Kia builds a Kommodore

Large mass-market sedans are a dying breed – except, obviously, in Kia’s eyes: They’ve just unveiled one.


CAN’T see a Mondeo filling in for your current Ford Falcon and aren’t impressed by the downsized solution Holden is presenting as a VF Commodore replacement?

Perhaps Kia might be more your thing. Unveiled today at the Detroit motor show, the Stinger suggests South Korea’s second-largest car maker didn’t get the memo – or take note of the sales stats – that says large orthodox sedans are on the out.

This one is definitely coming in, though whether there’s room for it in New Zealand has yet to be expressed by the local distributor. However, given that Kia Australia – which the NZ crowd works in with for most product – has already indicated high interest, perhaps we stand a chance of also being on the delivery list. But though likely to be a showroom standout, there's little chance of it making big sales impact, at least unless current trend u-turns. At present, though, large sedans achieve less than five percent of sales and the leading choice Commodore is mainly propped up by its police work (a job the new model will take over). 

The Stinger is a full-sized five-seater sedan, being built in rear and four-wheel-drive formats, that will launch within the year with a reworked version of Kia’s existing 3.3-litre twin-turbo petrol V6. It develops 272kW with 510Nm of torque, drives via an eight-speed automatic gearbox and limited-slip diff and is cited as being good for 0-100kmh in 5.1 seconds. Kia is also signalling Stinger will come in with a 188kW four-cylinder engine. They’re also hinting an all-electric version.

Kia US vice president of product planning, Orth Hendrick said: “Unlike any Kia that has come before it, the Stinger really is a dream car for us, and here today in Detroit, that dream is now a reality after years of commitment and hard work from a passionate group of designers, engineers and executives around the world.

“From its GT concept-car origins to the years of tuning and refining on the legendary Nurburgring circuit, no detail was too small to be obsessed over, and the result is simply stunning.”

Don't be surprised if the car has a certain German flavour. The styling was handled by the company’s Frankfurt design studio with guidance from ex-Audi design guru, Peter Schreyer, while the chassis development was overseen by Albert Biermann, the ex-BMW M Division genius who joined Kia two years ago to become the ride and handling boss.

Says Biermann: “I think for the Kia brand, the Stinger is like a special event. Because nobody expects such a car, not just the way it looks but also the way it drives. It’s a whole different animal.”

By way of comparison, Stinger has a longer wheelbase than either Audi A4, Infiniti Q50, Lexus IS, Lexus GS, Mercedes-Benz CLS or BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe. It’s also longer overall than those cars. 

In a first for Kia, Stinger gets electronically adjustable suspension known as ‘Dynamic Stability Damping Control’. According to the PR blurb: “While always reacting predictably to the driver’s inputs, depending on road conditions and driving style, the Stinger can be tuned to respond with more agility through corners as the system softens the front shocks and firms up the rear.  Conversely, improved high-speed stability is achieved when the system stiffens the front shocks and softens the rear.  The system is accessed through five drive modes (another Kia first): Personal, Eco, Sport, Comfort and Smart”.

The Stinger will be both rear- or all-wheel drive (but only countries with snow will get the AWD) and get a Kia-developed eight-speed automatic transmission. Drivers can let the gearbox manage shifts on its own or may selectively run through the gears via paddle shifters mounted aft of the steering wheel. As with the suspension and steering, up to five different shift patterns may be selected through the vehicle’s electronic drive-mode system. Throttle mapping is also adjusted accordingly.

Safety equipment includes Forward Collision Assistance (FCA) with integrated Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB), Advanced Smart Cruise Control (ASCC) which can maintain a pre-set distance between the Stinger and the vehicle in front and can bring the car to a full stop in congested traffic. It will have Lane Keep Assist (LKA), Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA) which scans the area behind the vehicle when backing from a parking space and will alert the driver with an audible warning if cross traffic is detected.