Monthly Archives: January 2017

Here’s What Bob Lutz Thinks About the Kia Stinger

R&T Contributor and auto industry icon Bob Lutz talks to us about the Kia Stinger.

By Travis Okulski | Jan 9, 2017

The surprise of the Detroit Auto Show has to be the lovely Kia Stinger, a four-door, rear-wheel drive sedan that is Kia’s first car released under the stewardship of Albert Biermann of BMW M fame.

We dig it, but we wanted to know what an industry icon thought of it, so we went to our own contributor, Maximum Bob Lutz.

If you’re not familiar, Bob Lutz’s resume includes cars like the BMW 3-series, Pontiac GTO, G8, Solstice, Saturn Sky, Cadillac CTS, Ford Explorer, Dodge Viper, and more. If there’s anyone who has insight on the newest Kia to hit America, it’s Bob.

Here’s what he thinks:

Kia directly targeting BMW with new Stinger sedan revealed in Detroit

Source: Auto Maker by David Guralnick – January 8, 2017

In a decommissioned factory near the heart of Detroit, Kia revealed its most ambitious car yet. A hype man on stage talked up what a big deal it was. The vibe was loft-party corporate. Through a haze of smoke and spotlights, Kia’s sleek new Stinger sedan made its debut ahead of the North American International Auto Show. Never before has the South Korean auto maker tried so hard to make a car seem so desirable. Never before has it had to.

With the 2018 Stinger, Kia hopes to lure wealthy buyers away from BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz. Kia can’t compete in terms of brand prestige, but it has tried hard to compete on performance.

On paper, the Stinger certainly has the specs to compete against the best Germany has to offer. The all-new fastback sedan is based on a rear-wheel drive chassis and powered by either a 255 or 365-horsepower engine, mated to an eight-speed automatic gearbox. All-wheel drive will be available as an option.

Kia Stinger

Peter Schreyer oversaw the design, which was done at Kia’s studio in Frankfurt, while chassis tuning and performance was overseen by Albert Biermann.

Biermann joined Kia after more than 30 years at BMW, where he had a hand in engineering nearly all of M Division’s high-performance cars since the 1980s.

The BMW 4 Series was the key benchmark for the Stinger, Biermann said. “When you look at our quality ratings, and the success story of Kia, I think there are several companies who could be worried about how Kia is moving forward.”

The base Stinger is powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder, while the 365-horsepower Stinger GT has a 3.3-litre twin-turbo V-6 . Kia claims it’ll do 0-100 km/h in 5.1 seconds, which makes it exactly as quick as the BMW 340i.

“The driving precision is on a different level from any other Kia,” Biermann said. “It’s really fun to drift the car; it’s easy to control.” A limited-slip differential and continuously adjustable suspension are standard on the Stinger GT and optional on the four-cylinder, he said, although Canadian specs are still being finalized.

Kia Stinger

In terms of design, the Stinger jumps right on the fastback sedan bandwagon. All three of Jaguar’s sedans are sleek fastbacks, which means the roofline runs nearly to the back edge of the car. Tesla, Mercedes and BMW also offer fastback sedans, and Audi will soon with the A5 Sportback. The Stinger draws design cues from the current Kia Optima sedan and the Kia GT concept shown at the 2011 Frankfurt motor show.

“Only then, after the 2011 show, the decision was made to actually make [the GT concept into a production model],” Schreyer said. “It was a very thrilling process for us.” The finished Stinger is remarkably similar to the GT concept car which rarely happens in the automotive world.

Hyundai-Kia, the South Korean auto giant, doesn’t lack for ambition. As of 2015 it was the third largest auto maker in the world in terms of sheer production, building nearly eight-million vehicles. Only Toyota and Volkswagen Group made more. Those two companies already have successful luxury brands in Lexus for Toyota and Audi, Bentley and Porsche for VW. Hyundai-Kia is after a slice of the prestige and fatter profit margins up for grabs in the luxury segment.

“I think that with this car we are at eye-level with other premium competitors,” said Schreyer.

Kia Stinger

Hyundai and Kia have both dabbled in the luxury car market before, albeit somewhat half-heartedly. Kia’s K900 sedan sits atop the current range, with a price that can climb to more than $70,000. Until recently, Hyundai offered the full-size, $65,000 Equus. It’s been replaced by an entirely new luxury sub-brand, called Genesis. At the moment it only has two cars, one of which is essentially a re-badged former Hyundai model, but a full lineup is in the works.

As good as the Stinger looks on paper and in person, the important questions for consumers remain: where will it fit into Kia’s crowded lineup and how much will it cost? Kia Canada isn’t saying. Compact luxury sedans from the Germans, as well as Lexus, start around $39,000. Biermann’s benchmark, the BMW 428i fastback is $49,450. Kia will have to undercut that price by a lot to have any chance of pulling buyers away from established premium cars.

It took Volkswagen Group more than a decade and untold millions to turn Audi into a true luxury brand. Today it’s on equal footing with BMW and Mercedes-Benz. Is Hyundai-Kia willing to devote the time and resources necessary to create successful luxury divisions of its own, or is the company just dabbling again? We should get the answer when we drive the Stinger GT and find out the price later this year.

First Drive: 2017 Kia Niro

Source: Automobile Mag by Ed Tahaney – December 21, 2016

While the all-new 2017 Kia Niro isn’t exactly the sexiest car in the world, it’s a refreshing break from designs of the past. The latest offering from Kia is about the size of a Fiat 500X but bears a subtler design than the Italian as well as other hybrids in its class, which should increase its appeal among individuals with more conservative tastes.

The company’s tiger-nose grille works well ,and the front gets a playful pair of narrow cat eyes for headlights. The side profile is simple, streamlined, and features an extended roofline. Its rear is wide, resembling a sporty hatchback with unobtrusive LED taillights.

“The Niro is a different kind of hybrid,” James Bell, head of Kia PR tells us at the vehicle’s launch, adding, “This is not a Prius.”

No, it is definitely not a bestseller like the Toyota — yet — but it offers the same technology in a more comfortable package with a true car feel and better rear visibility compared to Toyota’s looks challenged marvel.

“You don’t feel like you are in a science experiment,” Bell continues.

The feisty compact crossover is powered by a 1.6-liter I-4 that produces 104 hp and 109 lb-ft of torque. The electric motor adds an additional 43 horses for a combined output of 139 hp and 195 lb-ft. Power is delivered to the front wheels via a second-generation six-speed dual-clutch transmission, which feels smoother than hybrids with continuously variable transmissions.

There’s a noticeable change in the electric power steering and handling of the Niro while it’s driven in Sport Mode, versus the more sedate and better fuel economy provided while driving in Eco Mode. Sport mode tightens up the mildly vague steering and stiffens the suspension, allowing the driver to push the low-riding crossover harder through twisty roads. It’s definitely more fun to drive, but burns fuel much more quickly than Eco mode.

The Niro’s platform was specially built for the gas-electric hybrid powertrain. Fifty-three percent is comprised of advanced high-strength steel, while aluminum was used for the hood, tailgate, brake calipers, and other bits to help lower the vehicle’s total weight.

Buyers have five trim flavors to choose from: FE, LX, EX, Touring, and a special Launch Edition. Base FE models feature 16-inch wheels, cloth seats, and don’t include roof racks or push-button start.

Because owing a hybrid is all about the mileage, here’s what we know about the Niro’s: The FE model is EPA rated at 52/49/50 mpg city/highway/combined, while the LX is rated at 51/46/49 mpg. The range-topping Touring model comes with 18-inch wheels, leather seats, a small sunroof, and a roof rack. It is rated at 46/40/43 mpg city/highway/combined; we saw between 37 and 46.2 mpg during a recent city/highway fandango through Texas hill country. Our lower fuel economy score was due to riding with a heavy foot, mostly in Sport mode, through the picturesque, Mesquite tree-lined roads.

Extra options naturally add more weight to the vehicle and depending how you drive, that will also affect your overall mileage average. Still, should gas prices creep back up again, this model is sure to become one of the most popular hybrids on the block.

Recently, a Niro EX set a Guinness World Record by traveling 3715.4 from Los Angeles to New York on only 4.1 tanks—48.5 gallons—of gas. The miserly crossover averaged a whopping 76.6 mpg on that trip. Good luck trying to beat that record.

Inside, the Niro has plenty of leg, head, and shoulder room for American-sized occupants and their gear thanks to its 106.3-inch wheelbase and 97.1 cu-ft of total interior volume. Luggage capacity is 19.4 cu-ft with the rear seats up and 54.5 cu-ft with the seats down.

The instrument cluster is simple, direct, and easy to use. There’s an 8-inch touch screen for all the technical data, graphics, and navigation system with knobs for the stereo and controls on the steering wheel as well. A wireless cell-phone charger is located beneath the USB port and is definitely a necessary modern touch.

Engineers ditched the traditional 12-volt battery to reduce weight, instead using the high-voltage 1.56-kWh lithium-ion polymer battery located beneath the rear seats. It’s smaller and lighter than other hybrid batteries and also provides a flat load floor when the seats are folded down for more cargo space. The spare tire was also jettisoned to save weight and a “tire mobility kit” (air pump) is included in its absence, though a temporary spare can be fitted as an option.

Kia worked hard to eliminate wind noise from the cabin, using expanding foam inside the A- and B-pillars and acoustic windshield glass to combat the issue. We detected slight wind noises coming from the front undercarriage, but nothing the eight-speaker Harman Kardon stereo system couldn’t remedy.

2017 Kia Niro Hybrid Specifications

On Sale: January 2017
Price: $23,000-$32,000 (est.)
Engine: 1.6L DOHC 16-valve I-4/104-hp, 109 lb-ft; 240V electric motor/43-hp; 139 hp, 195 lb-ft combined
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Layout: 4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, FWD SUV
EPA Mileage: 46-52/40-49 mpg city/highway
L x W x H: 171.5 x 71.1 x 60.8 in
Wheelbase: 106.3 in
Weight: 3,106-3,274 lb
0-60 MPH: N/A
Top Speed: N/A