Lucie Loves... Cars // Women drivers & fancy cars: Discuss. My flying visit to Milan for the Kia Stinger launch party
A girl racer, I am not… But, as a woman, I do get a lot of pleasure out of driving fast cars. When I was invited to attend the press launch of the new Kia Stinger in Milan, in January, I was somewhat intrigued – being that I’d never really shouted about my love of Top Gear, Pimp My Ride or any other petrolhead-related content.
However, the Kia Stinger is unlike any of the cars that I’ve done features on or test driven before. I mean, compared to Cornish road trip I did with Roz, in the diddy Peugeot 108 and the Summer Solstice sojourn I took with my sister, in a stylish, yet bijou DS3– and, come to think of it, even the Christmas road trip in the family-sized DS4 Crossbackwas still fairly tame – the Kia Stinger, in my humble opinion is an absolute beast of car! And it’s damn pretty sexy too.
I’ll be the first to put my hand up and say that I’m by no means an automotive expert or a fanatic female car blogger. But my blog is centred around lifestyle topics, which means that my content is fairly diverse. And to be fair, my recent dalliances with cars and road trips is probably one of the best, and most exhilarating, things to come out of my new-found freedom, as a singleton, following the separation from my husband in October 2015.
Before that, I rarely got behind the wheel; I was quite a nervous driver – my ex was always the one doing the driving – unless it was for a work trip, and then I’d do so begrudgingly, filled with anxiety whenever I had to use a multi-storey car park. And even then, the car that I was in, was usually the cheapest hire car on the market – and not the luxury driving experience I’d be writing home about on the blog!
So, curious as ever, I hopped on a plane (British Airways Business Class! Whoop!) to Milan, with the Kia press team, and waited to see what it was all about. I was surprised to find that I was the only female on the trip – and the only lifestyle blogger too. The rest of the guys were journalists from automotive or business publications, or from car leasing companies. It turns out that there aren’t very many girls who blog about cars…? I’d love to hear about any greats ones that do.
This was my third time in Milan, but yet again it was only for a mere 24 hours! We stayed at the 4-star Starhotels E.c.ho Hotel, located near central Milan. The room was super comfy, and the mini bar nibbles were excellent. Think: artisan marshmallows, caramelised nuts and popcorn! I really need to sort out a road trip around Italy – one that lasts at least a few weeks! I’ve never been to Rome or Florence and would really like to do a driving tour of the Italian coast, before exploring vineyards and places like Cinque Terre.
On arrival in Milan, we were granted an exclusive interview with Kia’s Chief Design Officer Peter Schreyer & Chief Designer, Gregory Guillaume.
When asked about how the car came about, Chief Designer, Gregory Guillaume said: “The car was extremely well received – probably even better than many people had thought [it would be. So you really have to analyse properly – especially when you do a car that you’ve never had in your line. Something completely new. It’s completely different for us, so it’s big risk that you must consciously analyse. But pretty rapidly there was enough weight behind it and the project started to take momentum, and it just went along by itself. I couldn’t tell you when exactly – you lose sense of time…”
They told us a funny story about one of the Designers who didn’t believe that the car would actually make it to production – he thought that someone would stop it, and so bet a half case of champagne that it wouldn’t see the light of day! Turns out they’ll all be drinking champagne, but the guy was very happy he lost the bet.
Guillaume continued: “If you’d asked me 10 years ago, whether I’d be there today, presenting a car like that for Kia, it’s easy to forget where we were before. When the designer made that bet, he was probably also thinking “there’s no way we’ll be producing a car like that.” – we had the model in the studio, and the car looked so good – he just couldn’t believe it.”
The Design duo went on to tell us how the important it was that the Koreans were really enthusiastic about it from the very beginning. Whenever the project was mentioned at one of their meetings, it would bring a smile to everyone’s faces.
“At one time we introduced the model, we’d painted in that red – and even more so – ‘CK’ had been the code name for it… and then suddenly, it wasn’t the just the ‘CK’ any more, it was a red car. I think that showed how much enthusiasm there was behind it.” Regarding the importance of choosing the name ‘Stinger’ to Christen the sports car concept, they explained that GT may have been a little too dry for them. But the “Stinger packed a punch.”
When challenged as to whether we can expect to see a convertible option, they agreed that whilst it would be great to take the roof off and make a convertible…at the end of the day, there needs to be a business case. “The moment you limit yourself to 2-doors, it’s very difficult to do volume. So many people expect us to do a 2-door small coupe – so no one expected us to do a 4-door. This element of surprise is almost more interesting.”
Kia Stinger: Born in Europe. Engineered in Korea.
The main market for testosterone-fuelled cars like the Kia Stinger is probably United States, but the reality is that the American Kia team didn’t actually have a hand in it. The show car was born in Europe and naturally the production developed out of that. There was never a competing model.
Usually, wherever the prime market is for the model, that studio will take ownership of the project. They explained that when it came to the previous Optima project, the European design team weren’t really meant to be involved in it. However, Guillaume, went to Korea saying “I do believe that some of the best looking sedans do come from Europe, so give us a shot!”
The result: they made a car, that was really a revolution for Kia in the United States. They went from selling 35,000 cars with the previous model, to over 150-180,000 cars. From then on, Kia suddenly gained credibility for doing sedans as a company.
So how did the Kia Stinger come to exist?
At the beginning, it was just only really a simple question from the Kia Korean HQ to the studio in Europe. “If Kia was to one day to a front-engined, rear-wheel-drive 4-door saloon, what could it look like?”
Their answer: “We shouldn’t be doing the 3 series, we should be doing a Gran Turismo fastback – it’s more about the journey, that’s how the GT concept came along.”
All of the Kia Stinger models were made in Frankfurt, and then all of the engineering was done in Korea.
Terrible British roads…
There was a funny moment when one of the members of the press asked whether they’d be introducing a rough terrain version for British roads. “We’re just hoping you repair your roads.” laughed Guillaume. “It doesn’t help if you’ve got better suspension, if a whole bus can disappear in a road…”
And then, when asked about the GT’s performance, Guillaume was quick to add that they aren’t aiming for any lap times. The whole reason that they use the Nürburgring, is purely down to the intense testing of the car. It’s said that doing 10 laps of the Nürburgring is the equivalent of doing some pretty hardcore driving in real life.
So would I like to drive it? Hell yeah! I’d love to take the Kia Stinger on a road trip. Us women drivers often get a bad rep, or pigeon-holed into being 4x4 yummy mummy or cosy coupe drivers only.
Female drivers and muscle cars
*Think: Mila Kunis driving the bright fire engine red 1970s’ Dodge Challenger muscle car in Bad Mom’s – now that’s the kind of car that I want to be seen driving!*
After getting my first taste of driving a bright orange convertible Ford Mustang during my California road trip in April 2016, I found that I thoroughly enjoyed driving a more powerful car, for a change. It was a really empowering experience, and one that definitely increased my confidence as a female driver. I thoroughly recommend that everyone steps outside of their automotive comfort zone, every once in a while. It’s bloody wonderful!
Want to find out more about the Kia Stinger specs? Take a look at Alistair Charlton’s Kia Stinger piece for the IB Times.
Photography © Lucie Kerley