Well known for turning out some seriously cool one-offs that periodically spawn equally trick production successors, Kia rolled out one of the true show stoppers in Detroit when it unveiled the GT4 Stinger. Created in Irvine, California at Kia Design Center America (KDCA) which also was responsible for the trick Track'ster Concept, the Kia GT4 Stinger makes a dynamic statement that goes well beyond anything the automaker has ever done before.
"Driving enjoyment was the number one priority in designing the GT4 Stinger," said Tom Kearns, KDCA's chief designer at the reveal, who characterizes it as "a throwback to days when driving a car was a visceral experience that wasn't muted by electronic gimmickry." Inspired by the automaker's success in the Pirelli World Challenge series with race-prepped versions of the Optima Turbo, Kia used purity, simplicity and timelessness as the GT4's overall development mantra, a three-dimensional approach that permeates both its visual and mechanical makeup.
Finished in near-incandescent Ignition Yellow, the powerfully tailored bodywork of this striking 2+2 hatchback coupe makes a bold statement from any angle. Shorter in length and wheelbase than a Forte Sedan but wider than a Cadenza, the GT4 Stinger also is nearly nine full inches lower than Kia's entry-level Rio subcompact. Its sweeping roofline complemented by transparent A-pillars and prominent C-pillars creates an elegant master link between the car's long rising hood and ultra-short deck which is further punctuated in profile view by satin-black rocker accents with functional brake cooling ducts and 20-inch center-lock aluminum alloys wrapped in staggered-size - 235/30 front and 275/35 rear -- Pirelli P-Zero rubber that fully fill its prominently flared fenders. Kerns says the GT4 was meant to have a "shrink-wrapped" appearance, as if its sheet metal was actually formed around the Stinger's core structure instead of being welded on.
This hardcore Kia one-off also features equally intriguing detail elements. Up front, the look is punctuated by vertical LED lighting and a signature "Schreyer-look" grille, although here, it's ringed in glowing white, upsized and mounted closer to the ground to help collect more cooling air for the engine. A functional carbon fiber lower splitter also is on hand to add an extra measure of aero stick. That edgy flair is equally evident in the Stinger's tail, where prominent LED taillamps illuminate from behind the corners of a full-width blackout panel and dual-chrome exhaust tips are neatly faired into the lower valance panel.
Like the Optima Turbo racers, the GT4 Stinger is motivated by a 2.0-liter T-charged 4-cylinder engine. While its output is rolled back from 400 to a still potent 350 horses, the drive gets sent to the pavement through the rear wheels via a close-ratio 6-speed manual transmission. Fitted with a unique, sport-tuned double-wishbone suspension and quick-ratio power steering, this Kia design exercise divvies up its 2,874 pounds in a 52/48 percent split for exceptional balance and relies on Brembo Gran Turismo high-performance brakes to deliver short, fade-free stops.
The cabin of Kia's latest dream machine reflects the same kind of purposeful performance character as its exterior. Leather-covered, deeply contoured racing style buckets are the closest things you'll find to creature comforts in this realm. A D-shaped thick-rimmed steering wheel overlooks the Stinger's relatively Spartan dash, which is dominated by a large speedometer and tachometer and red LED illumination. However, missing from the mix is any kind of audio system beyond the sweet sounds provided by its engine and exhaust. The same holds true for carpeting, which is replaced by rubber mats and conventional door handles with give way to lightweight fabric pull straps.
While Kearns admits there are no current plans to make the GT4 Stinger part of the company's lineup, he does admit it provides "a possible and a highly provocative glimpse into Kia's future." Given the automaker's past record with respect to spinning volume-build variants off of particularly well-received concepts, those could turn out to be most encouraging words.
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