Hype or hero?

Can Kia's stonking twin-turbo V6 Stinger really fill a Falcodore-sized hole in our hearts? David Morley investigates

by DAVID MORLEY pics NATHAN JACOBS

THE DUEL Kia Stinger 330S vs Holden VFII SS-V Redline

Can Kia's stonking twin-turbo V6 Stinger really fill a Falcodore-sized hole in our hearts? David Morley investigates

TIMING, as they say, is every damn thing. The best joke in the world, told by a dimwit, will still fall flat. But even the worst dad joke, when delivered by a teller with a sharp sense of timing (so, probably not your dad, then) will slay 'em in the aisles. Or at the bar, usually.

And clearly, as big, reardrive, big-engined Aussie sedans have now finally disappeared up the Federal Governmentís mud-button (thanks for nothing, Tone) Kiaís timing in unleashing the big, rear-drive, big-engined Stinger sedan is the punchline to end them all. The suspicion is that the Kia has the potential to pick up where the Falcon and Commodore left off so abruptly and permanently; that it could be the solution to those of us who donít want an SUV or a dual-cab ute. Fair hypotheses, both of them.

Even if the new Stinger doesnít actually measure up in all aspects (and given the recently carked Commodore SS-V Redlineís 300-plus kilowatts, 6.2 litres and four decades of development, thatís a real possibility) does it amount to a valid, if not direct, replacement for the car we loved so dearly? Or is it just a dad joke, well told Ė a lucky shot thanks to that sublime timing?

Itís one hell of a benchmark to attempt to live up to, but for the purpose of this experiment, we managed to find a Commodore SS-V Redline ($57,190 to you, sir) lurking down the back of Holdenís test fleet. And in the interests of science, the idea is to back-to-back the Redline with the entry-level V6 Stinger, the $48,990 V6 330S, shake well and see what happens.

The first thing you figure out is just how damn big the Kia really is. While the Aussie Commodore still shades it by every dimension, it's not by much, and with five doors instead of the Holdenís four, the Stinger should work pretty well for families. But there are a couple of niggles imposed by that swoopy silhouette.

The first is that headroom in the back seat is a bit limited. If your kids are more than about five-nine (and thatís nothing special these days) then they might find headroom a touch tight. Then thereís the view out. The rising waistline means the side-rear glass is very shallow (not good for the really young ones) and the structure involved in making the rear window open and close means the window itself is small and slanted. So itís tough to see behind you. Some are not going to like parallel parking the Stinger.

The Holdenís rear seat is also a better thing to perch on, although leg room and shoulder room is closer to the Kiaís than you might think. But you also sit higher in the SS-V, thereís more under-thigh support and way more glass area. On the downside, the Holden is noisier in the back and lets a few more bumps in.

Up front, the story is similar. While the VFII Holden is a nice place to sit, the Kia isnít bad to look at either

Kiaís timing really is the punchline to end them all

The Stinger rips off quarter miles that an HSV of a decade ago couldnít

with Benz-esque turbine air-vents and speaker grilles and an intuitive touchscreen that cleans up the cabin generally. You can guess that thereís a model or two above it in trim terms, but you still get leather and what looks and feels like a good standard of fit and finish. You also get selectable drive modes that the Holden doesnít but, frankly, since this function doesnít affect the damping till you get to Kiaís GT model, itís a moot kind of point.

Which is all fine, but the reason we buy big, reardrive cars is for their speed and handling Ė and the way that makes them feel Ė right? Exactly, so the dragstrip was our next stop. With two pots, almost two litres and 40 years of making it work under its belt, you might be tempted to think thisíll be a Commodore massacre.

Save your tears, because the Stinger rips off quarter miles that an HSV of a decade ago wouldnít have been able to stay with.

Those 3.3 litres, boosted by a pair of hair dryers crank out 272kW and 510Nm of torque. And even though thatís shy of the SS-Vís 304kW and 570Nm, thanks to the softer launch of the Kia, its fat, fat mid-range and eight forward ratios, it can stay with the Holden.

Literally. As in, door-to-door. Line them up together and the 330S gets to 100km/h in 4.92sec (5.04sec for the SS-V) and theyíll both go on to cover 400m in roughly 13.1sec. Even the terminal speeds were similar, with the Kia stretching out similar, with the Kia stretching out to an almost three km/h advantage.

Nothing in it, really.

If anything, the Kia is easier to get down to its 13.06sec mark and the SS-V requires a burnout on the line (the Stinger wonít oblige in this department as any firm application of the brake pedal kills the throttle input) and a more considered application of clog. You also need to disable the ESP and traction and treat it to a small (about 1700rpm) stall-up to squeeze out that sort of number.

You might imagine the Kiaís launch control helps, too. Youíd be wrong. In fact, itís a tad faster if you stall it up a tiny bit and then step on it hard than if you use the launch function. From what I can see, the Kiaís launch is, like the drive-mode-select thing, a waste of ones and zeroes.

On the road, the differences in how each makes its grunt is even more pronounced. The Kia lacks the lowdown shunt of the Commodore, nor does it have the top-end howl. But it does have a mighty, boost-typical surge of rushy goodness in the mid-range. But as well as being short (relatively speaking) of a little snot at each extreme end of the tacho, it also lacks pretty much anything in the way of theatre.

Itís smooth and silent and seamless enough with eight gears to almost feel like a Tesla in the way it gets away from rest, but itís also lacking in soundtrack. It seems harsh to criticise an engine for being smooth and quiet, but compared with the hearty snarl of the SSís V8, it just leaves me a bit cold.

The Kia also has a bit of a problem when you throw this pair into the first corner. That said, itís not any inherent shortcoming in the Stingerís abilities, rather than the VF Series II Commodore has one of Ė if not the Ė best, most tactile front ends anywhere by anyone. But in darn good. It corners flat, rides and generally shrugs off any to tie it up in knots. No, it doesnít feel of the SS-V, but like I does. And the South Korean is down at each corner, so the ultimate stratospheric either. Thatís probably the Kia takes almost two metres 100. The VF gets the nod for the Stinger is not too far behind The one less-than-perfect is its steering. The rack itself given the iffy feel via the electrical only makes matters worse. (of an instructional nature anyway) weight. Itís as dead as a Betamax hard than if you use I can see, the Kiaís select thing, a waste of how each makes its The Kia lacks the lowdown nor does it have the mighty, boost-typical mid-range. But as well speaking) of a little snot at it also lacks pretty theatre. seamless enough with Tesla in the way it gets lacking in soundtrack. It engine for being smooth the hearty snarl of the cold. problem when you throw That said, itís not any Stingerís abilities, rather Ė best, most tactile front ends in a big sedan made anywhere by anyone. But in isolation, the Kia is darn good. It corners flat, rides better than the SS-V and generally shrugs off any attempt by a corner to tie it up in knots. No, it doesnít have the surefooted feel of the SS-V, but like I said, nothing else really does. And the South Korean is putting a lot less rubber down at each corner, so the ultimate grip isnít quite as stratospheric either. Thatís probably also the reason the Kia takes almost two metres farther to pull up from 100. The VF gets the nod for its superb damping, but the Stinger is not too far behind it on most surfaces.

The one less-than-perfect chassis element of the Kia is its steering. The rack itself is super quick but, really, given the iffy feel via the electrical assistance, that only makes matters worse. Basically, thereís no feel (of an instructional nature anyway) and only artificial weight. Itís as dead as a Betamax at the straight-ahead which, combined with that lightning-quick rack ratio, means itís accurate, but mute. Beyond that, the Kia feels like itís been set up with a lack of castor; it doesnít feel like it wants to self-centre which is almost certainly about the assist motorís calibration rather than the actual geometry. Nevertheless, as you apex, the corner opens and you ease your pressure on the wheel, suddenly nothing happens. At which point, youíre playing catch-up by hurriedly winding off lock and chasing the thing back to the centre of the lane again. Okay, yes Iíve driven worse Ė a lot worse Ė but in what is such an otherwise capable platform, itís a bit of a spoiler.

The only time the SS-V Redline starts to feel a little

The SS-V is better at holding gears and using all its torque

The Numbers

V8 muscle meets V6 boost

HOLDEN SS-V REDLINE

0-10km/h 0.27 0-20km/h 0.63 0-30km/h 1.08 0-40km/h 1.50 0-50km/h 1.93 0-60km/h 2.46 0-70km/h 3.01 0-80km/h 3.61 0-90km/h 4.24 0-100km/h 5.04 0-110km/h 5.86 0-120km/h 6.72 0-130km/h 7.61 0-140km/h 8.55 0-150km/h 9.66 0-160km/h 10.97 0-170km/h 12.38 0-400m 13.12sec @ 174.91km/h 80-120km/h (3th-6th) 3.0sec 100-0km/h 34.96m SPEED IN GEARS 1st 64km/h @ 6600rpm 2nd 109km/h @ 6600rpm 3rd 168km/h @ 6600rpm 4th 223km/h @ 6600rpm 5th 250km/h @ 5450rpm* 6th 250km/h @ 4300rpm* 7th N/A 8th N/A

KIA STINGER 330S

0-10km/h 0.37 0-20km/h 0.81 0-30km/h 1.19 0-40km/h 1.65 0-50km/h 2.14 0-60km/h 2.60 0-70km/h 3.08 0-80km/h 3.61 0-90km/h 4.26 0-100km/h 4.92 0-110km/h 5.66 0-120km/h 6.45 0-130km/h 7.31 0-140km/h 8.34 0-150km/h 9.47 0-160km/h 10.69 0-170km/h 11.95 0-400m 13.06sec @ 177.78km/h 80-120km/h (Drive) 2.8sec 100-0km/h 36.89m SPEED IN GEARS 1st 62km/h @ 6500rpm 2nd 96km/h @ 6500rpm 3rd 142km/h @ 6500rpm 4th 192km/h @ 6500rpm 5th 229km/h @ 6500rpm 6th 270km/h @ 6330rpm* 7th 270km/h @ 4930rpm* 8th 270km/h @ 4270rpm* As tested by MOTOR: Heathcote Dragway, 12.01pm, 17 degrees, dry. Driver: David Morley. *Manufacturerís claim

leaden through the helm, meanwhile, is when youíre hard on the brakes. And criticising a car for trying to keep itself stable when you throw out the anchors isnít really something Iím about to start doing.

The other aspect of the Stinger that deserves a bit of attention for the next model is the transmission.

Yes, eight is the new six when it comes to ratio counts, but does the SS-V suffer for not having the extra cogs?

Er, no, and apart from slightly longer legs (1500rpm at 100km/h in the Kia plays 1650rpm) the Holden takes the points in this department. The SS-V is simply better at holding a taller gear and using its torque at part throttle, and that makes it feel more intuitive and clever. Not to mention relaxed.

Winding, uphill corners will soon have the Kia kicking down what feels like one ratio too many and giving things a manic feel when it could easily hold the taller gear and make the most of that huge mid-range twist. Itís calibration, yes, but itís also a bit inexplicable.

Shifts in the Stinger are deliberately kept soft, but weíll live with that.

The Kia also lacks a Sport mode for the transmission as well as a proper manual mode. Where the Holden will accept manual commands from the paddles and hold even the tallest gears regardless of your throttle position or road speed, the Kia thinks it knows better and will kick-down regardless of whether youíve been using the paddles or not. The SS-V will also stay in manual mode once youíve flapped a paddle, while the Stinger counts to 10 and then switches you back to Drive mode without asking. The Kia also uses the in-vogue separate button for Park which is a trend I can only hope disappears soon.

So it ain't perfect, but letís cut to the chase here: is the Kia Stinger worth a look when it comes time for a new family car and you remain unconvinced by the

marketing departments of this world that say frontdrive and four-cylinders are suddenly okay?

Well, it looks great. Hell, even under the bonnet, you can see that itís a vee layout and the turbos are actually visible. Wonderful. The interior is up to snuff and the carís best angle is probably that lovely profile.

That said, it looks tough in the mirrors, too, with the headlights pushed way out to each corner and the vertical vents below those reminding me of a Ferrari 599. It rides remarkably well and itís emptychurch quiet. It goes around corners, itís good value for money and you get that brilliant seven-year/unlimited kays warranty. Which means you and I can buy them second-hand, coming out of user-chooser leases, and still have three or four years factory cover. I know we donít talk about warranties much here at MOTOR, but seven years!

And while, in other circumstances, Iíd take the SS-V, thatís no longer an option, is it? The Commodore is fading into the distance, while the Stinger represents the new gunslinger, riding into town. So, yeah, Iíd say that the Kia is, without a doubt, worth a look and stands as probably the best reason yet for people like us to see some light at the end of the tunnel.

Okay, so a Stinger is, philosophically, more of a replacement for a Calais or Ford Falcon G6E Turbo than an SS-V Redline or an XR6 Turbo, but that doesnít ruin the illusion. And hereís the bottom line: as a recidivist Falcon and Commodore owner over the years, Iíd take a Kia Stinger as my next set of wheels and know that Iím not trading off anything that would otherwise be a deal breaker. No joke. M

Hereís the deal: Iíd take the Kia as my next set of wheels

The Specs

Newcomer takes on the hero

KIA STINGER 330S

BODY 5-door, 4-seat liftback sedan DRIVE rear-wheel ENGINE 3342cc V6, DOHC, 24v, twin-turbo BORE/STROKE 92.0 x 83.8mm COMPRESSION 10.0:1 POWER 272kW @ 6000rpm TORQUE 510Nm @ 1300-4500rpm POWER/WEIGHT 153kW/tonne TRANSMISSION 8-speed automatic WEIGHT 1780kg SUSPENSION (F) MacPherson strut, coil springs, anti-roll bar SUSPENSION (R) double wishbone, coil springs, anti-roll bar L/W/H 4830/1870/1400mm WHEELBASE 2905mm TRACKS N/A STEERING electrically assisted rack-and-pinion BRAKES (F) 350mm ventilated discs, 4-piston calipers BRAKES (R) 340mm ventilated discs, 2-piston calipers WHEELS 18.0 x 8.0-inch (f); 18.0 x 8.5-inch (r) TYRE SIZES 225/45 R18 (f/r) TYRE ContiSportContact5 PRICE $48,990 PROS Mid-range grunt; impressive dragstrip figures; handling; space; design CONS Steering needs work; doesnít sound overly enticing; no manual mode STAR RATING 11113

HOLDEN SS-V REDLINE

4-door, 5-seat sedan rear-wheel 6162cc V8, OHV, 32v 101.6 x 92mm 10.7:1 304kW @ 6000rpm 570Nm @ 2000rpm 169kW/tonne 6-speed automatic 1803kg double wishbones, coil springs, anti-roll bar multi-links, coil springs, anti-roll bar 4964/1898/1471mm 2915mm 1593/1608mm (f/r) hydraulically assisted rack-and-pinion 355mm ventilated discs, 4-piston calipers 360mm ventilated discs, 2-piston calipers 19.0 x 8.5-inch (f); 19.0 x 9.0-inch (r) 245/40 R19 (f); 275/35 R19 (r) Bridgestone Potenza RE050A $57,190 Seamingly endless grunt from LS3; sorted dynamics; V8 soundtrack The last of the line Ė the stay of execution is over for an Aussie icon 11112