The hate and vitriol towards Holden ditching the rear-wheel-drive V8 platform was unprecedented, with fans flocking to forums to comment on their move away from the brand. Fortuitously, Kia was working on an apt replacement. A faster, similarly sized sedan capable of epic tank-slappers.
But, do you think the vocal minority slaying Holden for killing the rear-wheel-drive Commodore lined up to buy one? Err, not quite.
Kia only moves around 150 Stingers per month – around a quarter of what Holden sells with a Commodore badge. Compared to the previous-generation VFII Commodore, it's a drop in the ocean with that model regularly moving over 2000 units before it met its maker, keeping in mind that sales were trending downwards.
What's the point I'm trying to get at here? Large sedan sales are on the nose, and it seems those that complained the loudest weren't ever going to buy a large sedan, even if Holden miraculously managed to cram a rear-wheel-drive V8 drivetrain in the new Commodore.
So, why does the Stinger not sell in much higher numbers? Buggered if I know.
We hopped behind the wheel of the 2020 Kia Stinger GT with the optional sports exhaust. The 2020 model-year Stinger GT picks up a few extra goodies, such as a heated steering wheel, LED ambient lighting and more insulation in the headlining.
Pricing remains dirt cheap when you look at the bang-for-buck you're getting. Starting from $60,790 plus on-road costs, you'll benefit from a stinking quick twin-turbocharged V6 petrol engine that sends all of its torque to the rear wheels.
Under the bonnet is a 3.3-litre twin-turbocharged V6 engine that produces 272kW of power and 510Nm of torque, catering for a factory claimed 0–100km/h time of just 4.9 seconds – although we clocked a 4.8-second time in two separate Stingers tested previously.
The drivetrain is mated to an eight-speed torque converter automatic transmission that's fitted with steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters.
Official fuel economy figures come in at 10.2 litres per 100km on the combined cycle. Expect to get pretty much exactly that if you mix city with highway driving. It's a really efficient engine, and as long as you're not wide-open throttle everywhere, it works a charm.
It sends torque to the rear wheels via an electronically controlled limited-slip differential, with staggered-width Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S tyres that measure 225mm wide at the front (on 19-inch alloy wheels and 40-profile tyres), while the rear sits on 255mm-wide treads with 19-inch alloy wheels and 35-profile rubber.
One of our biggest complaints with the Stinger straight out of the box is the lack of exhaust sound. It kind of sounds like a sewing machine – and I don't know about you, but I'm yet to come across a decent-sounding sewing machine.
Kia addresses that with a locally developed exhaust system that is a $2660 investment (plus fitment costs), which adds bi-modal exhaust outlets that totally transform the way this car sounds.
We are also a big fan of this colour – think 'Crayon' in the Porsche range, except without the $5000 price tag. Ceramic Grey is a no-cost option, as are the awesome-looking red-coloured seats.
At idle, the exhaust is set to fully open, so you get an awesome heightened idle note as the car sits still. As you drive away, the valves close until around 3500rpm where the system primes to open. Cycling through the drive modes can also affect the state of the bi-modal valves.
Step inside the cabin and this is a damn nice place to be seated. It feels high end and premium, to the point where it's easy to forget you're in a Kia – a brand that was barely a blip on the radar 15 years ago.
Everything from the flat-bottomed steering wheel to the sumptuous seats and endless features gives you a sense of class. You'll find things like heated and cooled seats up front, a heated steering wheel, wireless phone charging, a brilliant 15-speaker Harman Kardon sound system, keyless entry and start, adaptive LED headlights and 360-degree camera.
In terms of cargo space, there's 406L to fill with the second row in place, which expands to 1114L when the second row is folded flat.
Your second-row passengers won't love the toe room. It's a pretty tight place to be seated if the driver has their seat far back. Head room is also pretty tight if your second-row passenger is taller, or freakishly tall like Scott Collie.
Infotainment is taken care of courtesy of an 8.0-inch high-resolution colour touchscreen that sits atop the dashboard. It's easy to use, quick, and comes fitted with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard.
The only downside to the system is the button for voice control doesn't do anything unless your smartphone is paired using a cable. In most other cars on the market, there's an inbuilt voice-recognition system or the ability to forward voice commands to your phone's internal voice-recognition system.
While we're on the topic of downsides, there appears to be a recurring issue with Stingers in the boot area. The CarAdvice Stinger developed a rattle in the boot early on in its life that was never really able to be fixed.
Our almost brand-new Stinger GT test car started off fine, but then developed the same boot rattle. It's not a big deal (in terms of the noise it adds to the cabin), but it's damn frustrating every time you hear it.
Hit the open road and you'll quickly grow to appreciate the adaptive damping system fitted to the Stinger. Using the drive-mode selector beneath the gear shifter, the driver can switch between Comfort and Sport modes with ease.
Each mode comes with its own suspension tune. Comfort is, as you would expect, very comfortable. It errs on the firm side of comfort, but it's pleasant and reminds you that you're harnessing a beast of a car that's easily unleashed with a press of the throttle.
Sport mode transforms the ride and firms the entire package up. It allows it to sit flatter through corners and feel more like a go kart than a 1780kg sedan.
Speaking of corners, the standard Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S tyres fitted to the Stinger GT do a remarkable job of maintaining traction and shooting the Stinger through bends.
Before you get greedy with the throttle it has the feel of an all-wheel-drive car, and even when you do get a little more confident, the stability control isn't intrusive enough to really bite down on your fun.
Switch it off entirely and it'll create smile-inducing drifties to your heart's content. But, the package can be really let down by the gearbox calibration.
It sometimes has a mind of its own and will jump out of its manual mode or will shift gears on its own. On occasion when you want to hold second gear, for example, because you know you're about to slow down, it will self-shift to third, meaning you need to drive back through the gears twice to get back to first.
It's at this point that the exhaust comes into its own. It sounds absolutely awesome both inside the cabin and outside of it. We've tried to capture as much of that as we can in the video, but you've got to hear it in person to get a proper feel for it.
Braking is taken care of with four-piston Brembo brakes at the front that bite confidently and hard. They don't present any fade events – although you'll never be driving hard enough on public roads to experience anything like that – and we noticed with our owned Stinger when we attended a track day that it was the tyres that ultimately limited our fun (although our Stinger was on Continental tyres instead of these Michelins).
Owning the Stinger won't break the bank. It runs on 91RON fuel (although we'd recommend feeding it a diet of 98RON) and requires servicing every 12 months or 10,000km.
With a seven-year warranty, servicing will cost you $4068 over this 70,000km period, which averages out to around $581 per service.
So, why do people not buy the Kia Stinger in droves like they used to the rear-wheel-drive Commodore? Part of the answer is that large sedans are on the nose with buyers in Australia.
But, I think the other part has to do with a perception that the Stinger won't size up to what people remember of the V8 Commodore. After thoroughly testing both of these back-to-back when the V8 Commodore was still around, the Stinger didn't disappoint.
The complaints about exhaust sound are solved with the addition of the factory-backed exhaust, which adds a layer of excitement to the equation.
If you still yearn for a meaty, rear-wheel-driven performance sedan, this right here has your name all over it. Take it for a test drive, and I don't think you'll be disappointed.