Kia's muscle-bound grand tourer oozes charm and offers huge bang for the buck
When the Kia Stinger strikes The Kia Stinger offers a delirious ride with precision and finesse. Its cabin is elaborately equipped. ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

We all know how fast the Korean brands have advanced - how, in a fraction of a lifetime, they have gone from nasty to tasty.

The Kia Stinger, however, says more than "we've arrived". It shouts "we're taking over the world".

Styled like a cross between a classic American muscle car and a German fastback, the evocatively named Stinger is visually striking. Just looking at the car raises your pulse by a couple of beats.

Two variants are available here: a wallet-friendly 2-litre and a no-holds-barred 3.3 V6. Force-fed by two turbos, the 3,342cc six-cylinder makes 365bhp and 510Nm of torque from 1,300rpm.

That alone is a recipe for a delirious ride. And to get the specifics out of the way, we are talking about a century sprint of 4.9 seconds and a maximum velocity of 270kmh.

But what makes the Stinger special is the way it delivers its performance. Behind the wheel, the car feels as intuitive, as engaging and as emotional as a well-crafted Continental grand tourer.

The car moves in exactly the way you wish it to move. Its chassis responds to steering and throttle inputs with precision and finesse. And there is no detectable lag or vagueness in the three key functions: steering, throttle and brakes.

As precise as it feels, the car is not clinically cold. It is an emotional ride, with all the appropriate sounds to accompany its fury, a touch of wildness to spice up its impeccable road manners and an undefinable aura which makes special cars special.

Like all modern performance machines, the Stinger comes with a choice of driving modes. But unlike them, its selection dial is calibrated with a bit more imagination.

For work-day commutes, the default Comfort setting is ideal. It gives a good mix of heartiness and efficiency, without leaving any hint of a grin on your face by the time you step into the office.

The Sport mode turns up the performance volume by a notch. Quite suitable when that snooty colleague from the corporate office pulls alongside in his BMW "four-door" coupe.

Sport+ is a bare-knuckled mode, with significantly sharper throttle, transmission, suspension and steering. You should preferably be in a Friday frame of mind for this mode because the car's electronic stability control is also deactivated.

In this mode, the biggish rear-wheel-drive wags its tail each time you power up. And its exhaust note goes from rumble to roar as the car transforms into a Panamera-hunting beast which demands commitment but rewards generously.

Mode selection is done via an easy-to-reach dial on the centre console, with an intuitive clockwise operation for performance dial-ups. BMW's M button aside, this dial is the quickest way to toggle between Jekyll and Hyde.

Other functions in the elaborately equipped cockpit are just as logical. And the cabin is sumptuously furnished and impressively finished, save for a few sharp edges.

And that, essentially, underscores the Stinger's proposition. The car is a steroidal brute with a huge helping of civility. It is not a track machine, but would probably be quite competent in a circuit against similar rivals.

Its ride is not at all punishing, with its suppleness accentuated by a long wheelbase. Yet, the car is not averse to sharp corners. Its low roofline coupe-like form exudes sportiness, but still offers plenty of practicality inside.

Priced just a little more than a basic German premium contender with half the power and personality, the Stinger 3.3 is almost a no-brainer. If Kia continues on this track, it could very well take over the world in another 20 years.