Kia Motors issued a surprise in Detroit at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) with the debut of a new rear-wheel drive sports coupe concept. The Kia GT4 Stinger is the Korean automaker’s answer to the popular Toyobaru cars (Subaru BRZ, Scion FR-S) whose low-cost, rear-driven sportiness has taken the market by surprise.

The aggressive concept showcases eye-catching new design language as a sort of next-generation upgrade for the Track’ster concept that appeared two years ago. This rendition is more road- and production-ready, however, and is a complete package of interior, exterior and powertrain design.

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“Driving enjoyment was the number one priority in designing the GT4 Stinger,” said Tom Kearns, chief designer, Kia Design Center America (KDCA). “It’s an authentic 2+2 sports car that can turn heads as a daily driver while also being right at home on the track. It’s about purity, simplicity and timelessness. The GT4 Stinger is a throwback to days when driving a car was a visceral experience that wasn’t muted by electronic gimmickry.”

The obvious impetus for the design comes from the GTS-class Optimas that have been doing well on the Pirelli World Challenge racing series. Unlike most GT cars, however, the GT4 dumps most of the luxury trappings in favor of functionality and enjoyment for the purist.

The exterior of the Kia GT4 Stinger is smooth and unbroken, with the signature Kia bean-shaped grille accenting a smooth, rounded hood that extends as one piece to become the top of the front fenders. A clipped windscreen is topped by a sloping roof that accentuates the 2+2 coupe’s low, fast profile.

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Simple, deep wells cut into the bottom of the door as runners swell into air intakes for the rear brakes and mark the only lines on the doors and side panels. The rear fender bulges to show muscularity while the fastback roof swoops down to the clipped rear end.

With large wheels, deep set vertical headlamps, and sharp side mirrors, the car definitely says “Go fast!”

The chassis is custom for the concept, but production-ready with independent double wishbone suspension and a 103-inch wheelbase (169.7 inches total length) and a 74.4-inch width. The car stands only 49.2 inches high (shorter than the Rio subcompact).

It’s powered by a tuned version of the well-proven 2.0-liter GDI the company uses in most of its small and midsize cars. It’s been juiced up to 315 horsepower and is capable of going to 400 horses with further tuning. Those horses jump through a close-ratio, six-speed manual transmission to the rear wheels, which are a custom 20-inch aluminum set with center locks and carbon fiber inserts. Brembo Gran Turismo brakes put a stop to things when needed.

Total weight of the car is just 2,874 pounds with a 52:48 distribution on a quick-ratio steering rack.

While there are currently no plans to bring the concept to production, Kia has a history of delivering production vehicles that bear a strong resemblance to the concept that preceded them, and the GT4 Stinger provides a possible and highly provocative glimpse into Kia’s future. When asked who the GT4 Stinger is intended for, Kearns quips, “It’s a totally selfish design. The design team at KCDA is full of gearheads and enthusiasts, and the GT4 Stinger is the perfect car for that kind of crowd.”

We will say that the figures make it a definite contender against the BRZ/FR-S. If the price tag can match, it’d be a big hit.

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An automotive enthusiast for most of his adult life, Aaron has worked in and around the industry in many ways. He is an accredited member of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Press (RMAP), the Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA), and freelances as a writer and journalist around the Web and in print. You can find his portfolio at AaronOnAutos.com.

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