WITH the death knell ringing for the Aussie-built Holden Commodore and the Ford Falcon recently relegated to the history books, fans of big and brash rear-wheel-drive sports sedan are running out of affordable options.
Enter the Kia Stinger. The Korean manufacturer has taken advantage of the upcoming gap in the market created by the death of the Falcon and Commodore, by producing a car that it hopes will continue the legacy of the Aussie icons – for a similar price.
When it arrives in Australian showrooms around September this year, the Stinger will be offered with two powertrain choices – a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder unit for the base models and a more potent 3.3-litre turbocharged V6 for the flagship GT.
Three different levels of spec will be offered, and Kia is endeavouring to have the base four-cylinder variant start in the low-$40,000 range, while the point of entry for the GT should be roughly $50,000.
The desire to take the performance sedan mantle from the Commodore and Falcon was confirmed by Kia Motors Australia (KMAu) COO Damien Meredith, who said that while the Stinger would be pitched as a BMW rival in Europe, Australian pricing would reflect performance variants of the Commodore.
“That’s where our target pricing is going,” he said. “In regards to volume … we think in the initial stages, it’ll be between 200 and 300 (per month). That will be driven by inventory, because we don’t expect to get a lot (of stock) in the first four months. In 2018, we’d like to probably build it up to around about 400 a month. That’s where we see it.
“I think KMC (Kia Motor Company) understands the difference of our market compared to the rest of the world and their view that it can do a dual job for us. It can be this magnificent halo car that it will be for the brand and that we can actually get some volume out of it. Isn’t it great that there is a halo car that you can get some volume out of?”
A monthly sales figure of 400 would mean 4800 Stingers would be sold each year – more than the Mazda6, Subaru Liberty or Ford Mondeo sold in 2016.
The only other comparable large, rear-drive sedan left after the departure of the Commodore will be the Chrysler 300, which starts at $55,000 before on-roads for the V6-powered C, and tops out at $75,000 for the 6.4-litre Hemi V8-powered SRT.
Power figures have been revealed for the Stinger’s turbocharged 3.3-litre V6, which makes 276kW/510Nm – just shy of the Commodore V8’s 304kW/570Nm, and eerily similar to the 270kW/533Nm under the hood of the Falcon XR6 Turbo.
The GT can cover the 0-100km/h sprint in just 4.9 seconds – the same amount of time as the Commodore SS-V Redline.
Power for the 2.0-litre version is still unconfirmed, but possibilities include borrowing the powerplant from the Optima GT which makes 180kW/350Nm, 30kW less than the 3.6-litre Commodore V6, but with an equal torque figure.
The Stinger’s design has drawn wide praise from critics and even took out the Best Production Car award at the Detroit motor show – where it was first revealed – as well as the Eyes On Design award.
The Stinger is based on the GT concept that was revealed back in 2011 at the Frankfurt motor show, which featured suicide doors and a more aggressive front fascia with gaping side air intakes.
Mr Meredith said that the order book for the Stinger already contained 30 signatures in Australia, all of which were for the GT. The GT is expected to represent around three quarters of the Stinger’s total sales.
Australian testing and development of the Stinger is currently underway, with ride and handling being tweaked to better suit Aussie roads.
KMAu general manager of media and corporate communications Kevin Hepworth said that little suspension work had to be done compared to the UK-spec Stinger, and that minimal changes were required other than mild tweaks to suit the harsh Australian roads.
He added that discussions were currently underway to improve the Stinger’s exhaust note, which was one area that Kia would like to see enhanced for its new halo car.
The Stinger is not the first rear-drive sedan produced by the Korean company – that title belongs to the left-hand-drive-only K9, which was sold in other global markets under the monikers of K900 and Quoris.
However the K9 was pitched as a large, luxury sedan and not a sports-focused driver’s car like the Stinger.
Robbie Wallis GoAuto.com.au