New Zealand Classic Car - - Feature Car - Words: Todd Wylie Pho­tos: Adam Croy

It’s hard to write some­thing about the Holden Spe­cial Ve­hi­cles (HSV) range that’s not been said be­fore. Terms like ‘bang for buck’, ‘value for money’, and ‘mind-warp­ing per­for­mance’ all come to mind, and all are ac­cu­rate. But with each and ev­ery suc­ces­sive gen­er­a­tion that rolls off its pro­duc­tion line — hand pro­duced, just FYI — HSV seems to keep rais­ing the bar.

The re­cent re­lease of the Holden Com­modore VFII plat­form gave the tech­ni­cal wizards at HSV even more toys to play with, and a higher level from which they could step up their game. In­cluded in the new fac­tory fea­tures are pad­dle shifters, func­tional bon­net vents, and re­mote start. But while th­ese items are cool on a nor­mal ve­hi­cle, on some­thing as well specced as the HSV Gen F2 Club­sport LSA R8, they al­most go un­no­ticed — this is far from be­ing a ‘nor­mal’ car.

Ram­pant ponies

While the name is a mouth­ful, those with any ap­pre­ci­a­tion for Gen­eral Mo­tors’ en­gines will smile at the sight of the let­ters ‘LSA’. The LSA is the mo­tor that HSV be­stowed on the last-gen­er­a­tion HSV GTS, and it’s an en­gine with which we in­stantly fell in love. With a 1.9-litre su­per­charger up top and a forged bot­tom end, the Gts-spec LSAS are rated at 430kw, and the LSA R8 drops that fig­ure to 400kw, which is still noth­ing to be sneezed at. While HSV claims the lower power is par­tially due to the loss of the GTS’S bi­modal in­take, we’re pre­pared to guess that it is due to the tune more than any­thing else — mean­ing that, if you so de­sire, a quick hack into the car’s en­gine con­trol unit (ECU) might well see you reach near-gts power lev­els.

The thing is, though, that, when you drive the LSA R8, you sim­ply don’t need it; there is more than enough power on tap.

Like the GTS, the LSA is far more re­fined than the raw sledge­ham­mer that you’d ex­pect it to be with that many ram­pant ponies run­ning around in­side the 6.2-litre en­gine un­der the hood. Help­ing out in this area is the full Gts-spec driv­e­line, in­clud­ing the in­cred­i­bly smooth 6L90E six-speed trans­mis­sion, and the up­rated diff with 3.23:1 fi­nal-drive ra­tio (3.73:1 in man­ual ve­hi­cles). This driv­e­line gives the con­fi­dence to turn the driver pref­er­ence dial be­hind the shifter into Sport It’s got 30kw less than its big brother, but leaves an ex­tra $17K in your back pocket — so, how does the new HSV LSA R8 stack up against the Holy Grail,

the GTS?

or Per­for­mance mode and re­ally push the car, with no fear of the mas­sive 671Nm of torque do­ing any dam­age.

Im­pres­sive pack­age

With a twist of the dial, the elec­tric power steer­ing be­comes no­tice­ably heav­ier, and the bi­modal ex­haust goes from barely au­di­ble to the roar you’d ex­pect from such a me­chan­i­cal mon­ster. While we ap­pre­ci­ate the ad­di­tion of the pad­dle shifters, when it comes time for the twisty bits, you’re so busy try­ing to fo­cus your eyes at the next cor­ner that adding shift­ing into the mix is only adding dif­fi­culty for your­self. Re­gard­less of how good a driver you are, you’ll never be able to shift more quickly than the com­puter can, so you’re only fool­ing your­self, but at least you’re hav­ing fun while do­ing so.

With the upgrade in power over pre­vi­ous-gen­er­a­tion R8s comes a big­ger brake set-up, with four-pis­ton calipers all round. While they’re not the six-pots of the GTS, and the car loses the torque vec­tor­ing the GTS of­fers, the brake set-up is still im­pres­sive and has no prob­lem haul­ing the car up. In fact, we’d say the dif­fer­ence in brak­ing is not no­tice­able — un­less, per­haps, you’re push­ing the car to ex­treme lev­els.

And that’s the nice thing about the LSA R8: whether you drive it in rush-hour traf­fic, at 10-tenths

on back roads, or even on the track, it’s more than ac­com­mo­dat­ing and ca­pa­ble. In fact, we’d go as far as say­ing it’s easy. From the sim­ple things like the key­less en­try to the push-but­ton start; the re­vers­ing cam­era and sen­sors; and through to the sup­port­ive seats, big brakes, and ex­treme power, it makes daily driv­ing sim­ple and spir­ited driv­ing fun. No com­pro­mises.

To help keep the pur­chase price down de­spite the boosted me­chan­i­cal pack­age, the LSA R8 has lost a few things that have been stan­dard fare in the R8s of old, such as the En­hanced Driver In­ter­face (EDI) and the con­sole-mounted twin gauges. In re­al­ity, nei­ther of th­ese is a huge loss, as af­ter the first five min­utes of watch­ing how much G-force you can ex­ert, or glanc­ing at the dig­i­tal tacho, the nov­elty of the EDI wears off — un­less you take the car to the race­track, where the built-in lap timer can come in handy, es­pe­cially as all New Zealand tracks are pre­pro­grammed.

We’re ac­tu­ally quite happy that the gauges have gone, as, given the car’s lack of ig­ni­tion bar­rel — it has a push-but­ton start — that creates some­where for you to put the keys, not to men­tion an­other charge point for your elec­tronic devices.

Sub­tle de­sign

Ex­te­rior-wise there’s no deny­ing that the LSA R8 is from the HSV sta­ble, but, even with the new front bumper and side-skirt de­sign, it’s still quite sub­tle — or, more cor­rectly, the dif­fer­ence be­tween the Gen F and Gen F2 is sub­tle. To al­low for the LSA’S ad­di­tional cool­ing re­quire­ments, the frontal area has been opened up more, and ad­di­tional brake cool­ing ducts are now found each side, along with new day­time run­ning lamps. The black fin­ish of the ducts ties in per­fectly with the black lower front split­ter and lower side sills, which flow into the rear bumper, mak­ing for a very co­he­sive look. The ‘Hyper­flow’ rear spoiler, which is an ex­clu­sive op­tion avail­able only on the LSA R8 (at a cost of $895, and fit­ted to our test ve­hi­cle) does tend to block a bit of rear­ward vi­sion, but cer­tainly not enough to com­plain about. If you are wor­ried, there is the op­tion to leave the car with the stock Lo-line spoiler. Like­wise, you can spec the EDI ($1195), among myr­iad other op­tions.

We’d take the car just as is, with­out any up­grades, as it’s that good. In stock guise, it’ll set you back $102,490 (auto) or $99,990 (man­ual) — $17,500 less than the GTS, a de­cent sav­ing for what most would con­sider not much dif­fer­ence in ve­hi­cle.

So, if you’re in the mar­ket for a cor­ner-carv­ing pow­er­house that can of­fer you un­law­ful amounts of fun, can drop the kids to school in com­fort, and can pick up the gro­ceries with ease, don’t drive the GTS, as you’ll be blown away by the LSA R8. Try out the GTS and you’ll want one, of course, so do so at your own peril! The LSA is the mo­tor that HSV be­stowed on the last-gen­er­a­tion HSV GTS, and it’s an en­gine with which we in­stantly fell in love.

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