Kia Stinger 3.3 T-GDi GT S
"Why would you want to drive one of those, they're rubbish," replied my dad over the phone when I told him I'd be making the trip home to Wales in a Kia.
We have come to expect a lot from the Korean manufacturer over the last few years - value for money, reliability, practicality etc. - so entering the luxury fold was a bit of a shot in the dark for the company. But with the company strapline "The power to surprise," I was keen to discover if the car has the necessary attention to detail and quality to prove the haters (including my dad) wrong.
The Stinger in question is the GT S, which has a potent 365bhp turbo V6 diesel engine - a good start if it wants to be a real drivers car, which is a feat achieved by some of its rivals like the Audi S4. It also pretty much matches the S4 is the price, which is a tad dissuading. Yep, the Stinger will set you back £40k, but it's worth noting that the Volkswagen Arteon, with a comparatively measly 276bhp 2.0 TSI under the bonnet, all-wheel drive, DSG and R-Line trim, will also cost £40,305.
You do get a lot of car for your money with the Stinger. The GT S trim offers LED headlamps, heated and cooled front seats with heated rear seats, a 15-speaker Harman/Kardon sound system, 360-degree parking cameras and a sunroof, on top of all the other features found on the lower-end trims.
The materials inside look seriously impressive on first glance, and the quality isn't half bad either. The cream nappa leather interior of this car is classy and provides that premium feel. Perhaps on the lower trims the quality wouldn't match up to rivals, but in the top-spec it hits the spot.
The ride is supple and this GT S version is fast, forgiving and more agile than its weight suggests at 2,260kgs. The eight-speed auto transmission lifted from the Sorento SUV can push the GT to 60mph in 4.7 seconds leaving its German rivals trailing behind with its 168mph top speed.
While all of these positives are superb, there must come some negatives right? Although the gearbox succeeds in pushing the Stinger to speeds no Kia before it has ever achieved, it's not the best auto gearbox you can get your hands on. It's fine through town and even on long journeys, but as soon as you put your foot down the changes become hesitant, and even if you try to revert to manual for this reason, it constantly switches you back into auto mode.
MPG is another bug bear. Combined mpg hits just 28.5mpg, and CO2 emissions are high at 225g/km. But then again, if you buy a car in this segment, you don't exactly work for Greenpeace.
These, though, are small gripes dwarfed by the many, many positives of the Stinger. And sure, spending around £40k on a car carrying the Kia badge may put some people off, but the Korean manufacturer is destroying all illusions that it can only make middle-of-the-road, family-friendly cars. It has taken a bold move into a segment full of highly territorial animals, but with the Stinger, it is in no danger of being sidelined.
Overall, this car is a result of Kia's sophistication and ambition, which is clear before you’ve taken your dad a couple of miles down the road. I don't know about you, but I find the feeling of teaching someone a lesson quite satisfying. That lesson? Don't be a badge snob.