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Kia Motors executives at this week’s Detroit motor show could barely contain their grins when talking about the glamorous new Stinger GT.

The slinky grand tourer that boldly made its world premiere in America’s Motor City will go down in the annals as a turning point for the Korean brand.

This was the day it introduced to the world something genuinely desirable and aspirational, the day it graduated from challenger to player in the eyes of doubters.

Penned by a team led by a Frenchman, overseen by a German, and developed on the Nurburgring by an ex-BMW M engineer, the Stinger is more than a European premium brand nemesis in name only.

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Kia didn’t spend all that money stealing the best external car execs it could for no reason, but to say the Stinger’s designers have knocked the project out of the ballpark is to understate. The effect will be seismic.

First, Kia may have made some good-looking cars of late, but nothing it has done comes close to the Stinger.  Nudging five metres long and sitting on a rear-wheel drive platform, it has classical proportions.

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The big wheels shod in Michelin tyres, the aggressive nose and the coupe-like tail all mean business. The cabin borrows liberally from Mercedes-Benz and Audi, while retaining some signature Kia touches.

Under the bonnet of the GT is a 272kW/510Nm twin-turbo 3.3-litre V6 shared with the Genesis G80 Sport, matched to an eight-speed automatic gearbox developed in-house.

The result? A 0-100km/h sprint time of under 5.5 seconds is hardly hanging about.

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We’re yet to drive it, but the figure of Albert Biermann (the ex-BMW M guy mentioned earlier) overlooking the project, the independent suspension, the LSD,  Kia’s first adjustable driving modes, and the imminence of Australian suspension tuning all bode very well.

Of course, we’d never make a final call on a car sans wheel-time, so for now we’ll say the Stinger’s success is purely cosmetic. But if it doesn’t drive well, considering the pedigree, it’d be a shock to the system.

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Given the fact that the Stinger will come to Australia is September priced around $50,000 (or around $40,000 for the 190kW 2.0-litre turbo version), it’s small wonder that Kia wants to lure dispossessed Commodore SS owners.

And it’d be suitable if the Korean challenger does. Convincing many people to buy a Kia is a mighty task, because perception and reality are demarcated, but it’d be apt if this car really becomes a ‘coming of age’ moment for the brand.

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Kia has been talking about challenging the big boys on more than value for a long time now, and while class-leaders such as the Sorento and Carnival fit that bill, the Stinger is the first car the company has made that inspires true devotion and love.

The tale of the Stinger gives Kia a proper sting in its tail, and the motoring world had better watch out. Small wonder its design chief Peter Schreyer (who penned the first Audi TT) considers it a career highlight.

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