On Monday at the opening press day of the Detroit Auto Show, Kia made quite possibly its biggest debut ever. Or, at least, when it comes to pure excitement, its most intriguing debut, the GT4 Stinger Concept. As what could be a huge piece toward finishing its puzzle of legitimate recognition from not only auto journalists, but the public, too, the first-ever Kia sports car did not disappoint. It's an asphault-hugging, rear-wheel coupe that could hit in a market that Kia has yet to dive into.
Judging by power numbers, a number of people drew thoughts that it could compete with the 4-cylinder Mustang or the Hyundai Genesis Coupe. However, the more sensical comparison, thanks to the size, specs, shape and platform, directly points you to the Toyota GT86/Scion FR-S/Subaru BRZ triplets. After such a wildy successful launch from the Japanese collaboration, could the Koreans really compete? We broke this down by category to see how they all sit side by side.
Disclaimer: Keep in mind that the Stinger is a concept, but the fact that Kia gave out exact numbers on things like weight and horsepower hints that they like this idea A LOT.
GT86/FR-S/BRZ: 2.0L Flat-4 Boxer, 200 hp, 151 lb-ft of torque
GT4 Stinger: 2.0L Turbo-4 T-GDI, 315 hp
The Stinger still uses a 2.0L engine, but massively trumps the Toyubarus. That, obviously, is helped by the turbo, something that BRZ owners have been CLAMORING for in an STi model (so far they've only seen the tS and a premium sports edition. Even more interesting is the fact that the Kia engine comes from Optima racecars, which produce around 400 hp, meaning that this thing, technically, could beef up even more. The sad part is remembering it's a concept, meaning the production version might have less.
Score: KIa +1
GT86/FR-S/BRZ: 6-Speed Manual or 6-Speed Auto w/ Paddle Shifters
GT4 Stinger: 6-Speed Manual
The Kia would probably end up getting the same automatic treatment as a production option.
GT86/FR-S/BRZ: 2+2, Front-Engined, Rear-Wheel Drive
GT4 Stinger: 2+2, Front-Engined, Rear-Wheel Drive
As they should be.
GT86/FR-S/BRZ: 4-wheel independent suspension. Front: Macpherson Strut with lower L-arm. Stabilizer bar. Rear: Double wishbone (BRZ). 2,762 curb weight with 55 front/45 rear distribution (BRZ).
GT4 Stinger: Independent double wishbone suspension. 2,874 curb weight with 52 front/48 rear distribution.
The FR-S and BRZ have already been proven and become known for how well these things handle. For the price-point, it's extremely impressive what they can do on tracks and windy roads. Not to mention they have more than a 100lb weight advantage, which would likely only get better when the production Stinger comes out a little bit heavier. Gotta go with what's already known.
Score: Toyubaru +1
GT86/FR-S/BRZ: Ventilated discs - 11.6-inch front, 11.4-inch rear
GT4 Stinger: Brembo Gran Turismo 15-inch, two-piece, cross-drilled rotors and four-piston calipers
Comparing this is kind of unfair. We all know that gigantic 15-inch Brembos are not going to be standard on the final version of this car. It was just worth noting that this concept is sporty through and through. It wouldn't be surprising to see brakes bigger than 12 inches on the Stinger, though, to accomodate the bigger power.
Score: Kia +0.5
GT86/FR-S/BRZ: The triplets are, in my opinion, cars designed so well that everybody should love them. It's one of those things where, if somebody told me they thought they were ugly, I wouldn't be like, "okay, that's your opinion," I'd be like, "oh, well, you're just wrong, so I'm sorry you feel that way." It's kind of how I feel when my roommate tells me that the current Cadillac lineup is ugly. To me, that's just false.The BRZ and FR-S are so well proportioned, they sit extremely low like sports cars should, their front fascias looks like they're going sink their fangs into you and put you down, and their stances look like they're constantly in Sonic wind-up mode, ready to burst out like those wind-up Happy Meal toys.
GT4 Stinger: When you look at this car right next to its opponents, you see a ton of similarities with its long hood, low perch, short rear, and curvaceous wheel arches. But the Kia just looks a little bit softer and bulkier. It has a very pure, smooth approach and even has a hatchbackish feel to the rear, which actually gives its trunk space a large advantage. The floating roof, which Kia has shown on other vehicles like the Soul is a nice touch, but it's also important to remember that some of the overwrought parts would be toned done a bit for the road-going version, just like even the triplets are even a little less exciting than their concept.
Score: Toyubarus +1
GT86/FR-S/BRZ: This is where the FR-S really lost me. When I got into this car, I really felt like I had gone back to a late '90s car. It was extremely bare bones, and didn't have an inviting feel at all. Now, some people would tell me, "shut the hell up, dude, it's a sports car, worry about the performance." And I get that. But I also don't get it. If I'm buying this car for my daily driver, I'm going to be need to feel comfortable and enjoy sitting in there. The BRZ was definitely better, as it had nicer materials and a better stereo (the FR-S I had didn't even have a screen, which these days feels very strange on a new car). But overall, I was not impressed and would not want to spend hours every week in this car.
GT4 Stinger: I have not sat in the Stinger, nor can you expect concept interiors to translate well into production cars, but Kia is no slouch when it comes to its interiors. Even if they're gimmicky at times (light-up pulsating door speakers and speaker/air-con stacks in the Soul), it's obvious that Kia spends a lot of time and effort making sure the drivers feel good. There's no doubt in my mind that the Stinger will be a more fun environment.
Score: Kia +1