South Korean carmaker Hyundai has already made its ambitions to spread out to the sportscar market clear with its N sub-brand. Now sister brand Kia has unveiled its first ever rear-wheel drive sports saloon, dubbed Stinger, at the Detroit motor show. For a brand that has come to be known more for its long warranty periods and affordability more than performance, this new model represents a major turning point.

As we had already come to gather from the many teasers Kia had released over the last few weeks, the Stinger looks positively aggressive while staying true to the brand’s corporate design language. With a long, flowing bonnet, a short front overhang, large air vents at the front, muscular shoulder line, and a relatively long wheelbase, the Stinger exudes athleticism like no other Kia before it. In fact, it is being positioned as the “highest-performance production vehicle in the company’s history”, the Stinger promises to shake up the segment, which has been dominated by European brands. And we would tend to believe Kia’s claims this time, as the new car’s chassis has been developed under the watch of none other than Albert Biermann, the former head of BMW’s M division. “I think, for the Kia brand, the Stinger is like a special event,” says Biermann. “Because nobody expects such a car, not just the way it looks but also the way it drives. It's a wholly different animal.” Benchmarked against European saloons, and honed at the Nurburgring, the Stinger’s chassis comprises 55 per cent advanced high-strength steel, while the MacPherson front and multi-link rear suspension have been tuned to provide “optimal feedback” to the driver. It also boasts an electronically adjustable suspension system, which offers five drive modes: Personal, Eco, Sport, Comfort and Smart. 

Offered in two trims, Stinger and Stinger GT, the new model comes with two powertrain options. The standard Stinger is powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine making 255 horsepower and 353Nm, while the GT gets a 3.3-litre twin-turbo V6, producing 365 horsepower and 510Nm of torque.

Expected to go on sale sometime later this year, the Stinger is one car we’re sure will change the overall perception of Kia as a brand.