The rear-wheel-drive, turbo-six Stinger has stepped in to give Queensland cops a suitable pursuit car, but just how did the program come about?
The Queensland Police Service recently became the first law enforcement agency in the world to use the Kia Stinger as an operational intercept and road command vehicle. It replaces what has been historically the role of the now-extinct Holden Commodore and Ford Falcon.
CarAdvice sat down with Queensland Police Service (QPS) representatives to find out why the South Korean vehicle was chosen over multiple other options, which were evaluated as part of the rigorous testing procedure required for the selection criteria.
Just to recap, the Kia Stingers used by QPS are rear-wheel-drive liftback models powered by a 3.3-litre twin-turbo V6 petrol engine developing 272kW of power and 510Nm of torque, and sprint from 0–100km/h in just 4.9 seconds. QPS does not use the four-cylinder units, opting instead for the Hyundai Sonata for general-duty vehicles.
The decision to use the Stinger as a police vehicle made headlines across the world. So much so that Kia brought a fully marked up QPS highway patrol Stinger to last year’s Los Angeles international auto show, where it sat proudly demonstrating to the world the trust that had been bestowed upon it.
For our exclusive story, we travelled to the North Lakes police station about 45 minutes north of Brisbane; one of the field evaluation sites for the Kia Stinger.
Here we were met by Superintendent David Johnson, as well as Sergeant Hedy Farrell and Senior Constable Paul Stanford, who were both part of the evaluation process and are currently in charge of a fully marked up Stinger with ANPR technology (automatic number plate recognition).
Perhaps it’s important to point out first off that the Kia Stingers used by Queensland Police Service are completely stock standard. There are no modifications to the vehicle, except the fitment of additional wiring requirements for the radio and police lights.
“There is a normal police fit-out,” Superintendent Johnson tells us. “While the standard wiring harness stays, we run an additional wiring harness for police radio and lighting, but we are working with vehicle manufacturers about how our lighting could work better with the controls of the vehicle.”
As of March, there are 54 total Stingers in operation with QPS, with 43 marked (outwardly visible lights and sirens) and 11 unmarked. All highway patrol vehicles (XR6 Turbo and SS Commodores) are to be replaced by the Stingers in time. So why did the police service use a Kia as its primary enforcement vehicle?
“We previously had our sixes and V8s as our performance vehicles. They are no longer available. As car choices evolved we needed an alternative, so we engaged the motoring market specifying what we were looking for – to evaluate what options they have that meet our requirements.”
As part of that question being answered, QPS tested and rigorously evaluated vehicles from numerous other manufacturers, such as the Volkswagen Passat, BMW 5 Series, Mercedes E-Class, Volvo S60 and others. But the Kia Stinger came out on top for its intended purpose.
“The Road Policing Command's role is to save lives on the road and to change driver behaviour through education, enforcement and community engagement. Because of the nature of the role they do, they need a suitable vehicle that is capable of doing an intercept quickly, efficiently, and with safety in mind.”
The Kia won the contest to fill that role based on a wide set of criteria and months of evaluation by multiple government agencies and independent members. One of these tests even included setting a time around Norwell racetrack (a test the Stinger likely aced considering it was developed at the infamous Nürburgring racetrack in Germany).
In contrast, NSW Police decided to use the BMW 5 Series as their vehicle of choice for similar roles.
“We look at a range of vehicle manufacturers for what they can give us for value for money and vehicles fit for purpose. Why did we end up with the Stinger? Our funding model is slightly different in Queensland. The QPS funds its own vehicle fleet. The Public Safety Business Agency (PSBA) purchase our new cars, operationalise them, and deploy them across the state. We also sell them when they reach a milestone. NSW Police have an external funding model for their fleet.
“You look at total cost of ownership for all vehicles, that includes running costs, insurance, maintenance and the resale value of our vehicles. All vehicles chosen must be fit for purpose and suit the operational role they are intended to do.”
Johnson admits that there were a few raised eyebrows when the Stinger came out on top.
“Initially with the Stinger coming on board, there were some people that went ‘wow a Kia?’. Stingers were unknown in the motoring market. However, after seeing our marked police Stingers on the road, with are receiving very positive feedback from the public.”
Speaking about his experience with the Stinger so far, Senior Constable Paul Stanford told us that while being rear-wheel drive wasn’t a requirement, having that in the Stinger definitely suits his requirements.
“The majority of operational police prefer rear-wheel drive or an all-wheel-drive vehicle, just from that inspiring-confidence point of view,” Senior Constable Stanford says.
He harks back to when QPS were using the short-lived supercharged front-wheel-drive Toyota TRD Aurion.
“We trialled the Aurions at one stage and they weren’t… They were overpowered for a FWD car.”
For now, though, Stanford says that people are still startled by the Stinger being used as a police vehicle.
“People are coming up to me [to chat]; they are noticing the Stingers more than any of the other marked performance vehicles we‘ve had in the past.”
But, the question that every car enthusiast probably wants to ask a QPS officer in charge of one of these vehicles: is it better than the Aussie icon that was the V8-powered Holden SS Commodore?
“I find the performance capabilities of the car are far exceeding the Commodore. [In the Holden] you are either on the power or not on the power; this is much more linear power delivery, and personally it suits the way I drive it… It’s only occasionally when you’re catching up to someone that you have to get into it a little bit, but I think overall it would be comparable to a [Ford Falcon] XR6 Turbo.”
The Senior Constable says fuel usage is a little lower or on par with the previous vehicles used, but also admits that it feels a whole generation ahead in terms of fit and finish on the inside.
Meanwhile, Sergeant Hedy Farrell tells us how the Stinger is more than capable of going from a standstill to the highway speed limit safely, when a police intercept is required.
“We are stationary on the side of the highway and then have to intercept an offending vehicle. It’s not just about a smooth take-off, it has to be smooth with traction, and it does have good pick-up to get us back onto the road. Some of the cars that we have had just don’t get out in time. When you’re sitting there and traffic is passing you at 100km/h, you have to get out... So this is a smooth ride, a consistent ride.
“We had a motorist the other day on a motorbike running false plates, it was unregistered, and he wasn’t licensed for it, but the first thing he said [when we caught him] was ‘A Stinger! How does it go?’ and we said, ‘Well, we caught up to you didn’t we?’,” Farrell recalls.
Perhaps the only noticeable weakness of the Stinger is its slightly narrower seats compared to the Commodore and the lack of a spare wheel.
“When you’ve got these on your side,” Farrell says pointing to her fully packed police belt and vest, “the seat capacity is very important. There are different-size seats in the Commodore, but then again, we do damage a lot of seats [in all cars] getting in and out and in and out.”
Superintendent Johnson notes the space-saver spare wheel is now a simple fact across most manufacturers for modern cars, not just Kia. The Road Policing Command is considering buying genuine spares in areas where Kia dealerships are not readily accessible. There are no plans to use third-party wheels, in order to avoid additional complexity.
For now, though, police officers are trained in performing a high-speed tyre change, with Farrell joking that it would be “shameful” to have to call roadside assist for a tyre change.
As with a growing number of other QPS road policing vehicles, some Stingers are fitted with the automatic number plate recognition system (you can read about how that works here), which as we witnessed first-hand automatically reads the numberplates of nearly all cars that passed the vehicle and quickly informed the officers of any issues.
During our brief demo of the system, multiple unregistered vehicle alarms, potentially unlicensed driver alerts, and even a ‘wanted or missing person’ alert came up.
Queensland Police’s fleet management system will see the used Stingers come up for resale based on a formula including age, kilometres driven, and other factors. Although there are no set hard rules for when a police vehicle is decommissioned, they are generally around the 80,000km mark, and given some are running 24/7, it may not take long before the first of these hit the second-hand market.
At the end of the day, QPS’s decision to use the Kia Stinger – as the world’s first law enforcement agency to do so – merely opened the door for others to follow, with numerous other Australian states and territories following suit.
With the death of the Falcon and Commodore, the Stinger proved itself not only worthy of the task, but perhaps even better suited. Even so, old sentiments die hard.
“The everyday Australians that we represent, they love their Commodores. We love the Commodores too, but things change, don’t they?” Sergeant Hedy Farrell says fittingly.
For those of us who have grown up knowing police cars to only be Holdens and Fords, times are indeed changing.