BREAK OUT THE TISSUES, IT’S TIME TO SAY GOODBYE TO HSV’S NATURALLY ASPIRATED LS3 V8 ENGINE.
That’s sad news, for sure; HSV forged its reputation on eight naturally-breathing cylinders, so this is something of an end of an era.
To commemorate the occasion the Clubsport R8 has put on its mourning suit - a set of black clothes under the 'SV Black' moniker - to prepare for its own funeral.
Vehicle Style: Large performance sedan
Price: $68,490 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 340kW/570Nm 6.2 8cyl | 6sp automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 12.9 l/100km | Tested: 16.3 l/100km
The engine tune for the 2016 Clubsport R8 SV Black isn’t a new one - the 6.2 litre V8 is the same 340KkW and 570Nm unit that’s starred in the HSV line-up previously.
The Black Edition theme isn’t new either, although its debut as part of the VE range was arguably more aggressive thanks to wild guard vents and a more prominent front-end blackout treatment.
For 2016, the SV Black adds a set of lower-body black decals, black badging, shadow chrome exhaust finishers, black 20-inch alloy wheels, and black four-piston brake calipers to go with the existing Clubby’s black bonnet and guard vents and black mirrors.
The engine, however, is the star here, as is the savings - the LS3 powered Clubsport R8 SV Black arrives at a handy $15,000 less than its LSA-powered equivalent.
- Standard equipment: Leather seat trim, sports front seats, powered driver’s seat, dual zone climate control, keyless entry and ignition with remote start, multi-function sports steering wheel with shift paddles, automatic lights and wipers, alloy pedals, HSV-branded instrument cluster, SV Black interior plaque, 20-inch satin black alloy wheels, black exterior package, lo-line satin black spoiler
- Infotainment: 8.0-inch MyLink touchscreen, CD/DVD/AM/FM/MP3 playback, Pandora and Stitcher app-compatible, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, nine-speaker Bose audio
- Cargo volume: 496 litres
Step inside and you’ll notice that compared to HSV’s other offerings, the SV Black features a far less-aggressive interior, thanks to the deletion of HSV’s massive wing-backed front sports seats.
In their place sit the same seats you’ll find in a Commodore SSV - still not a bad place to park your bum. Plenty of room, enough side support for hustling through corners, and power adjustment for the driver.
Otherwise the interior is very much the same as you’ll find in the rest of the HSV (and Commodore range). Holden has done a good job of styling the interior and it dresses up nicely with extra leather and suede-look touches on the dash and door cards.
The 8.0-inch MyLink infotainment system usually works well, although in this particular car it wouldn’t let us delete existing paired phones in order to add a new one.
As a matter of personal taste some may find the dated MyLink graphical interface a little off-putting too.
But the basics are right - plenty of space front and rear, a decent spread of standard features, and plenty of HSV logos dotted around the cabin, including SV Black plates on the centre console and front door sills.
There’s plenty of standard equipment too with dual-zone climate control, satellite navigation, head-up display, and remote start, the latter of which still remains a rarity in the Australian market - letting you fire up the engine before you get to the car.
Unfortunately the Commodore's platform shortfalls appear here too: fat A-pillars block vision, door mirrors are a bit too small, and the huge centre tunnel disrupts the rear floor.
As befits a family hauler there’s a big 496 litre boot, but the rear backrest is fixed, meaning larger or odd-shaped items can’t always be loaded.
At least there’s useful cupholders, generous door pockets, and plenty of storage space inside the cabin for personal effects.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 340kW/570Nm 6.2 litre naturally aspirated petrol V8
- Transmission: Six-speed automatic, rear wheel drive
- Suspension: MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear
- Brakes: 637mm front and rear ventilated disc brakes, black-painted four-piston calipers
- Steering: Electric power steering, turning circle: 11.4m
It’s fair to say that the supercharged LSA engines in HSV’s line-up have taken a lot of the attention away from the LS3 engine. But, even alongside those headline grabbing superstars, the naturally aspirated unit is a darn good thing.
Obviously its large - 6.2 litres is at the heavyweight end of the engine spectrum, and, thanks to its pushrod design, it’s hardly what you could call cutting edge. But it is light, with a low centre of gravity and a big fat power figure.
With 340kW at 6100rpm and 570Nm at 4650rpm, the SV Black isn’t shy for get up and go. However, when teamed with a six-speed automatic (as our test car was), the raw urge is settled slightly.
HSV hasn’t removed any of the performance hardware, so there’s still a thunderous bi-mode exhaust system that’ll shake the walls of your garage on startup (and your neighbour’s garage at full throttle).
The three mode Driver Preference Dial (DPD) also remains, a feature exclusive to HSV, allowing you to go from Tour, to Sport, and onto Performance modes - changing the way the steering, stability and traction control, and exhaust respond.
So, how does a big, heavy four-door with a stonking V8 up front, power channeled to the rear, and an exhaust that sounds like a sack full of of brawling Tassie devils behave?
You might be surprised to learn that there’s a decent sports car underneath.
The suspension is certainly firm, but even across some of the sharpest backroad tarmac Victoria has to offer the Clubsport settled in, dispatched all but the biggest hits, and managed to maintain road contact impressively.
The faster you drive, the better its bump absorbance becomes.
The steering, while still a decent feeling electrically-assisted system, is starting to feel a little wooly compared to some more modern examples of EPS. That said, it’s still free of nervousness, and goes without the dead on-centre feel that some systems possess.
Sport and Tour modes on the DPD dial also allow the bi-modal exhaust to really clear its throat. It sounds angry from inside the car when you sink the boot in, but, from outside, give it the beans and bystanders will really cop an earful of the booming, crackling, aggressive note.
All up the package is balanced, pretty agile (given its size), and plays easily in the space between being a performance car and family car.
Try as it might though, the six speed automatic lacks the smarts to feel at home with the rest of the chassis. Slip it into Sport mode and it’s a little more responsive, but too often slow to respond.
Same goes for flicking through the gearchange paddles on the steering wheel. You’ll need to be about half a second ahead for your requests to be processed and delivered - not something that’s always easy to calculate when you’re really ‘on it’.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars - The VF Commodore the HSV range is based upon has scored 35.06 out of 37 possible points.
Safety features: Stability control (switchable), traction control (switchable), ABS, EBD, brake assist, blind spot monitoring, reversing camera and six airbags are standard features across the HSV range.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
Although not a replacement for the exiting Falcon range, the Mustang GT, with its V8 soundtrack and sharp two-door looks is pulling plenty of fans. Down on power and not quite as well finished inside, there’s still plenty to like about the Mustang.
The very car that provides HSV with its donor vehicles also happens to be a decent rival. In Redline guise the Commodore SSV gets a more performance-focussed chassis and brake package, and plenty of features - although a little less outright grunt.
Proving that there’s no replacement for displacement, the Chrysler 300 SRT provides more power and torque than HSV’s LS3 powered Clubsport, with an almost lineball price tag and all the comfort of a lounge suite on wheels. While straight-line speed is its forte, the tough-guy SRT isn’t entirely afraid of corners either.
It’ll cost you a little more, and isn’t quite as family friendly, but for knife-edge driving dynamics the M2 Pure is ‘something different’ that might still fall on your performance car radar. Chock-full of precise dynamics and a high-tech soundtrack, this little RWD warrior is hard to resist.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Without intending to so, HSV may have struck on its best grand touring sedan yet - more agile than the long wheelbase Grange, without the hardcore aggression of the monstrous supercharged models, and comfortable enough to be daily driven.
The SV Black won’t be everyone’s cup tea, HSV’s have never really been universally accepted and that’s part of their unique appeal. As much as we love the heavy hitting supercharged LSA V8, there’s still a twinge of sadness to see this LS3 V8 go.
With only 350 for Australia and another 18 for New Zealand, the SV Black will forever be something of a rare beast.
Even though the entire VF Commodore (and HSV) range is fast coming to the end of its days, the platform still drives well - not as precise as a much smaller and lighter car might be, but somehow better than it should be.
Worse still, HSV hasn’t given the slightest indication of what will take the place of the locally developed Commodore-based range. So, until that shot is fired, this could be your last chance to own something perfectly tailored to Aussie conditions.
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