SEE THAT car up there? That was supposed to be a Range Rover Velar. I’d spent weeks conditioning my partner to the idea of larging it like the wife of an AFL player or moderately successful plumber and, after much cajoling, I was getting somewhere.
Slowly she was coming around to the notion of adventure slightly more ambitious than a gravel driveway, but not anything as hardcore as growing a beard or killing your dinner with the back of a spade. Then at the last minute, that plan fell to pieces and I ended up in a Kia. Not that I’m complaining. How could you when you have a 272kW rear driver with a great stereo, tyres with actual tread still on them and a scheduled six months to enjoy it in? Silver linings and all that.
Read next: 2018 Kia Stinger Range Review
The more observant amongst you might have clocked that we’ve already given V6 Stingers the nod in a couple of Wheels comparisons, and I’ve got a bit of a soft spot for these big-hearted bruisers. This one wears no options other than $695 of Deep Chroma Blue paintwork, which has a subtle purplish pop in bright sunlight.
It still comes winging in at around five grand under the luxury car tax threshold, so makes all kinds of sense for the private buyer who’s never quite recovered from the demise of the Falcon G6E. Factor in the seven-year warranty and huge standard equipment list and it’s easy to see why, despite supply limitations, the Kia GT is so popular with Aussie customers.
One of the recurring grumbles from the comparison tests was that the Stinger was a bit mute, so I was excitedly informed that this example had been retrofitted with the new bi-modal sports exhaust, designed by Melbourne-based manufacturer Lumens. It took about four seconds to decide that I hated the exhaust, and I drive mostly in Eco mode in order to silence its intrusive racket.
Granted, it does sound good when giving the car a prod in Sport mode, and introduces a bit of much-needed musicality to the top end, but it probably requires a little more calibration on when it ought to butt out.
A downside of driving in Eco on freeways is that the otherwise excellent adaptive cruise control becomes a bit of a liability. If a slower vehicle in front pulls over, the Stinger will accelerate to its assigned speed so slowly that you’ll be checking the rear view mirrors for fear of being mown down by a jinky tectonic plate or a darted sloth.
The other downside of driving in Eco is that while the exhaust is quieter, the transmission’s insistence on holding subsonic gears means that it sets the speaker grilles rattling as the engine labours uphill. There’s a Smart mode and a Custom mode with which to experiment so I hope to be able to find a workaround in due course.
Otherwise, the Kia makes a strong first impression. Having seen how easily a Stinger cremated a set of tyres during performance testing a few months ago, I’m deliberately being very careful with the soft Continental boots. That rubber turned to mouse fur after a few sideways passes for the camera, so the otherwise tempting stability control button has, thus far, remained unprodded. I’m trying to drive it ‘normally’. That said, the definition of normal may change over time.