The South Korean car maker took the covers off its stylish new Stinger at a preview event in Detroit ahead of its official debut at the 2017 North American International Auto Show, promising the big rear-drive sedan-cum-hatch will offer the kind of performance, style and driving engagement of a muscle car like the Commodore SS.
Coincidentally, Kia's new flagship is due to arrive in Australian showrooms around September, roughly the same time as production of the V8-powered Commodore ceases before the nameplate switches to the European-designed and fully-imported model in early 2018. It will also come with a similar sticker price, starting somewhere in the $40,000 bracket for an entry-level model with a 2.0-litre turbo charged four cylinder and topping out around $50,000 for the flagship GT variant with its twin-turbo V6.
"We certainly see an opportunity there and genuinely believe this car will appeal to similar buyers," said Kia Australia spokesman, Kevin Hepworth.
"It ticks all the boxes in terms of its performance, the way it drives and what you get for the money. It's an exciting car for us, but it's also an exciting car in general."
The Stinger not only matches the Commodore in concept - a large, rear-wheel drive sedan - but also in size. Measuring 4831mm in overall length, 1869mm in width and riding on a wheelbase of 2906mm, the Stinger is fractionally smaller in its key dimensions and will likely offer similarly generous levels of interior space with enough room for five adults.
It shares its basic underpinnings with Hyundai's Genesis luxury sedan, including a chassis that is comprised mostly of high-strength steel for increased rigidity that allows for improved dynamic qualities as well contributing to low levels of noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) for a quieter experience from within the cabin.
While it will be offered with a diesel engine and all-wheel drive in other markets, the Stinger will come to Australia in two mechanical configurations distinguished only by the engines. The entry-level model will be powered by an upgraded version of the 2.0-litre turbo charged four cylinder already offered in the Optima GT, but turned north-south in the engine bay and driving the rear wheels via a limited slip differential and an eight speed automatic transmission with Kia's first use of a centrifugal pendulum absorber for smoother gearchanges.
The flagship Stinger GT has the same transmission set-up but is driven by a 3.3-litre twin-turbo V6 that will make it the fastest and most powerful model in its history with the ability to shoot from 0-100km/h in 5.1 seconds and on to a top speed of 269km/h.
While Kia says both engines are still under final development, it expects the four cylinder to produce 190kW at 6200rpm (up from 180kW in the Optima) and 353Nm between 1400-4000rpm while the V6 will generate 272kW at 6000rpm and 510Nm between 1300-4500rpm.
On the handling front, the Stinger features a MacPherson front strut suspension set-up and a multi-link rear-end with - a first for Kia - electronically-controlled dampers that, along with changes to the electric power steering, are adjusted according to five pre-set driving modes; Personal, Eco, Sport, Comfort and Smart. As is the case for all Kia models introduced to Australia, the Stinger's suspension will be tuned and calibrated specifically for our local conditions and tastes with Kia's contracted engineering team working through a test program with two vehicles in Australia at the moment.
The 2.0-litre Stinger will ride on 18-inch alloys with 225/45 R18 rubber while the GT gets a staggered set-up with larger 19-inch wheels and 225/40 R19 front and wider 255/35 R19 tyres. It also has more powerful Brembo ventilated disc brakes with four-piston front callipers.
A comprehensive suite of safety systems will also be available across the Stinger range, including adaptive cruise control with automated emergency braking, lane keeping assistance, forward collision warning and rear cross traffic alerts as well as what Kia dubs its Driver Attention Alert system which measures driving inputs and will sound a warning and suggest the driver takes a break when it senses a reduction in attentiveness.
The Stinger's exterior design was penned by its European team at its Frankfurt studio, which also created the GT Concept car that acted as a preview when it was revealed at the Frankfurt motor show in 2011.
The car features a sleek profile that is accentuated with a few muscular highlights, such as the vented bonnet, air extractors on the trailing edge of the front wheel arch, strong rear haunches, the integrated spoiler in its bootlid and four tailpipes. It, naturally, carries some of Kia's signature design cues too, such as its tiger nose grille.
Kia Europe's chief designer, Gregory Guillame, says the Stinger has been created as a comfortable long-distance cruiser but also a car that can be enjoyed by driving enthusiasts.
"A true gran turismo, a car for spirited long-distance driving, is not about outright power, hard-edged dynamics and brutal styling, all at the expense of luxury, comfort and grace," he said.
"The Stinger has nothing to do with being the first to arrive at the destination – this car is all about the journey. It's about passion."
Inside the cabin, Kia has borrowed a few notable design cues from Mercedes-Benz such as the three turbine-like air vents that sit proudly in the centre console below the floating tablet-style multi-media screen on top of the dash.
Kia says it is a "space dedicated to the thrill of driving while cosseting the occupants in luxury" with local models likely to come equipped with a comprehensive list of standard features that could include a full Nappa leather interior with heated/ventilated front seats that also have adjustable side bolsters for additional support as well as the latest in connectivity and convenience such as wireless phone charging, sat nav with live traffic updates, smartphone mirroring and an optional Harmon Kardon high-end audio system.
Exact specifications and pricing for the Stinger in Australia will be released closer to its launch later this year.