hand drive Stingers to suit our road conditions and the MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear suspension features electronically-controlled Dynamic Stability Damping Control. I have only one area of criticism and that regards steering, a lack of feel, it is of the rack-mounted variety Motor Driven Power Steering as Kia puts it. Many I feel may not even notice. With such power at the command of an eager right foot, it goes without saying hat stopping ability is paramount. No worries in this department, Brembo developed ventilated disc brakes measure 350mm at the front gripped by quad-piston calipers and 340mm at the rear, fitted with dual-piston calipers. Rubber wear is courtesy of Continental with 225/40 R19 front and 255/35 R19 rear which were specially developed for the GT S. We all like to travel in comfort and the sleek exterior profile is matched by an interior which features an aluminium-finish centre console, satin chrome interior door handles, aeronautically inspired air vents, alloy pedals, suede headlining and stainless steel door scuff plates. The tactile winged dashboard with its high horizontal sweep is interrupted only by the central touch screen. Nappa leather upholstery is complemented by leather trim on the D-shaped steering wheel, gear shift, dashboard and door armrests. One word on seating, comfy and secure. Five can travel and there is 406 litres of boot space, fold the rear seats and 1,114 litres of space is offered.
Technology abounds with this Kia, in fact enough for an article on its own, so please forgive me if I just note a few highlights. There is an eight inch touch screen infotainment system and the navigation instructions along with other essential information such as the car’s speed plus audio, cruise control and blind spot detection information are displayed on the windscreen through a height-adjustable full-colour head-up display, which is a first for Kia. The advanced driver aids are controlled by cameras and radar to supplement the driver’s vision and reactions and are not there to take over the operation of the car or to spoil driving enjoyment. To ensure everyone remain fully connected on any journey the GT S is linked to Kia Connected Services with TomTom, supplemented by Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Worth noting this is the only car in its class that comes with a seven year warranty and onto cost, the GT S is £40,495 (€66,894.78 in the Republic of Ireland) and there is only one option-metallic paint. A great all rounder from Kia, the complete package in terms of performance, high comfort levels and safety-a set of wheels to thoroughly enjoy.