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Kia Stinger set for police, enthusiast markets

Style council: The Stinger will appeal to buyers looking for a grand tourer as opposed to a dynamic, fast mid-sizer, according to chief designer Gregory Guillaume.

Special handling option for Stinger in mix as Kia studies ‘huge’ market, racing tilt

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Kia logo24 Jan 2017

KIA Motors Australia is benchmarking Holden’s outgoing Commodore SS, the defunct Falcon XR and BMW’s 4 Series with its all-new Stinger rear-drive performance sedan due to launch in September as the South Korean brand begins work on a unique uprated “GT” suspension tune for police pursuit and sports enthusiast applications.

The company is currently in talks with police forces around the country who are interested in the Stinger, while chief operating officer Damien Meredith believes the vehicle has let the brand into “a huge market” for fleet sales left open by the demise of the locally produced rear-wheel-drive Commodore and Falcon sports sedans.

Mr Meredith also confirmed that a motorsport campaign is on the agenda as the company considers its sales and marketing strategy for Stinger, which made its Australian debut at the Kia-sponsored Australian Open tennis tournament last week just days after premiering at the Detroit motor show, and is expected to be a game-changer for Kia in Australia and abroad.

Fresh from completing an overhaul of the new Rio’s steering and suspension, technical consultant Graeme Gambold will now turn his attention to the hot new rear-drive sedan, travelling to South Korea early next month with Kia Motors Australia’s general manager of product planning Roland Rivero to pinpoint a unique Australian-focused ride and handling package.

This will not only include a different grade of tuning for each of the Stinger’ s two petrol engines – a 3.3-litre twin-turbo V6 good for 272kW of power, and a 2.0-litre turbo-four capable of 190kW – but also include a higher-level “GT” handling option for the V6.

“There’s no doubt we will look to emulating the ride and handling characteristics of the Falcon XR6 and Holden Commodore,” Mr Gambold told GoAuto at the launch of the new Rio last weekend.

“I think this car has great potential. But how much is possible is up to Kia.” Mr Gambold said it would be his best look at the Stinger when he travels to Korea, but he is already aware that the rear suspension design – the work of former BMW M development boss Albert Biermann, who moved to Hyundai/Kia in December 2014 – is similar to the 4 Series.

“We have to try and see what the market wants,” Mr Gambold said. “We know we have to make the ride and handling characteristics of the four-cylinder and the V6 different.

“We have also been approached by the police in New South Wales and WA for more details about the Stinger as a pursuit and patrol car, so we are looking at developing a more sports-oriented suspension package for them.

“At the same time, we have to have a comfortable yet precise suspension for the four-cylinder version that is aimed at families and fleets.” As reported, the Stinger rides on MacPherson front struts and a multi-link rear suspension set-up, bolted to an ultra-stiff body with a 55 per cent high-strength steel content. It will also be the first Kia to feature adaptive dampers, forming part of a five-mode dynamic customisation system that also alters steering and drivetrain characteristics.

Mr Rivera said more police agencies were being contacted by Kia on the back of the approaches made by NSW and WA.

“They have said they are only interested in a rear-drive car for pursuit work – they will not even look at an all-wheel drive car,” he said, meaning the forthcoming 2018 Commodore, which will be based on the Opel Insignia, will be left off the table.

“The surprise was that the police have asked for details not just on the V6, but the four-cylinder.

“The smaller engine would be used for general police duties but there was a request that the suspension be up to the standard of the Falcon and Commodore models.” The police have historically requested all large cars from Holden and Ford to have firmer suspension. In Holden’s case, it was referred to as FE2 but more commonly as the “police pack”.

Mr Meredith told GoAuto that one of the biggest challenges with Stinger was that a high-powered, rear-drive sports sedan had never been done before in large volumes by an importer.

“I think, in fleet, that Stinger is now open to a huge market where Commodore and Falcon once existed,” he said.

“So, we have to be very smart and careful about how we sell it, price it and market it.” Asked about a future in motorsport, he said: “Nothing is off the agenda at this point.” Further questioned, he said motorsports was being considered but discussion before the launch of the car was “too early”.

Mr Rivero said the higher tune of suspension – for police pursuit work or for sports enthusiasts – would likely be identified by carrying the “GT” name.

“It would be a suspension, trim and feature upgrade over the normal V6,” he said.

“But we are not looking for more power or a bigger engine,” he added, pouring cold water on rumours that the Stinger – which is based on the platform of the upcoming Genesis G70 sedan – would get the option of the normally aspirated 5.0-litre V8 used in the G90 saloon.

Kia Motors Australia has also ruled out the 147kW/440Nm 2.2-litre ‘R’ turbo-diesel version revealed in Europe last week, at least initially.

Mr Gambold said the Falcon XR6 and Commodore SS had “very good” suspension design and excellent handling, making it a bit more difficult to get the Stinger up to that level.

He has asked Kia in Korea for RS (rebound shim) valve components to provide the balance of ride and handling. The valves, recently used in the Rio, feature a unique oil bleed function that can provide a more linear rebound rate.

The valves – which will be tuned in conjunction with the Stinger’s electronic dampers – are sourced from South Korean automotive engineering manufacturer Mando Corporation, which also supplies BMW, Volvo and GM.

Mando also supplies the electric-assist steering system for the Stinger.

Unlike the Rio and Cerato which have a steering column-mounted electric motor, the Stinger will get a rack-mounted electric motor for the steering, emulating the design used by Porsche and Audi.

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