Maybe making automobiles is even more multinational than we thought. Maybe it isn’t just about where they are built and sold and where their parts come from.
Consider: Steve Hirashiki, who oversaw the midcycle refresh of the 2019 Kia Sorento crossover debuting in a couple of weeks, is an American of Japanese descent who works for a South Korean automaker.
Former Audi designer Peter Schreyer, who presided over the styling of Kia’s all-new 2018 Stinger sports sedan, is a German. So is Albert Biermann, a former BMW performance guru who was in charge of developing the Stinger’s ride and handling.
It’s also true that Schreyer labored not in South Korea, but in Kia’s design studio in Frankfurt, Germany, and Biermann did a lot of his suspension testing at Germany’s legendary Nurburgring road course.
I got a chance to drive both of these vehicles during a recent Kia show-and-tell, so let’s take a quick look at them.
A new Kia model, the recently arrived Stinger is Kia’s first sedan available with all-wheel-drive. When fitted with the twin-turbo V-6, as the more upmarket GT versions are, it is also the fastest Kia ever built. This vehicle gets from 0 to 60 in a stunning 4.7 seconds and employs big Brembo high-performance brakes to shut down with commensurate haste.
The base Stinger, which is powered by a 2-liter, four-cylinder turbo that develops 255 horsepower, 260 pounds/feet of torque, and a lively 0-to-60 time of 5.9 seconds, starts at $31,900.
But if you want the adrenaline-dispensing behavior of the GT models, which is derived from a 3.3-liter engine that makes 365 horsepower and a hefty 376 pounds of torque, you will have to ante up north of $38,000. The base GT lists for $38,350.
The even fancier GT1 and GT2 are priced at $43,250 and $49,200, respectively. Substituting AWD for the standard rear-drive layout tacks an additional $2,200 on the bill. (Interestingly, Stinger product planner Ed Rayyan told me the more expensive GTs were outselling the base models in the early going.)
Like every design Schreyer has a hand in, the Stinger’s is pleasing business. The long hood pushes the cabin back a bit, and that, coupled with the sharp rake of the windshield and rear window, makes for a sleek, fastback silhouette.
The leather-appointed interior of the GT proved roomy, quiet, comfortable and handsome. And no one is any better than Kia at organizing the controls and instruments on a dashboard.
While the term GT isn’t always deserved, it is in the case of the Stinger. The idea of a GT, or Gran Turismo, is to build a well-equipped high-performance car that will afford adequate comfort and luggage space on a long journey. And the Stinger does that. This nicely appointed car is fast and handles well, but its suspension does have a heavy emphasis on ride quality.
The 2019 edition of this midsize crossover SUV, to be in the showrooms in a couple of weeks, is a refresh that includes revised front and rear fascias and new technology, including lane-keeping assist. Product planner Hirashiki also said that seven-passenger seating will be standard (although there is nothing standard about the Lilliputians who will fit in that third row) and that the car has been fitted with a smoother eight-speed automatic transmission and more precise steering.
I did find the gearbox seamless but the steering seemed a tad numb. I thought the interior was quiet enough, and ride quality was good. Handling and braking passed muster.
The 2019 Sorento will start at $26,000 and top out at $45,000.