Audi A7:

Kia Stinger is Hot – Inflection Point for Kia Brand

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The Kia Stinger is a 5-door hatchback sport sedan that ventures into an area Kia has not gone before. Kia describes the Stinger as “an inflection point that takes Kia to a different level”. It does, indeed.

What is the Stinger  The Kia Stinger is a rear wheel (or AWD) mid-size car with a long wheelbase, a large interior package and outstanding driving dynamics. Using worldwide design resources, including a delay to finesse the chassis by former BMW “M” executive Albert Biermann, the Stinger provides Kia with a world-class challenger to German sport sedans. The vehicle closest in concept is the Audi A7 hatchback.

Driving the Stinger  We drove Kia Stinger V6 GTs (there were at least 36 Stingers in the first wave of Kia’s two-wave press preview) over the Angeles Crest Highway north of LA. These are challenging mountainous twisties that reveal the competence of a vehicle when pushed aggressively. Here the Stinger was very good. It was solidly planted, very stable, and hugged the road.

The Kia Stinger GT is also fast. Its 365-horsepower turbo V6 is powerful and flexible. Power is instantaneous. Kia claims a zero-to-60 time of 4.7 seconds. The engine note is muted even at full power and cabin quietness is very good. This is premium-brand quietness.

The GT2 level vehicles driven have Brembo brakes with red calipers. When aggressively on the binders the system compensates for brake fade so you keep constant pressure on the pedal rather then pushing harder to get more braking oomph.

Easy to Live With  Ergonomics are good.  It comes close to passing the rental car test where you can intuitively start the car and drive off at midnight in a driving rainstorm. The steering wheel may be a bit intimidating until you suss out what each of the buttons does. There is a bright center display with good graphics – some of the best in the industry.  The nav system shows the road you are on but not the city you are in. A pet peeve of mine in dense geography, it doesn’t take much more to display the city name (Ford’s SYNC system has shown the city name from the start.). The Kia Stinger comes standard with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto… as any modern vehicle should.

Surrogate for an XSUV for the Discerning Mom?  At the press briefing, Kia had a chance to really tout the utility of the car. When asked who would drive it, the obvious was missed. The young mother with one or two infants that loves advanced styling and fun to drive. For her, a crossover SUV might not do it. All of her peers are beginning to drive those, right? (Crossover SUVs might be becoming the new minivan… not the right image). Wanting to be different, she chooses the Kia Stinger – clearly a car appealing to a man – because the liftgate-accessed cargo area gives her the utility she needs with her kids.

Very Attractive Pricing  The base Kia Stinger comes with a powerful turbo 4~cylinder and is priced about $32,000 which is attainable for many Kia buyers. Check all the boxes to get GT2 level Stinger GT with all wheel drive you can get over $50,000. With the feature load of the entire lineup, Stinger is a compelling proposition.

While we haven’t driven the 4-cylinder yet, it promises to be quick and nimble due to its lower weight. Can’t wait to get in one.

Kia Brand is Elephant in the Room  The elephant int the room is the Kia brand.  Initially positioned as a cheap and cheerful brand, Kia has increasingly been selling better and better products.  In AutoPacific‘s 2016 and 2017 consumer research, Kia has been the top scoring popular brand providing an “ideal” vehicle.  But even while Kia has been selling higher priced Cadenza and K900 sedans for years now, it is not a premium brand.  The Kia Stinger is an outstanding effort and a product to be proud of.  Getting Stinger into the consideration set that may include the Audi A7, BMW 440i Grand Coupe and even the Porsche Panamera will be a challenge.  Kia Stinger’s huge price advantage should get buyers wanting a very sporty fun to drive sedan to visit a Kia dealer for a test drive.  Time will tell if Kia and Kia dealers can set the hook and land the sale.

#kiastinger #stingerishere


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Audi S7 Beautiful, but Difficult to Drive Smoothly

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We began this year with a string of new high performance Audi sedans – S6, S7 and S8.  We have not gotten to the S8 yet, but the S6 and S7 are pretty similar cars so lets concentrate on the S7 fastback.  Think of the A7/S7 as Audi’s answer to the Mercedes CLS and the BMW 6-Series Grand Coupe.  The S7 is a four-door coupe with a very fast backlite and large rear hatch.  Opening the rear hatch reveals a huge rear cargo area.  While the S7 has a very sporty profile, its design has sacrificed ingress/egress in the front and especially rear seats.  The style limits rear seat headroom and the legroom in the rear is also down a bit from the three box S6 sedan.

Interior Par for the course, the S7’s sport interior is special with great attention to detail, great fit and finish and a very upscale ambiance.

No Fingerprints, Please Audi ‘s multi media interface (MMI) continues with controls on the center console not a touchscreen.  The Audi MMI is easy to use and somewhat intuitive once you have used it a few times, but it would fail the rental car test (unfamiliar car in a rental car lot at midnight in the driving rain).  Unlike its brethren Volkswagen and Porsche that now use touchscreens, Audi has stayed away from them because fingerprints on the screen are unsightly.

Get the Comfort Seat Package In the S7, the black and lunar silver interior is tasteful, but the seat bolsters are too aggressive for casual driving.  At this price, the seats in the S7 should have power adjustable cushion and back bolsters so you can have either a very supportive seat that you fit snugly in or a wide open seat that lets you move around however you want to.  Sure the “S cars” are sport performance models, but at $94,570 for the S7, there should be loads of comfort as well.  Recognizing this, Audi offers a comfort seat option for $1,950 that provide heating, cooling, massage and memory functions.  Unfortunately, the comfort seats are available only in black Valcona leather not the silver/white leather in the evaluation S7.

Featherlight Toe on the Accelerator But the sport seats weren’t the only thing that presented a problem.  The S-Cars are powered by a 420-horsepower 4.0L V8 with twin turbochargers and cylinder on demand.  Mated to a 7-speed automatic transmission and Audi’s great Quattro all wheel drive system, this car should be a real pleasure to drive.  Lots of horsepower and torque.  Effortless V8 with turbos!  Wow.  But it isn’t a pleasure to drive.  Tip-in the accelerator and there is a hesitation that makes you shy about merging into traffic from a stop unless you stomp on it.  Maybe it’s the performance setting in the MMI?  Comfort?  The same.  Auto?  The same.  Dynamic?  The same… even worse.  Once you get the S7 rolling, it is delightful.  The throaty rumble of the engine is joyous.  But getting up to speed takes a featherlight touch of the toe to do smoothly.

So, the S7 is really for a person who wants upscale coupe styling and a lot of power.  It’s not for a person who needs to provide rear seat space or comfort.  The S7 is a car that turns heads and likes to be driven at speed, but it is a touchy low speed cruiser.


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