Chris Miller road tests and reviews the 2013 HSV Clubsport R8.
In the same way the new VF Commodore has raised the bar to a new level for garden variety Holden, so too has the new Gen F Range of HSV machines.
Looking far more like an assassin in a suit, the new SV Enhanced R8 is undoubtedly the best looking Clubsport yet, displaying a more restrained design that is muscular and aggressive, without looking like a hoon.
Being at the bottom end of the HSV range you might be prone to thinking that you’ll be missing out.
Sure, you could go for even more power & even more gadgetry (at a higher price), but what are getting for you $76,285 (before on roads) is truly spectacular, so good in fact, it puts many cars priced north of $200,000 to shame.
It’s not just the amount of standard kit that stands out, but in terms of performance the HSV Clubsport R8 exceeds many in the power and dynamics stakes.
It wasn’t all that long ago we all marvelled at engines that could produce power of 185kw or 250kw, figures produced by power plants that’s would gulp fuel like a alcoholic in a brewery.
It all seems very “last decade” when you compare those outputs to that of the current VF Clubby with SV Enhancement – 340kw, standard, straight from the dealer.
Even better, unlike most rear wheel drive cars with such immense reserves of power, the balance of the big HSV together with a trick diff and beautifully tuned electronics mean you can tap into every kilowatt available and exploit it at will.
And you’ll want to exploit it too, if only just to be exposed to the intoxicating noise the surprisingly economical 6.2 litre V8 produces via the hi-flow exhaust system with x-pipe intermediate and Bi-Modal mufflers.
The power comes on strong in a very linear fashion; the big LS3 V8 remains smooth & brawny all the way to the red line and propels the reasonably hefty 1764kg of VF Clubsport R8 with astounding pace.
Thanks to those 340kw & 570Nm 100km/h will flash up in 5.0 seconds.
The biggest disappointment in the new Clubsport R8 is the six-speed automatic.
While it’s a great gearbox that handles the power well and is decisive and smooth in its shift action, whether up or down the gearbox, it’s just a couple of cogs short of the standard tech in the R8’s Euro rivals and we’re sure an eight speed could help improve our average of 15.9 litres per 100km of premium unleaded.
That said, you can still have a lot of fun with the six-speed auto when you flip it into manual mode.
On the road, the HSV is magnificent.
When you really feel the need to let your frustrations out (obviously in a legal & responsible fashion), the Clubbie rewards you, whether you’re in slow twisty stuff climbing into the mountains, or in high speed runs on the open highway; everything the Clubby does, it does well.
The fat A pillars still do a little to obstruct vision, but the driving position is great and the big comfortable seats are supportive and endlessly adjustable.
The steering lets you know exactly what is going on underneath your front wheels and the most delicate input translates into robust control of a front end with serious bite.
The step up in luxury in the new VF R8 is profound. Interior refinement and build quality now easily rivals its European counterparts, only at a third of the price.
An abundant use of suede inside, switchgear that feels expensive and intelligently laid out controls make the HSV interior a place you’ll find very rewarding.
There is absolutely no shortage of goodies inside…the biggest party trick would have to be the head up display that projects programmable info onto your windscreen.
I found it quite entertaining for the first 24 hours, and found the off switch soon after.
There is a forward collision warning system, a lane departure warning system along with a blind spot monitor. The HSV will also park itself with the park assist system.
The massive high resolution central screen is one of the best around, and its operation is logical and easy.
From here you can control streaming internet music systems, the good old fashioned AM/FM radio along with Bluetooth, DVD, CD, Satellite Navigation and the famed HSV EDI which displays everything from a stop watch for lap times to kilowatt & torque output, and pitch & yaw and all sorts of fascinating driver tools that can be downloaded onto a USB stick for more in depth analysis on your home computer.
If you’ve ever had even a passing interest in an HSV, now is the time to drive one. If you’ve always considered the Clubsport a car for Bogans…get off your high horse and go and drive one because it is thoroughly entertaining, intelligent, attractive and bloody great value.
I’ve always thought of myself as one who doesn’t fall for marketing guff…but the HSV line has got me hook, line & sinker…I just want one.
NUTS and BOLTS
Engine: 6.2 litre V8 developing 340kW and 570Nm
Transmission: Six-speed manual or six-speed automatic
Safety: Five stars
Price: From $76,285
For further information, please see Recalls and faults: HSV Gen-F ClubSport.