The basics are fundamentally promising, of course - which is precisely the point with the Stinger. Having spent so long bringing more cost-effective (read dowdy) transverse-engined, front-driven saloons to the UK, Kia set out to bring a concept car directly to the road with this. And also to adopt the mechanical conventions of a longways engine and driven rear wheels that the established luxury car set has largely remained true to for as long as anyone cares to remember.
In the range-topping Stinger GT-S' case, it's a twin-turbocharged V6 engine with 370 horsepower and more than 370lb ft of torque, and it drives the rear wheels through an eight-speed automatic gearbox and a proper limited slip differential. Suspension is all-independent and features adaptive damping here as standard. This is Korea's sporty, youthful automotive brand showing that it can match the technology you get on an Audi S5 Sportback or Mercedes-AMG C43 4Matic (continental European and American versions of the top-line Stinger being four-wheel drive) and therefore deserves an upgrade in your estimations.
The cabin around you is evidently well-equipped. There's a head-up display in front of you, the usual controls for your heated and ventilated seat on the transmission tunnel, a wireless smartphone charger at the foot of the centre stack, and further up a protruding 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system, the graphics and general usability of which aren't in Audi's league but are a long way from damning.
Is it 'luxurious', though? Despite how hard Kia may have tried to create a classic gran turismo vibe here, I'm not sure everyone will be convinced. The Stinger avoids looking or feeling cheap in most places, but nowhere does it really succeed in striking a genuinely rich or expensive note.
The leather-effect roll-top dash is ordinary to the touch, and most of the switchgear feels plasticky, though robust, in your hands. The cabin's chrome accents look okay where they're applied, but feel quite plain. And equally disappointing to the touch are the car's gearshift paddles, the flimsy-feeling parking brake switch and the five-position drive mode selector. All are regular points of contact; all were opportunities to show that Kia could produce a ritzy material finish and a classy haptic feel. And all are ultimately opportunities missed.
You could, in short, replace something like a Audi A6 or BMW 5-Series with this car, if you fancied trading out of a less powerful and less eye-catching but larger German option. The Stinger certainly isn't only a rival for the Audi A5 Sportbacks and VW Arteons of the developing executive niche - though that's mostly what it is. If you look closely at some of the Stinger's exterior design details, in fact, you'll find nods to the likes of the Porsche Panamera and Maserati 4200 GT here and there - and they're worn surprisingly comfortably, too.
The Stinger GT-S doesn't take itself that seriously as a performance machine - and that might be its biggest strength. Kia's decision to aim for a composed yet comfortable, long-striding, 'grand touring' dynamic character has saved it from the uncompromising ride and handling it might have had if aimed directly at the likes of the M4 and Giulia Quadrifoglio.
The combustive force of the Stinger's V6 engine feels a little soft under the accelerator. At times it responds a bit oddly to a linear pedal input, rushing in with more torque than you initially asked for when you're in either 'sport' or 'sport+' driving modes, only to go a bit flat through the proceeding half-inch of travel. That's one of several mild annoyances associated with the Stinger's 'sport' mode; next to some overly contrived imitation V6 engine noise played over the speakers, and a steering rack that becomes slightly too heavy and leaden to make for intuitive handling.
Remembering to hop up and down the gearbox at least once every thirty seconds or so in order to keep the car in manual mode can be quite annoying, but you get used to it eventually. And once you have, you can develop a pretty rewarding relationship with that V6 engine, which has plenty of mid-range wallop and revs with freedom. Perhaps even more meaningfully, you can also strike up a satisfying conversation with the car's chassis, which seems to relish being exercised on the road and probably wouldn't be far behind an Alfa Giulia or a well-specified BMW 4-Series for genuine rear-driven handling adjustability and dynamic flair.
But if you're minded to cut it the odd break, you might very well feel differently. The Stinger GT-S is, after all, pretty cheap, pretty quick - and it looks pretty nice. It handles pretty sweetly, too, and has plenty going for it as a driver's car. All up, it's a pretty refreshing development for the generally closed shop that is the rear-driven, mid-sized executive saloon class. I suspect even Kia will be quite happy, for now, to leave it at that.
KIA STINGER GT-S
Engine: 3,342cc V6, twin-turbocharged
Power (hp): 370@6,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 376@1,300-4,500rpm
Top speed: 168mph (limited)