2013 HSV GTS REVIEW
What’s hot: LSA V8’s linear power delivery, massive 430kW, bargain pricing.
What’s not: Rear brakes get a workout, still a very heavy car.
X-Factor: Just like a V8 supercar, but with licence plates, four doors and cupholders.
Vehicle style: Large performance sedan
Price: $92,990 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 6.2 litre supercharged petrol V8/six-speed automatic transmission
It’s the most powerful vehicle to ever roll out of HSV’s Clayton factory, and the most technologically advanced performance car ever built in Australia.
Yet, at $92,990, the HSV GTS is also something of a bargain. No surprise then that several dealers have already sold their entire GTS allocation to buyers who have yet to see one in the metal.
Can you blame them? Getting 430kW of power for less money than a mid-grade Landcruiser is surely one compelling reason. Another, that the HSV Gen-F GTS could very well be the ultimate Australian-made muscle car.
And unlike HSV GTS’s of yore, the Gen-F GTS is a most unique beast.
Besides its supercharged LSA 6.2 litre V8, the GTS has different subframe mountings, different transmissions, a rear subframe borrowed the Camaro ZL1 (which is also the source of the engine) and a brake package that’s exclusive to the GTS.
It’s a special car, and one that we’ve been itching to drive.
How does it go? Well, it’s unsurprisingly brisk in a straight line. HSV says it’ll do the 0-100km/h sprint in just 4.4 seconds, and blast down the quarter mile in 12.3 seconds.
But what caught us by surprise was just how well it handled in a corner.
HSV invited us to test the GTS at Phillip Island, and it was there that we came to the conclusion that not only is the GTS the best HSV ever, but quite simply the best Australian performance car ever created.
ON THE TRACK
Powertrain: If you want big numbers, the HSV GTS delivers. Thanks to an Eaton supercharger, a bi-modal intake and a low-restriction bi-modal exhaust, the 6.2 litre LSA V8 under the bonnet pumps out a staggering 430kW of power at 6000rpm and 740Nm of torque at 4200rpm.
And all of that goes to the rear wheels.
Let’s put that into perspective. Both the Nissan GT-R and the Audi R8 V10 Plus have less power and less torque than the HSV GTS, but enjoy the extra traction of all-wheel drive. Both happen to be blisteringly fast around racetracks.
So the GTS must be a pig of a thing, right? A burnout machine, a powerslide hero; but not much chop at putting its prodigious power down out of bends? Wrong.
Bizarrely, the GTS doesn’t feel as daunting to pilot as you’d expect. There’s phenomenal power being wrenched through the rear wheels, but the GTS’s active torque-vectoring system and traction-control calibration minimises wheelspin.
The net result is minimal power-wasting tyre-spinning and outstanding traction under power.
It means you can enjoy the full breadth of this wonderful engine’s performance without having to worry about getting bitten. But make no mistake - tramp the throttle from a standing start in 'Track mode', and the GTS will still lay down two black lines with disturbing ease.
Treat the accelerator with a bit more respect, and you’ll reveal an engine that simply never runs out of breath.
Being supercharged rather than turbocharged means the LSA V8 has razor-sharp throttle response and a linear power curve. Whether just off idle or banging against the 6200rpm fuel cut, the LSA never disappoints.
There’s loads of midrange pull to take advantage of, so it’s not a powertrain that you need to spank hard to extract the best performance.
Indeed, with the huge power and torque figures of this monstrous engine it’s perhaps a good idea to leave the high-rpm shenanigans for when the track is well and truly straight.
But let that LSA sing at the top of its lungs, and boy does it sound good. When the valves in that bi-modal exhaust open, the ensuing sound is pure, unadulterated V8.
It will send send shivers down the spine of onlookers, and plant a grin on anyone behind the wheel
Surprisingly, the supercharger isn’t as vocal as we thought it’d be. There’s a distinct whine from the other side of the firewall, but it’s somewhat muted. Either that, or it’s simply drowned out by all the noise coming from the back.
Drivetrain: At the launch of the Gen-F, HSV only had the one GTS on hand for us to drive, so to date we’ve only experienced the optional six-speed automatic transmission.
The 6L90E six-speed auto is specially adapted to handle the LSA’s torque.
With the car in Sport or Track mode, the automatic shift programme never fudges a shift, and, if you're really on the throttle, will hang onto gears and upshifts to near redline.
Manual mode is more satisfying though, and the transmission will hold gears against redline if you need it to.
An oversight, with a car of this performance, is the absence of paddle shifters (we think it's a mistake). Nonetheless, gearchanges are swift and decisive, and executed with neat throttle-blips on downchanges.
Handling: Remember we mentioned torque vectoring? It’s magical.
It makes the GTS feel dramatically more agile than the Clubsport R8, which is no small feat considering the R8 weighs less and has fewer kilowatts to rein in. But there’s a caveat.
Torque vectoring only works when the car is in Sport or Track mode, and only when it’s accelerating.
When the steering wheel is turned and the accelerator pushed, torque vectoring brakes the inside rear wheel to direct more torque to the outside wheel, which has more traction and also actively steers the car in the direction of the turn.
It’s a neat trick, but only accessible when on the gas.
As such, the GTS necessitates a very different driving style. Brake earlier into turns, then get on the power sooner.
It feels counterintuitive in a big heavy RWD sedan like the HSV GTS, but to access the grip advantage offered by torque vectoring you need to drive it almost like it’s AWD.
Do so, and you’re rewarded with crisp direction changes, increased resistance to understeer and impressive grip.
Driving the same way in a Clubsport would likely result in too much slip at the rear wheels, or too much front-end push. That’s how different the GTS is.
But keep in mind, at 1882kg without a driver, this is a heavy car - and you can feel that weight in its handling. The similarly-porky Nissan GT-R has it well-and-truly bested, let alone the aforementioned Audi R8.
The standard magnetorheological dampers (MRC in HSV-speak) do their best to rein in the kilos, but there’s no masking the body roll in high speed corners.
Phillip Island’s ultra-smooth surface presents few tests for suspension compliance, but there was a noticeable difference in initial bump response when switching between Touring, Sport and Track mode.
The steering is great though, as it is in every VF derivative. Despite being electrically-assisted it provides consistent feel and feedback - qualities very much appreciated on the fast, flowing corners of Phillip Island.
Braking: Big cars need big brakes, and the GTS is no exception.
The two-piece cross-drilled front calipers measure 390x36mm and are clamped by six-piston forged AP Racing calipers.
At the rear, there’s a set of 372x28mm cross-drilled rotors and four-piston calipers, which are larger than the front brakes of many performance cars.
There’s a reason for that. With the torque vectoring system braking one rear wheel at a time, there’s mammoth heat being generated as the brake works against the considerable power of the engine.
Upon exiting the car after a few hard laps around the circuit, the rear brakes were just as hot as the fronts, and the rotors were wearing at about the same rate too. Normally, you wouldn’t see anywhere near as much wear and tear on the rear brakes of a performance car.
But all credit to HSV, the brakes never disappointed out on the track. The pedal never went long, the brakes always pulled up strongly and the GTS remained stable during aggressive braking.
If you plan on tracking your GTS regularly you may want to budget for frequent rear rotor replacements, but otherwise these stoppers are up to the task.
TRACK TEST VERDICT | OVERALL
How do we sum up the HSV GTS? Well, while we’ve driven faster cars, most of them wear pricetags two, three or even four times more than what this HSV is asking for.
It’s a performance bargain, but unlike any previous GTS, this one is far more than a brutish straight-line dragster.
It’s a GTS with smarts. With sophistication to match its savagery. A four-door family car, but a bona-fide V8 supercar at the same time - and one that you can park in your garage for less than a hundred grand.
No wonder so many Australians (and a few Brits) have fallen over themselves to get one. This is truly a special machine, and one that every Australian car enthusiast can be proud of.
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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