Speaking With Gregory Guillaume on the Design of Kia's New Rear-Drive Sedan
Before the Kia Stinger GT debuted at the 2017 Detroit auto show, Motor Trend was invited to Korea for an exclusive deep dive on the car, and meet with many key executives. Motor Trend was the only U.S. automotive media outlet invited. We talked with Gregory Guillaume, chief designer for Kia Motors Europe, who provided the initial design presentation on the Stinger.
Motor Trend: One of the first things you mentioned in your presentation was a castellated windshield—the notched cut line where the roof meets the top of the windshield. Is that strictly styling?
Gregory Guillaume: Pretty much. We had some hopes at the beginning to do something in the middle—you always have the inside mirror with the angle that comes forward—but we didn’t structurally ever manage to utilize that. It’s a way to really recognize the car. Peter [Schreyer] often tells me he is in a restaurant and just sees tops of cars passing by—just the roofs out of the window. He says, “Yeah, I always know when there’s a Kia passing by just because of that detail.”
[Editor’s note: This notched cut line is reflected at several other points elsewhere on the vehicle, including the upper portion of Kia’s tiger-nose signature grille, the rear bumper of the GT, and on the inside in the A/C vent rings.]
MT: How do you describe the three-piece chrome strip that goes from the A-pillar past the C-pillar? What is that? What’s the term for that?
GG: We don’t have a term, but it’s just an element that we have found at some point at time. Actually, the previous-generation Optima had a similar thing. It’s a good trick to visually bring the car down, especially on this car because of the rear-wheel-drive proportion. It’s really important that the cabin visually sits backward from the car. It really just pulls it back all the way to a point.
MT: Interesting. Speaking of the cabin, can you talk about the exterior dimensions and interior volume?
GG: We wanted a long rear overhang, but what was very important from the beginning was the long wheelbase. I always measure a space inside the car more horizontally than vertically. Maybe it’s because I’m not so tall, but I never think, “Do I really look up there? How much space do I have?” But when I’m sitting in a car, I notice if my knees are touching the seat in front; things like that, they bother me. That’s why we really cared from the beginning to have a very big hip-to-hip-point distance front to rear. It’s probably one of the biggest in the segment, and that’s why it looks, it feels spacious when you sit inside. It’s that distance from front driver to rear passenger that’s much greater.
MT: And what about that extended reflector strip at the back? Is that for European regulations?
GG: Actually, it’s in the U.S. that you need a reflector more than we do. The show car had it as a signature with the little round detail around it. We tried to keep as much as we could, basically, from the concept car. When you see the concept car together with the production car and how similar the look, all the design themes have made it, basically, into the production car.
MT: What’s your favorite feature on the car?
GG: If I show it to you now, you’re probably going to come back all the time—it’s the Coke bottle curves because they are so subtle. From the side, there’s nothing to be noticed, but if you move toward the back, then you notice how subtle it comes out in the rear. Once you know that, I’ve noticed the people always come back. When I’m finished talking to them, they always go back, and they just go like, “Yeah,” because it’s just so subtle. Once you know it, you want to come back and see it. There are lots of things that are interesting on the car, but that’s something I personally like.
MT: Looks great. Talk to me about the vent behind the front wheel. This is the first time I’ve heard it called a side curtain air breather.
GG: This is a vent, but you can call it a breather, as well. The air goes in from the front. The problem is in aerodynamics; at high speed, you always had a lot of pressure inside the wheelhouse. The airflow is really dirty and unstable. This really helps just to push the curtain of air there and to suck it out in the back.
MT: And the hood [aka bonnet], you used another term for it—
GG: Island type. You know it from sports cars, basically. Very often the shut line of the bonnet is just on the top of the bonnet. Normal production cars, the normal thing to do is to actually come up the headline far on the side. But, sports cars always have those island-type bonnets, and it’s something that you just instantly hook up to the sports car world.