2013 HSV GEN-F REVIEW
Vehicle Style: High performance large sedan
Price: $92,990 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 430kW/740Nm 8cyl petrol | 6spd manual
Fuel Economy claimed: 15.3 l/100km | tested: 19.2 l/100km
If you've ever wondered what the ultimate Aussie muscle car looked like, well, here it is.
And we mean ultimate in every sense of the word, particularly the traditional definition: “ultimate”, meaning last.
It’s no small secret that the home-grown Holden Commodore’s future is cloudy, and if the Commodore goes, so too does HSV’s favourite platform.
Front-drive replacements for the Commodore have been postulated, but can you imagine HSV’s flagship GTS as an arse-dragger? No, neither can we.
But that’s speculative. So, in the meantime, we’re going to enjoy every moment the VF-based 'Gen-F' GTS is here.
We already know the extent of its capabilities on a racetrack, but how does it go on the rough asphalt and narrow roads of the real world?
Quality: The GTS’s VF Commodore-based interior is vastly improved over its predecessor, but even on this flagship model there are a few niggles.
The lower console plastics are hard, and the glossy black trims around the gear lever and window switches scratch easily.
Also, why put fake carbon-fibre trim on the greatest of all HSVs? No thanks.
Comfort: The big, heavily-bolstered front seats are trimmed in leather with Alcantara panels on the bolsters and upper backrest.
They’re plenty grippy, but if you’re a little smaller than the average Aussie bloke, you’ll feel it's a loose fit.
Driving position is good: there’s heaps of adjustment to the powered front seats, and the thick-rimmed small diameter steering wheel also adjusts for rake and reach.
The only ergonomic black mark concerns the button layout for the infotainment system. It’s messy and not easily navigated by feel.
As with every Commodore variant, the back seat is commodious and comfortable. Legroom is abundant, and were it not for the transmission tunnel’s height you could comfortably sit three across the bench.
Equipment: Keyless entry and ignition, blind-spot monitoring, a head-up display… the GTS is not wanting for equipment.
There’s also heated and powered front seats, front collision warning, rain-sensing wipers, dusk-sensing headlamps, sat-nav, a self-parking feature plus HSV’s EDI data display.
Holden’s MyLink system is standard, and while it’s a cinch to pair phones and utilise the data connectivity feature, we found the GTS refused to stream music over Bluetooth from our (Android 4.2) phone.
It’s a problem we've encountered in other VF-based models, both Holden and HSV.
Storage: The extra space taken up by the GTS’ unique rear suspension cradle means boot space is compromised. Not only is it smaller, but it’s shallower too.
The spare wheel well has also been deleted, and your only saviour in the event of a flat is a can of goo and an inflator kit.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: Packing 430kW and 740Nm, the GTS’ supercharged 6.2 litre LSA V8 is a wonderful engine.
Borrowed from the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, it’s got excellent throttle response and beefy midrange torque. So much torque in fact, that it’s simply not necessary to chase the redline to go fast.
Power delivery is extraordinarily linear thanks to that supercharger. The downside is that low-down torque is not as abundant as it is in a turbocharged engine (like the 5.5 litre biturbo V8 of the E 63 AMG, for example).
But that’s no worry. Stick it in third (second if the corners are extra tight), keep the tacho needle above 3500rpm and enjoy the surge of thrust as the big V8 spins up.
There’s a lot of weight to shift - more than 1800 kilos, in fact - but the GTS has no trouble motivating itself.
And, at slower, saner speeds the GTS isn't the handful you’d expect it to be. It may be an animal in the upper register of its rev range, yet it’s relaxed just off idle.
The gearbox is probably more likely to cause issues during day-to-day motoring. It’s got a heavy shift-action and a slightly rubbery feel, and can sometimes take some coaxing to get it through the gate.
Surprisingly, the clutch feels no heavier than any other manual-equipped VF. Once you learn the intricacies of this ‘box, the GTS is a doddle to drive.
Can’t be bothered driving stick? Opt for the auto instead then.
Refinement: What a noise! At idle with the bi-modal exhaust’s baffles open, the GTS’s exhaust is a bowel-shaking rumble. At full noise (and augmented by the bi-modal intake), it does a pretty good impression of a V8 supercar.
At cruise, all the baffles shut and the GTS takes on a quieter persona. The engine is hushed, tyre noise isn’t too intrusive and it’s a very comfortable machine for eating up big highway miles.
Ride and Handling: What's remarkable about the GTS (besides that Herculean powerplant, of course) is its suspension.
It's built around a set of four magnetorheological shock absorbers, which can instantly alter their fluid viscosity to create a ride that is either ultra-compliant, rock-hard or anything inbetween.
It's tech normally found on supercars three, four or five times the GTS' cost, and it works wonders when applied to the Gen-F GTS's chassis.
Its behaviour is altered by the Driver Preference Dial, and the suspension (dubbed MRC by HSV) has three distinct modes - Touring, Sports and Track.
Touring is, predictably, soft and supple - ride comfort is impressive given the sporting pedigree.
Cycling through Performance and Track yields further increases in suspension stiffness and a corresponding reduction in compliance, but even in the hard-core track setting this is still a car that offers incredible comfort on substandard Aussie roads.
And that’s remarkable for a car rolling on 20-inch wheels. HSV's engineers deserve a medal for this suspension.
Surprisingly, it’s not as daunting to drive as you’d think. Provided you go easy on the throttle in corners, there’s more than enough grip from the rear Continentals to contain the GTS’s torque.
We took the GTS to the summit of Lake Mountain via Victoria’s infamous Black Spur, and on these tight, confined roads the big HSV never felt cumbersome.
There’s a smidge of body roll and there’s no hiding the weight in the nose (too much speed will just result in understeer).
You only get to sample the GTS’ torque vectoring system when in Track mode, but to be honest we didn’t miss it.
It’s useful for getting on the power earlier in corners, but the laxer stability control settings require more skill to keep things in shape.
Braking: Two-piece rotors measuring a huge 390x36mm up front and 372x28mm at the rear are gripped by forged calipers sourced from AP Racing.
The GTS’ stopping performance is excellent. Pedal feel is good, and the brakes bite hard every time they’re applied. Even on a hard downhill run, we couldn’t make them fade.
ANCAP rating: 5/5 Stars - the VF Commodore sedan upon which the HSV GTS is based scored 35.06 out of 37 possible points in ANCAP testing.
Safety features: Switchable stability control (four modes plus off), traction control, ABS, EBD, brake assist are all standard.
Occupant protection is provided by dual front, dual side and dual curtain airbags.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years or 100,000km
Service costs: Under HSV’s capped-price servicing programme, the first four scheduled services cost no more than $220 each.
The scheme applies for the first three years or 60,000km of ownership, whichever occurs first.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
FPV GT-P ($82,040) - It’s no contest, really. Besides having more power and torque than the 335kW/570Nm GT-P, the HSV GTS has a more capable chassis, a nicer interior and more standard equipment.
The GT-P however remains an appealing muscle car in isolation. It also happens to be the HSV GTS’ only natural competitor. (see FPV reviews)
Mercedes-Benz E 63 AMG ($249,900) - We’ve included the Merc not because we think you'll be cross-shopping it with the HSV, but to give you some perspective on the GTS’ value equation.
Like the GTS, the E 63 AMG produces 430kW of power and a bagload of torque (800Nm, to be exact). It’s loaded with plenty of high-tech gizmology too, but there's a colossal $157,000 gulf between the two.
For that money, the E 63 feels more lively and its twin-turbo 5.5 litre V8 is easily more muscular than the GTS’ supercharged 6.2 (not to mention the Benz’s vastly superior interior quality and outstanding twin-clutch gearbox).
You get what you pay for. (See E-Class review)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
How do we sum up the HSV GTS? A performance hero that trounces all comers for bang for buck? A sports sedan that proves handling doesn’t have to be at the sacrifice of comfort?
Both are accurate, but there’s one other way to look at the Gen-F GTS: it’s perhaps the swansong of an Aussie legend.
We’ll miss it when it’s gone, but for now we’re glad it’s here. Buy one while you still can.
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
- HSV GTS - $92,990
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- Interested in buying HOLDEN SPECIAL VEHICLES GTS? Visit our HOLDEN SPECIAL VEHICLES showroom for more information.