The skinny: HSV has snuck the fire-breathing supercharged 6.2 litre V8 from its GTS halo car into the Clubsport R8, Tourer R8, Maloo R8 and Senator Signature.
It’s lost a little power in the process and the undercarriage is a little less sophisticated than what’s in the GTS, but the resulting car is an absolute rip-snorting performance bargain.
Vehicle Style: High performance large sedan/ute/wagon
Price: $76,990 (Maloo R8 LSA manual) to $92,990 (Senator LSA automatic)
Engine/trans: 400kW/671Nm 6.2 supercharged petrol 8cyl | 6sp manual/automatic
Fuel Economy tested: 22.5 l/100km
What a time to be alive.
The Holden Commodore isn’t long for this world, but it’s only getting sweeter as it ages. The same applies to its more raucous cousins, manufactured in Clayton, Victoria, by HSV.
With just two years left in their lifespan, HSV has turned up the heat on its non-GTS models by gifting them with the supercharged LSA V8 from the HSV GTS flagship, detuned to a slightly-less-insane 400kW and 671Nm.
And all that grunt is now available in every R8 variant, from the $76,990 Maloo R8 LSA manual and up. Any way you look at it, 400kW for less than $80k is one hell of a deal, and Australian rev-heads should count themselves lucky.
How do we know? HSV chucked us the keys to the manual Maloo R8 LSA base model and the auto-only Clubsport R8 Tourer LSA, and we spent a day giving each a solid thrash.
Right now the message is clear: not only has HSV added big power to the R8 range, but its chassis is now the best it’s ever been.
- Standard equipment: Dual-zone climate control, powered front seats (except Maloo), cruise control, trip computer, keyless entry and ignition, blind spot monitoring, leather upholstery, alloy pedals, reversing camera, head-up display.
- Infotainment: Satellite navigation, Holden MyLink infotainment suite, Bluetooth phone and audio integration, AM/FM/CD/USB audio
Interior changes are pretty few and far between, the most noteworthy being the removal of the auxiliary gauges at the base of the centre stack and the EDI datalogging display being made a cost option on all models bar the GTS.
The rest is carry-over from the Gen-F. Same big, well-bolstered seats, the same high-quality materials, the same instrumentation.
Now that’s out of the way, let’s talk about the truly important stuff.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 400kW/671Nm 6.2 litre supercharged petrol V8
- Transmission: Six-speed manual or six-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
- Suspension: MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear
- Brake type: Four-piston AP Racing calipers, ventilated discs
- Steering type: Electrically assisted
HSV took a holistic approach to the creation of the R8 LSA range. The Gen-F2 upgrade consists of more than just dropping in an LSA and fiddling with the ECU maps to wind back the power and torque.
The other side of the performance equation, handling, has also been addressed, though the changes are less obvious.
The suspension hasn't just been fettled to accommodate the new engine’s weight, but it's also been upgraded with new dampers and spring rates to enhance handling.
The R8 LSAs might not have the fancy (and costly) magnetic dampers and torque vectoring systems of the GTS, but the R8 LSAs have the suspension to match their prodigious power output.
Brakes too. Big AP Racing four-piston calipers live behind each wheel and the rear brakes are bigger than before. The stability control calibration has also been altered to suit.
What’s it all boil down to? Speed, and the grip and body control necessary to keep it all in check.
We clocked the automatic at roughly five seconds to 100km/h, not far off HSV’s claim of 4.6 seconds. What’s more impressive, though, is just how easy it is to control this 400kW monster.
The manual-equipped ute feels a little livelier thanks to the more direct connection between engine and rear wheels, not to mention its slightly lighter rear end.
Nevertheless, it takes a concerted effort to break traction under hard acceleration, and the grip under power is phenomenal.
If you’re in third gear or above, you can mash the throttle on corner exit and be confident that the R8 won’t swap ends - even with the stability control turned off. It’s stable, it feels secure and that’s remarkable for a car with such ridiculous performance stats.
Up our favourite mountain road, the R8 Tourer LSA is magnificent. It’s no lightweight, but the LSA provides more than enough oomph to hammer up hills at great speed. That perfectly-tuned suspension, meanwhile, keeps you out of the weeds.
And the sound. Oh god, the sound. Full throttle is like a thousand thunderclaps unleashed in quick succession, especially when the bi-modal exhaust’s bypass flaps crack open.
You’re always conscious of the car’s mass, however, and the front weight bias results in benign understeer if you pitch it into a corner too hard under neutral throttle.
Still, with huge grip from the sticky Continental tyres it takes a very hammy fist to breach that limit.
ANCAP rating: 5/5 Stars - the VF Commodore the HSV R8 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
Where else are you going to find over 400kW and a fantastic chassis for less than $80k? The HSV R8 LSA and Senator LSA models are absolute performance bargains, and quite unique beasts.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
While I’m optimistic about HSV’s future, I’ll miss these cars when they’re gone.
If you look at HSVs as being little more than bogan chariots, then you’re utterly wrong. They go hard, they stop hard, they corner hard and they do all that for around half the price of a similarly-performing European car.
And the R8 LSA continues that theme, just with even more speed.
The R8 LSA is so uniquely Australian - and no matter your brand allegiance - it should be a source of pride for any Australian car enthusiast. They’re proof that we can make world-class performance cars, not just straight-line heroes.