THE GEN F2 CLUBSPORT R8 LSA IS PROOF THAT HSV EMPLOYS MORE 'EVIL SCIENTISTS' THAN ANY OTHER CAR COMPANY ON EARTH.
At least, after spending a week in the supercharged Clubsport R8 LSA, that’s the only logical explanation I can come up with.
That engine is the same as you’ll find in the insane GTS - but in R8 tune it produces a more pedestrian 400kW... er, "pedestrian" isn’t the right word, it’s still freaking insane. Oh, and that’s not a bad thing by the way.
Vehicle Style: High performance large sedan
Price: $80,990 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 400kW/671Nm 6.2 supercharged petrol 8cyl | 6sp manual
Fuel Economy claimed: 15.3 l/100km | tested: 20.8 l/100km
While we wouldn’t normally describe anything with an $81k pricetag as a bargain, this 400kW Clubsport R8 LSA is.
That same 81 grand could net you a similarly sized Mercedes-Benz E200, with a 135kW 2.0-litre turbo under the bonnet.
Chrysler almost gets there with the 300 SRT Core, it’s $59,000, but falls short by 50kW.
At the other end of the scale, an Audi RS 3 starts at just short of $79k and offers all-wheel-drive as well as 270kW, but is surely not on the same shopping list.
We could play this game all day, but you and I both know that a typical HSV buyer would rather be stripped naked, covered in pink feathers, and hog-tied to the top of the Sydney Opera House than consider any other fast four-door.
With the advent of HSV’s Gen F2 range (that’s HSV’s branding for the VF series II Commodore) it’s hard to argue with that passion. A 6.2 litre supercharged V8 that smashes out 400kW and 671Nm is a thing of beauty in anyone’s books.
You may not find the HSV ‘sophisticated’ - but neither is a sledge hammer. Thing is, both get the job done with incredible ruthless efficiency. Time, then, to put your back into it and start swinging.
- Standard equipment: Dual-zone climate control, powered front seats, 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
- Options fitted: Red Hot leather trim ($795)
- Cargo volume: 496 litres
The changes from Gen F to Gen F2 are fairly minimal, but if it ain't broke…
The gauges that used to sit at the bottom of the centre stack have been nixed, and there’s a non-slip storage mat in their place wearing the HSV logo.
There’s HSV logos everywhere, in fact.
You won’t soon forget what you bought - there’s a logo in the speedo, a logo in the tacho, a logo on each outboard headrest, a logo on the dash, a logo on the instrument cluster and MyLink screen when you start the car, you get the idea.
There’s also an 'R8 LSA' plaque behind the gear shifter, sports pedals, leather and faux-suede trim, hugely bolstered front sports-seats with power adjustment, and plenty of metallised and chrome highlights.
Some of the lower dash-plastics don’t live up to the quality of the upper dash, and while we like the chunky steering wheel rim, the hub looks more light-truck than sports car.
HSV’s data-logging EDI system moves to the options list (it’s $1095), but satellite navigation is standard, along with head-up display, dual-zone climate control, cruise control, and auto lights and wipers.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 400kW/671Nm 6.2 litre supercharged petrol V8
- Transmission: Six-speed manual, rear wheel drive
- Suspension: MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear
- Brakes: Four-piston AP Racing calipers, ventilated discs
- Steering: Electrically assisted
In crafting the Gen F2, HSV could’ve simply dropped in a bigger engine and called it a day, but for LSA-powered models the approach was much more detailed.
Stability control mapping was upgraded to suit the bigger power figure, there’s retuned suspension, and the brakes have been enlarged to cope with the greater demands of more ‘go-fast, stop hard’ use.
However, some of the GTS headline tech remains GTS-only, like the magnetorheological dampers and the torque vectoring rear differential.
That’s quite alright though, because the R8 LSA bolts to the horizon like a charging boar thanks to 400kW at 6150rpm and 671Nm at 4200Nm.
Unlike the twin-turbo V8s you might find in a Euro bahnstormer, the supercharged unit in the HSV builds power with a fantastic linearity. It isn’t all-or-nothing, it’s gradual, and dare we say it, civilised.
At least, it can be unless you really bury the foot, then all bets are off. This thing is huge - 400kW of wedding-tackle makes sure of that.
A supercharger on a V8 is hardly necessary, but we welcome this one all the same. It breathes enough life into this engine to allow it to pull itself up from walking pace to the legal limit in fifth gear - not gradually either, but urgently.
Which brings us to the six-speed manual. It’s got a big-strong feel to go with the big-strong engine.
You don’t fingertip it from gear to gear. It needs a hefty arm, you have 'muscle' it through the ratios, but it passes through the gate cleanly with a positive and satisfying action.
The clutch too isn’t over assisted - if you’re caught in a queue of traffic it’ll show its hefty side, and it can feel a little ‘springy’ right on the take-up point, but it’s nice to be reminded that you’re behind the wheel of something brutal, isn’t it?
HSV’s tune for the electric steering gives it a bit of weight, which gets progressively weightier thanks to the Driver Preference Dial (DPD).
The DPD also handles changes to the traction and stability control, bi-model exhaust, and launch control, through three stages Tour, Sport and Performance.
Personally, 'Sport' is the pick for most situations, the steering feels meaty but not too demanding, the bi-modal exhaust opens up, and, if you slam it, the peace of the day is instantly shattered with a full-on, balls-out, heavy metal soundtrack. Lovely.
It’s not all pure grunt though - hustle it through a set of tight bends and the Clubsport will reveal tenacious grip. It feels like a big car on the road, but this is no boat. It will hold a cornering line with surprising precision and turns-in absolutely faithfully.
Oh, but if you want to you can mash the pedal mid-corner and the ESP calibration will allow you to hang the bum out as you dial in some opposite lock. It’s not huge, but it is fun.
If you’re completely insane you can also do it with stability off. More smoke from the rears, and white knuckles on the wheel, but at the limit the Clubby offers a huge degree of control and adjustability.
And I know you’re going to mention it (so if the 'elephant in the room' could please be seated) but fuel use is high.
The 20.8 l/100km we recorded is higher than the claimed 15.3 l/100km claim by a fair swig, but we drove with intent.
Most HSV buyers aren’t likely to lose sleep over this fact, knowing that the best way to be ‘green’ in an HSV is to order it in Jungle Green and be happy with that.
ANCAP rating: 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
Um, well, this is awkward isn’t it? Now that Ford’s FPV hotshop has gone, the Clubby is a bit of a stand-alone. There’s the Chrysler 300 SRT range for a little less moola, with a bit less power, or if it must wear a blue oval the Falcon XR8 sort of fits the bill, but with much lower spec.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
If you’re looking for a 21st-century muscle car, this is it. It needs a strong hand to guide it, but, for the most part, it offers fine handling and insane performance.
HSV still hasn’t outlined what its future product might include, so there’s a very good change the Clubsport R8 LSA will be the last of its ilk - certainly, without question, it will be the last Aussie-made pure performance passenger sedan.
That endows it with a unique set of qualities, long-range comfort, seating for five, and a presence that could only come from the wild imaginations at HSV.
You may not realise it now, but this is a car that will be lamented for a long time after the last one rolls off the production line. Whatever you do, don’t miss your chance to own one if you can.
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