Taking a page from the playbook of the U.S. space program, Kia snatched up a couple of overachieving Germans in order to leapfrog over years of trial-and-error and arrive at the 2018 Kia Stinger GT. Unlike the space program, though, the Stinger GT wasn’t the product of a race, but rather a dream Kia was bound and determined to realize.
After making a name for himself penning the lines of cars like Audi TT, Peter Schreyer was coaxed away from Audi in 2006, and today oversees design for Hyundai-Kia. He’s responsible for design strategy at carmakers. When Hyundai-Kia hired Albert Biermann away from his 32-year career at BMW in 2015, he was chief engineer for BMW’s M performance cars. He was the guy who focused the Stinger’s performance on the Nurburgring.
If the Stinger GT were a cake, the recipe would instruct the baker — in this case, Kia — to take a healthy dollop of Schreyer, add a couple of cups of Biermann and stir enthusiastically. That’s pretty much what happened. But, as always, there’s a bit more to the story.
In many ways, the Kia Stinger is a product of design. When given free rein, designers will always revert to their passion. What would their passion look like? When running this what-if exercise, Kia designers were prone to always revert to a gran turismo-inspired 4-door. Gran turismo, or GT, is a somewhat more civilized European version of an American muscle car. It’s the ultimate transportation car for Europeans, configured to whisk four adults quickly and comfortably from Paris to the coast.
Designers drew heavily from the American muscle cars and the European GTs when conceptualizing the Stinger. What they envisioned was rear-wheel-drive, with the vehicle proportions such a setup entails: long hood, short front overhang, long rear overhang, long wheelbase and fast-back roofline.
But as a designer, what do you do when faced with an American market that’s just beginning to shift from cars to crossovers? Many pen sportbacks, as Audi has done with its A5 Sportback. This is the route Kia designers chose for the Stinger. The rest was just filling in the gaps.
Nobody Said “No”
Although the Stinger began as a what-if for designers, the project built momentum with an inertia that defied abandoning the idea. No matter at which stage a decision needed to be made, no one ever said “No.” As it moved from early drawings to computer images to clay models, enthusiasm grew and still no one said “No.” By this time, Kia internals were calling it the dream car.
As the project progressed, engineers were brought in to figure out how to actually build it. At first, they rooted through the existing parts bin to see what was available that might work. Choosing the platform from the Genesis G80 saved some money and was the first basic building block.
Albert Biermann came to Kia in the middle of the Stinger’s development. He looked at what was going on and immediately halted the program. Kia brought him on board to elevate performance across its model lineup. Representing the epitome of performance for Kia, the Stinger, reasoned Biermann, needed to really raise the bar. What he demanded added nearly a year to the development. At the root of his passion was the desire to make a mark at the revered Nurburgring, where performance legends are born.
So, what we have in the 2018 Kia Stinger GT is a modern interpretation of the storied European GTs of the 70s and 80s, comfortably seating four adults, goosed by a 365-horsepower twin turbo and capable of a 0-to-60 sprint in 4.7 seconds. Dream car, indeed.