Taking the wraps off the Kia GT4 Stinger Concept car at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Tom Kearns, chief designer, Kia Design Center America (KDCA) was quick and to the point that “Driving enjoyment was the number one priority in designing the GT4 Stinger”.
“It’s an authentic 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.”
Without getting behind the wheel, one can’t be sure, but taking closer look at the GT4, it would appear that this rear-drive 2+2 sports car could be a very desirable machine in the eyes of those enthusiasts wanting an affordable ride that performs equally well on the road or at the track.
Our piece last week on the pending reveal of the GT4 Stinger gave you what limited information we had from the Kia ‘teasers’ at that time about its design and power train.
Now that we have seen the GT4 Stinger, we think this is one good looking machine – very clean in design with major emphasis on driving experience functionality along with the horsepower to deliver a serious road or track ride experience.
Kia says their GT4 Stinger concept shuns the luxury trappings of a traditional Grand Touring car and embraces the experience for a driver of truly engaging with the vehicle.
We were impressed at how sleek it appears which comes from design work that Kearns says gives it a “shrink-wrapped appearance”. He adds, “It’s as if the body panels were formed around the chassis instead of merely welded to it.” We would agree.
This ‘fluid’ look continues with transparent A-pillars that provide a more than 270-degree view from the driver’s seat. The layered slots cut into the pillars reduce weight while improving outward visibility. This greenhouse design provides an aggressive side profile. “It’s as if the GT4 Stinger is wearing wrap-around sunglasses,” notes Kearns. As result, the roof the GT4 Stinger appears to ‘float’ from the C-pillars says Kia.
Along the rocker panels are satin black accent pieces with integrated functional cooling ducts to enhance air flow to the rear brakes. At the rear, the glass hatch opens to reveal a built-in storage compartment and rear strut-tower brace.
But moving to the inside shows us where Kia engineers have made the GT4 Stinger even more a pure enthusiast’s car.
Seriously lightweight and very wide doors open easily with a simple pull of the billet-aluminum door handles to make entry into the ‘drivers’ cockpit space a snap. Molded leather seating in a race-inspired design provide solid support with lots of driver flexibility in managing the driving controls.
In true track style, there is no carpet, only a rubber floor mat underneath the billet-aluminum pedals. Front and center to the driver is a thick D-shaped steering wheel and red LED-illuminated instrument panel with large tachometer and gear indicator. And, in keeping with the track theme and taking inspiration from sports and competition cars of the past, the interior door handles are replaced by red-stitched pull straps.
Getting really serious, this GT4 Stinger actually does without the luxury of a stereo. “The audio system starts under the hood and the speakers are the exhaust pipes,” said Kearns. According to Kia, the GT4 Stinger’s free-flow exhaust “burbles and blurts unabashedly and is music to the ears of driving enthusiasts everywhere”.
Kia says they have no plans currently to bring the GT4 Stinger to production, but we think there is room for another vehicle in the under $30,000 2+2 sports car segment – joining the Subaru BRZ and Scion FR-S which have been gaining traction - selling 30,000 units in North America in 2013.
The Subaru BRZ and Scion FR-S are similar in size with 2.0-liter engines that produce 200 horsepower with fuel economy of 25/34 mpg City/Highway. Their designs are a bit more to the road enthusiast’s taste on the interiors (including ‘electronic gimmickry’) with MSRP prices just over $25,000.
With fuel prices holding steady to the low end of $3.00 to $4.00 per gallon for the foreseeable future and 2.0-liter engines producing ever increasing horsepower with improving fuel economy, an entry from Kia that is just a bit more to the track enthusiast tastes than the BRZ or the FR-S (including the 115 more horsepower), would certainly attract interest.
We would certainly look to drive a GT4 Stinger with the idea of putting it in our garage.