Club, sport

Herald Sun - Motoring - - First Drive -

Red­line, at about $51,000, and the flag­ship GTS which nears $100,000 with on-road costs .

The 6.2-litre V8 has the same power out­put— 317kW— but the car is 68kg lighter, the big­gest weight re­duc­tion in the en­tire VF Com­modore line-up.

For those who want a lit­tle more, the Clubs­port R8 steps up to $71,000 and gets the 325kW of the pre­vi­ous GTS.

The Clubs­port R8 also comes with Bose stereo, headup dis­play, ma­chined al­loy wheels, bi-modal ex­haust and HSV’s EDI sys­tem, which en­ables the driver to tune the car for the road or track at a touch of the screen.

An op­tional SV Per­for­mance Pack in­cludes light­weight wheels, black ac­cents on the body­work, engine up­grade to 340kW and 570Nm, thanks to the clever bi-modal air in­take (as in the GTS, it sucks in more oxy­gen at cer­tain revs) and spe­cially tuned ex­haust.

As a pack­age deal it lists for $4995 but with GST and Lux­ury Car Tax im­posed the op­tion adds at least $6000 to the drive-away price. That might

sound a bit

steep but it’s money well spent. The power up­grade may sound sub­tle but the dif­fer­ence is both au­di­ble and pal­pa­ble.

As be­fore, the V8 (known as the LS3) is smooth and lin­ear but it has more of a growl, then a bark. It’s at com­plete odds with the re­fine­ment of the rest of the car.

In­side, faux-suede, real leather and an ex­tremely con­vinc­ing chrome fin­ish on the plas­tic high­lights give the Clubs­port an up­mar­ket ap­pear­ance it’s never had be­fore.

For all the Clubs­port R8’s fi­nesse, I’mtorn be­tween it and its $10,000 cheaper sib­ling, the ba­sic Clubs­port, which misses out on some of the elec­tronic gad­getry and comes only with Com­modore SS seats (with HSV head­rests). But the cook­ing Clubs­port feels lighter and more re­spon­sive than the R8 and lacks noth­ing in the way of agility, grip and grunt.

I had ex­pected to clam­ber over the Clubs­port in the scrum for the keys to the tastier mod­els on the test drive at Phillip Is­land race track.

But now I reckon I pre­fer it to the oth­ers.

Tak­ing the price cut into cal­cu­la­tions, it’s a no-brainer.

The only op­tion worth con­sid­er­ing on the base Clubs­port is the $1500 set of light­weight 20-inch wheels (from the 25th-an­niver­sary GTS re­leased last year). I’m strug­gling to think of $1500 bet­ter spent any­where else in the car in­dus­try.

As the cheap­est ticket into the HSV brand, the Clubs­port typ­i­cally gets parked in shop­ping cen­tres as a raf­fle prize for lo­cal char­i­ties. It deserves bet­ter than this hu­mil­i­a­tion.

With the Clubs­port as the start­ing point, imag­ine how good the GTS is go­ing to be.

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