The long-awaited Kia Stinger rear-wheel-drive sports liftback made its world premiere this week at the annual Detroit motor show.

Designed and engineered in Germany, the Stinger thoroughly redefines Kia’s brand and will serve as its new passenger flagship. The car also brings to fruition a promise made years away with the original GT concept from the 2011 Frankfurt motor show.

Due in Australia around September this year with a pricing target of between $40,000 and $50,000 depending on spec (though the fact that an Optima GT costs $44,490 makes us think it may go a little higher), the 2017 Stinger is designed to appeal to Commodore SS buyers and Euro tragics alike.

Update: Kia has confirmed European engines for the Stinger, see bottom of article for details

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The company says it feels “poised to redefine a segment currently populated by European automakers”. The Stinger promises to be the highest-performance production vehicle in the company’s history and will be backed by Kia’s long warranty and value proposition.

In other words, Kia wants the Stinger to be a genuinely sharp-handling, rapid and luxurious style statement to compete with the Euros, plus sister brand Hyundai’s Genesis luxury wing — set to rapidly expand.

“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,” says Kia Motors America product planning chief, Orth Hedrick.

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Design

Perhaps these leaked images don’t do the production car justice. The Stinger was designed in Frankfurt, overseen by Kia’s global design chief and former Audi staffer Peter Schreyer, with Gregory Guillaume, Kia’s European design head, as project lead.

The Stinger sports classic RWD proportions, with a short front overhang. The brand-signature ‘Tiger’ grille has been sharpened, and sits above a diffuser with distinctive fins, and is beset by angry headlights with LEDs.

Beyond this is a long, sculpted bonnet with twin vents, leading into a coupe-style sportback roof. The doors sport strong shoulder lines, leading to a long rear overhang with muscular haunches and a distinctive light treatment and rear diffuser.

There’s a bit of Optima in it, but the proportions and the various accoutrements set the Stinger apart.

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Cabin

Kia doesn’t currently offer a cabin in Australia like this. The Stinger is pitched as a sports-luxury offering, and the interior clearly embodies the latter. There’s more than a subtle nod to Mercedes-Benz in the vents and fascia layout, right?

The layout is contemporary, with a floating tablet screen sitting above a series of infotainment and climate/ventilation controls. There’s heavy use of real leather trims and metal, while the seats in higher grades are trimmed in proper Nappa hide.

A colour TFT screen between the analogue gauges relays performance data such as cornering G-forces, lap times and engine-oil temperature, along with ancillary information such as the trip computer, driver settings, navigation and diagnostics.

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At 4831mm long, the Stinger is 160mm shorter than the current Commodore, though it’s almost as wide. The 2906mm wheelbase is also only 9mm shorter than the Holden’s, promising good rear legroom.

The Stinger’s cargo area is also larger than many in its class, according to Kia, with enough space for full-size luggage or golf bags, and a power boot available.

Features on offer (depending on spec, final Australian details not confirmed) include AEB with pedestrian detection, full-stop radar cruise control, blind-spot monitoring and rear-cross traffic alert. Other tech includes a head-up display, wireless charging pad, and a premium 15-speaker 720 watt Harmon/Kardon audio system for the top-spec variant/s.

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Drivetrains

Two longitudinal engines will be offered in the Stinger, both of which will come to Australia. The range kicks off with a 2.0-litre turbo-petrol from Kia’s Theta II family producing around 190kW at 6200rpm and 353Nm between 1400 and 4000rpm.

The flagship Stinger GT variant will get a 3.3-litre twin-turbo V6 from the Lambda family (shared with Genesis) punching out an estimated 272kW at 6000rpm and 510Nm between 1300 and 4500rpm. In both cases, the engines are still under final development, so the figures are not locked in.

Kia is targeting a 0-100km/h sprint for the flagship Stinger of 5.1 seconds, on the way to a 269km/h top speed.

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Matched to both is an (in-house) eight-speed automatic with a torque converter as premiered on the K900 luxury sedan, channeling torque to the rear wheels. The Stinger’s RWD system on the 3.3 also gets a mechanical limited-slip diff. All-wheel drive will be offered in snowy countries, and only in left-hand-drive form.

The 8AT gets a centrifugal pendulum absorber, which means a piece of engineering deigned to reduce torsional drivetrain vibrations. You can also override the ‘box via wheel-mounted paddle shifters.

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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.

The 2.0-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder models ride on 225/45R18 tyres while the 3.3-litre V6 is shod with ultra-high performance rubber; 225/40R-19 in front and 255/35R-19 at the rear. Vented Brembo disc brakes (350mm) are standard on the 3.3-litre.

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Chassis

Development of the Stinger’s dynamics was centred at the Nurburgring, led by former BMW M Division executive Albert Biermann.

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

The chassis comprises 55 per cent ultra-high strength steel made by Hyundai/Kia, promises the necessary body stiffness for sharp handling and good NVH suppression.

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The suspension is a MacPherson strut arrangement at the front and a multi-link independent rear. The Stinger is also the first Kia with adjustable dampers. This same set of driving modes also adjust the resistance programmed into the electric-assisted power steering.

As with all Kia Australia products, the Stinger will be specially tuned for local roads by the company’s Sydney team led by Graeme Gambold. There are already two cars in Australia, and work begins in Sydney soon.

Australia

Australian details are not confirmed yet, though we will get both engines from around September this year, in RWD form. Pricing is expected to start around $40,000 and top out near $50,000. That, at least, is the target.


Update: Kia has confirmed engines for the European-spec Stinger, with an additional 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel to be offered alongside the turbo petrols.

Generating 147kW of power and a meaty 440Nm of torque - the latter available between 1750 and 2750rpm, the Euro Stinger's oiler appears to be the same engine available in the Sorento SUV. European buyers will also get the option of rear- and all-wheel drive.

However, Kia Australia has confirmed that only the two petrols will be offered locally, and rear-wheel drive will also be the sole drivetrain option.