We’ve driven the Stinger on track as well as on the road, and it’s very capable in both environments. That could have something to do with a certain Albert Biermann (ex-boss of BMW’s M division) being part of its development team.
For a start, the steering is precise and accurate. As a result, you can float the Stinger from one corner to the next with a fluidity unlike that of any other Kia. And at sensible road speeds, the steering is feelsome and nicely weighted, too – more so than in some versions of the Audi A5 and BMW 4 Series Gran Coupé.
The four-cylinder 2.0 petrol and 2.2 diesel engines come with passive suspension, while the top-spec 3.3 petrol V6 has adaptive dampers (they're optional on the other two models). Both the passive set-up and adaptive suspension – even set in its softest Comfort mode – limit body roll well, so you never feel the car heaving from side to side overtly through corners.
It’s a car that feels nicely balanced, too; but, being rear-wheel drive, you can always provoke its rear end to slide playfully with a deliberate jab of the accelerator. That’s great if you love to feel a car moving around and it’s much more fun than a front or four-wheel-drive A5 Sportback or Volkswagen Arteon.
Ride quality is more of a mixed bag. At speed, both the passive and adaptive set-ups work well, but over heavily scarred town roads the Stinger jars a little more than some of softer executive saloons out there – and the Arteon, for that matter. That said, it’s still more comfortable more of the time than an A5 Sportback fitted with standard sports suspension.
The 2.0 petrol feels sluggish at low revs but is brisk enough when you rev it hard, yet for a sporty car it sounds bland and boring. Still, that’s better than the 2.2 diesel, which sends vibrations through the controls at around 1500rpm and becomes crass and boomy as you progress further up its rev range. Indeed, while the diesel offers a pleasant surge of acceleration at around 3500rpm, you won’t want to get there because of the noise. That's unacceptable in a premium car, so the diesel Stinger is outclassed here by the ultra-slick A5 diesels. Things do settle down on the motorway, mind you, but not by much.
You need to look at the top to find the sweet spot in the range: the superb 3.3 petrol V6. It’s the most exciting engine by a mile, sounding as purposeful as it is smooth and delivering outrageous performance. Claimed 0-60mph takes 4.7sec (we tested it at 4.8sec) and it’ll crack 168mph. With four-wheel drive, an Audi S5 Sportback is quicker off the line but no faster once you are rolling.
All versions come with an eight-speed automatic gearbox. It’s slick and responsive if you shift manually using the steering wheel-mounted paddles, but a tad hesitant in auto mode. The brakes, meanwhile, are effective at shedding speed, with enough pedal progression to avoid any jerkiness in stop-start traffic.
And the diesel engine aside, the Stinger makes for a decent long-distance cruiser. At speed, only particularly coarse surfaces whip up much road noise, while wind noise is kept to a minimum. Stick to the V6 and what you’ll find is an extremely potent, yet very relaxing, continental cruiser.