To be honest, when somebody says “sports car,” the word “Kia” doesn’t leap to mind. However, the South Korean car maker wants to rectify that and after dropping a trail of hints, Kia’s GT4 Stinger concept got its world première on Monday at the 2014 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS). Kia sees this stripped down track car as “hearkening back to the glory days of pure-bred, affordable sports cars.”
The idea behind the rear-drive 2+2 GT4 Stinger concept was to build around the experience that Kia gained in races such as the Pirelli World Challenge. This produced a minimalist design strategy that put an emphasis on light weight, functionality and performance at the expense of creature comforts.
The first thing you notice about the GT4 Stinger concept is how its “Ignition Yellow” body is molded onto the bespoke chassis. “We gave the car a shrink-wrapped appearance,” says Tom Kearns, chief designer, Kia Design Center America (KDCA). “It’s as if the body panels were formed around the chassis instead of merely welded to it.”
With a wheelbase of 103.1 in (261.8 cm) and a width of 74.4 in (188.9 cm), the GT4 Stinger concept weighs in at merely 2,874 lb (1303 kg), which helps with the power to weight ratio. It also enjoys a weight distribution of 52 percent in the front and 48 percent in the back.
As to style, the vocabulary was the product of Kia Motors Corporation president and chief design officer Peter Schreyer. The GT4 Stinger concept has a surprisingly simple, almost boxy profile broken by the arching wings to accommodate the track tires, while the rear of the passenger cabin with its full, raking fall away has echoes of ‘70s sports cars.
The low-set grille to enhance engine cooling is definitely a Kia and the air inlets set into the front bumper seem designed to prove you can keep the brakes cool without fitting something off a jet engine. Kia hasn't even made a big deal of the carbon composite splitter to increase downforce, so the dominating features bookending the grille are the vertical LED headlamps.
With slotted, transparent A-pillars, the passenger cabin has a greenhouse effect with 270 degrees of visibility. “It’s as if the GT4 Stinger is wearing wraparound sunglasses,” says Kearns.
Under the bonnet is a tuned version of Kia’s 2.0-liter turbocharged, direct-injected four-cylinder petrol engine that cranks 315 bhp (235 kW) and is hooked into a close-ratio, six-speed manual gearbox. There’s an independent double wishbone suspension, bespoke 20-in aluminum center-lock wheels with carbon fiber inserts carrying 275/35R-20 Pirelli P-Zero performance tires, and the brakes are Brembo Gran Turismo with two-piece, 15-in cross-drilled rotors and four-piston calipers.
The inside of the GT4 Stinger shows that when Kia says minimalist, it’s not kidding. It’s positively stark by today’s standards with rubber mat floors, a very basic dashboard, and not even a stereo. There are racing seats and two in the back, but if you happen to have legs you might want to sit in front. There’s also a storage compartment in the boot with a lid that at first glance makes you think that this is a rear engine car.
“It’s a totally selfish design, says Kearns. “The design team at KCDA is full of gearheads and enthusiasts, and the GT4 Stinger is the perfect car for that kind of crowd.”
Kia says that there are no plans to put the GT4 Stinger into production, but that the company has a record of creating production cars that contain elements of its concepts.
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