In the scheme of California’s Great Drives, the Angeles Forest Highway is an understated contender. It lacks the screeching ocean views of the Pacific Coast Highway; it’s less storied — and less vertiginous — than the Mulholland Highway; it’s less colourful than Route 66. But that’s just if you’re being picky. It is, in truth, an exceptionally fun drive, stretching from Burbank up the forested mountains behind the famous Hollywood sign and back down again through protected forests and over sandy cliffs. It’s a sleeper hit, a winner without the pomp and circumstance. And it is, therefore, the perfect place to be driving the brand new Kia Stinger.
Forgive us, for a moment, while we geek out. Kia, the hardworking South Korean brand whose sturdy family cars rarely make it into these pages, has been teasing the Stinger since at least 2011, when a similar concept debuted at the Frankfurt Auto Show. This was to be an entirely different kind of Kia — a car that would prove the brand had more up its sleeves than just dependable compacts and crossovers. It was to be a truly exceptional car. Enter the Stinger.
This new Kia was created in Europe by a top designer poached from Audi and a chassis-setup guru from BMW’s M Division. It was tested extensively on the Nürburgring Nordschleife. Fashioned in the old Gran Turismo style, the car is meant to be spacious, practical, and fast. To that end, it has all-wheel drive and a 3.3-litre twin-turbo V6 that pumps out 365 horsepower and 376 lb-ft of torque.
These are not insubstantial numbers. In fact, Kia has taken great pains to point out just where those numbers fit on the current automotive spectrum — its own list of comparables includes the Audi A5 Sportback, the BMW 4 Series, the Lexus GS, and the Porsche Panamera (which, fully loaded, can cost almost three times the Kia’s top-end $49,000 price tag). Talk about ambitious.
Luckily, the car more than delivers. On the Angeles Forest Highway, the Stinger proved itself a phenomenally capable long-distance touring car, putting a slight emphasis on ride comfort rather than corner-carving precision. It hits 0–100 km/h in 4.9 seconds, faster even than some of the aforementioned German machinery. And while it lacks the polish of some of those luxury cars — especially when it comes to their interior comfort and details, areas where the Kia’s finish evinces its price tag — it is undeniably, unabashedly fun to drive. Consider Kia’s point emphatically proved.