If you’ve thought of Kia as a manufacturer of dull but dependable grocery-getters, we don’t blame you. Besides a couple of exceptions (like the Kia Proceed GT and Kia Cerato Koup Turbo), Kia’s offerings up until now have been fairly sober affairs.
So what’s the big deal about the Kia Stinger then?
Officially revealed this week at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, the Kia Stinger is a landmark car for Kia for a few reasons. For one, the driven wheels are at the back – a key point of difference compared to the rest of Kia’s offerings, which are either front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive.
Kia has made rear-drivers before, namely the K9/K900 large sedan sold in South Korea, Russia and the USA, but that E-Class sized car never made it to our shores.
Why is RWD so important? Because while it sacrifices a little interior room, a RWD platform brings with it a sportier driving experience thanks to better-balanced handling. It also makes the Stinger comparable in configuration to the Ford Falcon and Holden Commodore. An all-wheel drive version of the Stinger will be offered overseas, but that one’s not destined for Australia.
Kia spent big on developing the Stinger’s chassis and suspension at Germany’s gruelling Nurburgring test track, with ex-BMW M boss Albert Biermann overseeing the task. With the former head of BMW’s performance division calling the shots there’s a certain expectation of driving pleasure, and a according to our sister title Wheels’ first experience of the Kia Stinger, it delivers on those expectations.
Kia’s focus on vehicle dynamics means the company is officially no longer concerned with making mere transportation, it’s now prioritising driver enjoyment.
A Kia that makes you excited to slip behind the wheel? That’s the Korean company’s objective with the Stinger. Who would have thought that Kia would be there to snatch up RWD-loving drivers after the departure of the Ford Falcon and Holden Commodore?
And it’s not just the way it handles that will impress those enthusiast. Up front is a twin-turbocharged 3.3-litre petrol V6 engine developing 272kW of power and 510Nm of torque – genuine performance car figures, and from an engine that’s completely new to Kia. For your reference, that’s more power and torque than a BMW 340i makes.
A turbo four-cylinder will be available too, but it’s not clear at this point if that powertrain is locked in for an Australian arrival. However, the top-performing turbo V6 is a sure-fire bet for Oz.
Kia’s brief for the Stinger was also to create something beautiful to look at, and with the shapely four-door sedan (which is in actual fact a hatchback with a sedan profile) sporting the most adventurous and athletic take on Kia’s present design language, it’s bound to turn heads like no other Kia before it.
And though styling is often a subjective thing, with an overall length measuring more than 4.8 metres and classic short front overhang, long wheelbase and an extended rear overhang, the Stinger boasts proportions that are not only pleasing to the eye, but distinct from anything else in a Kia showroom.
The design can at times appear like a mashup of Audi, Alfa Romeo, Dodge, Maserati and Porsche styling cues, but those are brands worth mimicking. Derivative design is not always a bad thing.
Inside the Stinger, there’s inspiration from the Mercedes-Benz S-Class (central air vents), BMW/Mazda (tombstone-style infotainment screen) and Audi (switchgear), and the liftback four-door configuration is similar to that employed by the Audi A7. Nothing we haven’t seen before, however it’s easily the most visually engaging and premium-looking interior of any Kia in recent times.
And that summarises why the Kia Stinger is such a pivotal product for Korea’s second-biggest automotive exporter. The Stinger doesn’t necessarily innovate, but it takes Kia to new heights by walking right up to the division between mainstream and premium and stepping cheekily across it. It’s set to challenge and change people’s perceptions of Korean cars, and its arrival here in late 2017 will be a watershed moment for Kia.