2013 HSV Gen-F Track Test Review
What’s hot: Wonderful electric power steering, strong V8 engines, powerful brakes and improved interior
What’s not: Seats on base model Clubsport/Maloo, that’s about it really.
X-Factor: For sheer hammer at a price, nothing in this market comes remotely close. 'Nuff said.
Vehicle style: Large performance sedan
Price: $58,990 - $85,990
Engine/trans: 317kW/550Nm (Clubsport/Maloo), 325kW/550Nm (Clubsport R8/MalooR8), 340kW/570Nm (R8 SV Enhanced, Senator, Grange)
HSV refers to this new generation of cars as Gen-F, and you can learn more about the range here.
HSV also had a pre-production example of the all-conquering 430kW GTS for us to drive. Unfortunately we can’t tell you about it until late July.
Trust us though, it’ll be worth the wait. That thing is a monster.
The road drive for the Gen-F was pretty sedate, but HSV made up for it with a day at the Phillip Island Grand Prix circuit. Here's how the range stacks up.
The entrypoint. The bottom rung. The penny-pincher’s option.
At $60,990 the Clubsport is now $4000 cheaper than before (the Maloo costs even less at $58,990), but although it’s one of the most affordable, that doesn’t mean it's lacking appeal compared to its more expensive stablemates.
Sure, there’s no head-up display, bi-modal exhaust or fancy EDI performance telemetry, but you do get the full benefit of the more refined VF Commodore interior and feature list.
However, we do miss the triple-gauge cluster that sat atop the E3’s centre stack.
In the Gen-F, those analogue gauges have been reduced to just two - voltmeter and oil pressure - and they’ve been relocated to the very bottom of the centre stack in a rather unappealing gloss-black housing
Besides being so far out of the driver’s eyeline to be rendered pointless, they lack the coolness factor of having a set of auxiliary gauges atop your dash.
But thankfully, that’s about the only thing that’s changed for the worse.
Under the bonnet lies the familiar 6.2 litre LS3 V8, in the same 317kW trim as the E3 Clubsport.
It’s still a gem of a motor. Eager to rev right up to its 6500rpm fuel cut and boasting a strong midrange, the LS3 gets the Clubsport moving in a hurry.
Maximum torque measures in at 550Nm, and it’s on tap at 4600rpm. Fast and flexible, around Phillip island it’s happiest when the tachometer is kept north of 4000rpm.
With the standard TR6060 six-speed manual, the Clubsport is an easy car to drive fast. The shifter throw is still heavy and rubbery, but the gate is precise enough and the clutch is nice and light.
What really surprised us though was the steering. The VF Commodore’s move to electric power steering dictated that HSV make the same shift. The result is that the HSV’s electrically-assisted rack is one of the best around.
There’s a wonderful consistency to the way it loads up in corners, and the the weighting is perfect with the drive mode set to “Performance”: not too heavy and not too light, it’s right in the Goldilocks zone.
The steering also provides the right amount of tactile feedback, something usually lacking from electrically-assisted systems.
Clubsport R8/Maloo R8 SV Enhanced
Were it not for Chevrolet’s decision to shoehorn the LSA into the Camaro ZL1 (which thus paved the way for HSV to do the same to the GTS), the Gen-F Clubsport R8 with the SV Enhanced option would have become the GTS.
And it’s not hard to see why. With 340kW and 570Nm, the extra modifications made to the R8’s LS3 V8 have resulted in an engine that’s noticeably more muscular than the ‘regular’ R8’s 325kW engine.
It pulls more strongly out of corners, responds more crisply to throttle inputs and is just plain quick in a straight line.
With the standard-fit bi-modal exhaust and bi-modal intake, it sounds amazing too. At high RPM, it takes on a timbre that’s not too far from that of a bona-fide V8 Supercar, albeit at fewer decibels.
It also handles a touch sharper than the others. Thanks to the forged wheels that come standard with the SV Enhanced package, there’s less unsprung weight at each corner, and that brings improvements in bump response, steering feel, acceleration and braking.
The difference is subtle in isolation, but driving the R8 SV back-to-back with the regular R8 on the racetrack, those subtleties at the margins become more stark.
There’s still plenty of pitch and roll, but that's a given for a car that weighs around 1750kg when empty.
Despite this, the Continental ContiSportContact 5P tyres do a good job of hanging on in corners. Although there is quite a bit of understeer when you push through the grip threshold, it’s to be expected given that thumping V8 up front.
But with the Driver Preference Dial set to ‘Performance’ and the 'Competition' ESC mode activated, the stability and traction control calibrations loosen up.
You can then use the R8’s V8 to employ some power oversteer to help point the nose into a corner, with a healthy amount of leeway before the stability control smoothly intervenes.
The big AP Racing-sourced brake package does a fantastic job of shedding speed. Although we were required to adhere to a 170km/h speed limit (and didn't have full use of the front straight), the R8’s brakes pulled up strongly every time with excellent pedal response.
They also dealt with heat build-up rather well; brake fade was never a huge issue during the day.
It’s a wolf in businessman’s clothing, this one. The Senator’s more conservative exterior has essentially the same mechanical package as the R8 SV, but also adds the Magnetic Ride Control (MRC) dampers used by the GTS and Grange.
The MRC system is fantastic. Supple on choppy roads but solid when the red mist descends, by constantly altering the viscosity of the oil in each damper the MRC system does an admirable job of containing the Senator’s substantial mass out on the track.
While the conventionally-sprung Gen-F’s exhibited lots of body movement when being flung through corners, the Senator looked and felt more stable and composed.
There's only one transmission offered in the Senator - the 6L80E six-speed. It's got refinement in spades when driven at normal speeds, but in sport mode on the circuit it tends to climb up the gears a bit too readily when you're trailing throttle.
It will downshift when decelerating for a corner, but it's more satisfying to select your own gears via the plus/minus plane on the shifter.
Gearchanges aren't as instant as they are in Lexus' venerable IS F, but they're pretty snappy all the same. Downshifts are executed with a rev-matching blip of the throttle too, and the transmission will hold the engine against redline until you select a higher gear.
Our only complaint? It's about time HSV did the right thing and slapped some paddle shifters onto the steering wheel.
There was only one Grange at the Gen-F launch, and it was mostly ignored by the journos in pitlane.
We hopped in and took it for a spin, and although much of it carries over from the previous model (beside the new interior, of course), it was still good fun to punt around Phillip Island.
With the same 340kW/570Nm LS3 as the R8 SV and Senator, the Grange is not wanting for poke. Its longer wheelbase does make it more benign in corners, yet the MRC confers better body control than you’d expect of a car this massive.
It’s not as fun to drive hard as the other Gen-Fs, but then again we’re certain that relatively few Granges will ever find their way onto a racetrack.
HSV has taken an already successful formula and honed it into something that’s bound to be an even bigger hit.
Thanks to a hugely improved interior, better brakes, the SV enhanced engine and what has to be one of the best electric power steering set-ups around, HSV has created a range of cars with tremendous enthusiast appeal.
The weight balance and overall mass of the Gen-F models means that they aren't ultra-nimble, but are nevertheless surprisingly athletic.
Even the base model Clubsport is a pearler, and although 317kW isn’t a huge number in the context of modern large performance sedans, but it’s plenty of grunt for some serious track times.
The best however has yet to come. The flagship GTS will enter the market in late July, and when it does we’ll be able to tell you all about it. Performance car fans, stay tuned to TMR.
PRICING (excludes on-road costs)
- HSV Maloo $58,990
- HSV Clubsport $60,990
- HSV Maloo R8 $68,290
- HSV Clubsport R8 $71,290
- HSV Clubsport R8 Tourer $72,290
- HSV Senator Signature $83,990
- HSV Grange $85,990
- SV Enhanced Package (Clubsport R8, Maloo R8 only) $4995
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