Itâ€™s been a busy few weeks since I joined Carupdate and we are looking forward to introducing a few changes and new ideas in the near future. To keep me amused in the meantime I was lucky enough to go for a fang in a brand new E-Series Clubsport R8, with its owner Nick, Carupdate associate and keen petrolhead.
Not just any old Clubby this â€œcouple of weeksâ€ old example boasts the rare (at least at the moment) and spectacular Morpheous Purple paint and is the first HSV in Victoria to do so. Morpheous is a unique pearlescent purple that flips to a lighter shade in the sunlight and depending on the light, varies between appearing flat and metallic. A ballsy choice by Nick, lets see if the HSV fans follow suit.
Closer inspection revealed the effort HSV have put into the E-Series to separate it from the average run of the mill Commodore on which it is based. Unique to HSV are the LED tail lights, complete with revised rear sheet metal, and unique HSV vents behind the front wheels - again a HSV unique panel that is â€˜splicedâ€™ into the standard Commodore front guards, all help distinguish the HSV from Holdenâ€™s own SS V8 hero car.
The Clubsport body kit is beautifully executed and gives the E-Series a squat, aggressive â€œbulldogâ€ stance. You may like or lump the standard VE Holden Commodore which in standard trim can look a little awkward, but few people find the E-Series HSV anything but stunning.
Turn the Audi style flip key (yes they finally replaced the standard key that hails back to VR days) in the ignition and the individual build number is displayed on the system monitor in the cabin, which in the case of this particular car is also home to the optional GPS system. The Corvette derived 6.0-litre LS2 V8 which is exclusive to HSV fires into motion with the gravelly V8 exhaust note exiting from either side of the rear of the car. It seems considerably louder than the VZ HSV Maloo I had just jumped out of, so much so that I had to ask Nick if the exhaust was modified. Nick doesnâ€™t leave his cars standard for long so it was a logical assumption but he assured me that it was standard HSV issue.
Once underway, the first thing I noticed is the improvement in the ride and particularly the level of road noise over the older models. Both Holden and HSV spent more money developing the VE and E-Series than any other car in their history, with particular attention being focused on dynamics and NVH.
For the first time the VE platform has allowed HSV to fit different sized tyres in an effort to achieve the optimum balance between grip and handling from the chassis. The Clubsport now wears 245/40/19 rubber at the front and huge 275/35/19 boots on the rear.
Making the most of the new chassis in this way has resulted in a relatively smooth riding car (remember its wearing 19â€™sâ€¦) with excellent steering feel and massive grip.
Although the roads were wet I managed to get a taste of what the Clubby can do. The R8 ate up the damp sweeping bends and tighter corners with no trouble or loss of traction. It is the sort of car that inspires confidence and has you going back to the same corners to try it all again, each time a little more aggressively than the last as your confidence in this bigger HSV builds. The brakes are huge and made short work of stopping under force repetitively.
HSV claim the R8 will dispatch the 0-100kmh sprint in a whisker under five-seconds, making the E-Series the fastest HSV to leave the Clayton stable. This is largely due to the hugely improved rear suspension and wider rubber which provide the R8 with the ability to effectively get the power to the tarmac, while the revised M-1O Tremec T56 six-speed manual allows faster and more accurate shifting up through the box.
With 307kw and 550Nm, only slightly up from the VZ it replaces, the E-Series is all about improved grip and handling, where previous models have been shackled by the limits imposed by an archaic rear suspension design and ultimately compromised chassis. The benefits of a clean sheet and â€˜ground upâ€™ design are made obvious when you get behind the wheel of the E-Series R8.
The VE Clubsport R8 is from all reports the new benchmark for the Aussie performance sedan and my brief experience with R8-307 confirmed what the majority are already saying. The Falcon Orion may have something to say about that in 2008 but for now it is easy to see why E-Series HSVâ€™s are selling in record numbers. At $66,000 on the road with GPS, a sunroof and the wild Morpheous Purple paint the R8 is a bloody bargain.