We are not used to Kia being ‘aggressive’ when it comes to the looks and style of their cars, so imagine the surprise that the journalists at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit got when Kia Motors America (KMA) unveiled the brand’s new concept car, the GT4 Stinger.
The Kia GT4 Stinger is a rear-drive 2+2 sports car developed in America by Kia’s California design team; the same team that came up with the Track’ster concept. Must be all that Californian air and legacy of the sweet and not-so-innocent sixties.
“Driving enjoyment was the number one priority in designing the GT4 Stinger,” said Tom Kearns, Chief Designer, Kia Design Center America (KDCA). “It’s a 2+2 sports car that can turn heads as a daily driver while also being right at home on the track. It’s about purity, simplicity and timelessness. The GT4 Stinger is a throwback to days when driving a car was a visceral experience that wasn’t muted by electronic gimmickry.”
The GT4 Stinger project was a project that the Californian team attacked with an initial eye toward weight reduction, functionality and pure driving enjoyment, firmly basing their beliefs on the fact that you should feel at one with the car when you drive, engaging with the vehicle. And that should be the only surprising thing about the Kia GT4 Stinger really, because after all, Kia already has a racing pedigree, as Tom Kearns notes: “If anyone were to ask if Kia has the credibility to build a car like the GT4 Stinger, I would simply point out that Kia races – and wins – against some of the world’s most legendary performance brands.”
He is referring to Kia Racing and partner Kinetic Motorsports who won the Grand-Am Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge Drivers and Team Championships in 2012 with the Forte Koup and are at this very moment getting the turbocharged Optimas ready for their third season in the Pirelli World Challenge in 2014 in preparation for an improvement on last year’s second-place finish in the Manufacturer’s Championship..
Hence the existence under the GT4 Stinger’s bonnet of a tuned version of Kia’s already-proven 2.0-litre turbocharged gasoline direct injected (T-GDI) four-cylinder engine that supplies an impressive 315 horsepower. As Mr Kearns says: “Our Optima racecars use the same engine and can produce more than 400 horsepower, so why not infuse our concept with the kind of power that will make people take notice?”
So obviously you can be assured that you are getting the same service from Kia that their race teams are, and in the case of the GT4 Stinger that means a close-ratio six-speed manual transmission driving rear wheels wrapped in 275/35R20 Pirelli P-Zero performance tyres to ensure some uber-grip on cornering. (For the more spec-obsessed amongst you the custom 20” aluminium centre-lock wheels have carbon fibre inserts to maintain strength and reduce weight, and tucked inside those wheels are Brembo Gran Turismo two-piece 15-inch cross-drilled rotors and four-piston callipers to ensure that there is plenty of stopping power.)
Helping to underpin the GT4 Stinger’s sculpted “Ignition Yellow” body you will find that there is a custom chassis strengthened with an independent double wishbone suspension; all part of the menacing sculpture of the GT4. Yet, when looking at the car in simple silhouette, the GT4 Stinger is simple yet powerful. And don’t just believe me – look at the pictures for yourself!
Inside we are talking practicality with no frills – and no carpet either; just a rubber floor mat. The steering wheel is a D-shape (and thick) with the LED-illuminated instrument panel sporting a large tachometer and gear indicator. No stereo either. “The audio system starts under the hood and the speakers are the exhaust pipes,” said Kearns. So maybe Kia are bringing back the art of conversation at the same time?
And this also means that there is none of the “Let me do it for you” technology that seems to be de rigeur in new cars and concept cars at the moment. The Kia GT4 Stinger really is a back-to-basics car (even to the extent of replacing interior door handles with red-stitched pull straps) and is music to the ears of car enthusiasts everywhere who enjoy the thrill of the open road and the sound of a pulled throttle.
Kia admit that there are no immediate plans to send the GT4 Stinger to the production factory yet, although Kia does have a history of delivering production vehicles that bear a strong resemblance to the concept that preceded them.
So is this a glimpse into the Kia future or what?
Maybe Tom Kearns has an answer?
“It’s a totally selfish design. The design team at KCDA is full of petrolheads and enthusiasts, and the GT4 Stinger is the perfect car for that kind of crowd.”