Confirmed: the most powerful Aussie car ever is coming
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HOW’S this for an exclamation point to mark the end of the local car industry? Holden Special Vehicles is about to reset its own benchmark as the creator of the most powerful Australian-made car of all time.
The epic 476kW/820Nm LS9 supercharged 6.2-litre V8 from the previous-generation Corvette ZR1 is coming to the Commodore. While there has long been speculation about Commodore adopting the LS9, MOTOR can confirm the project only got the green light in recent weeks.
Most of the engineering work until then had been theoretical. Computer simulations were run to see if the Commodore’s body could handle the LS9’s awesome 820Nm of torque and how the engine might pair with the VF’s electronic architecture. There were early discussions about who would fit the engine; to keep costs down it would have been better to fit the LS9 on Holden’s production line at Elizabeth, SA.
The LSA introduced at VF (or “Gen-F” in HSV-speak) in 2013 is already a big enough stretch for Holden’s mass-production line. It was eventually decided the only way LS9 was going in a Commodore was if HSV installed it at Clayton, Victoria.
That’s in part why the LS9-powered HSV will cost close to $165,000 when it hits showrooms in 2017. Because it will get built with two engines, even though each customer only gets one.
HSV’s new supercar will initially be built as a GTS on the Elizabeth production line and then get transported to HSV in Clayton in its usual partially-complete form. Although it seems a waste to get the car built with an LSA engine only to take it out again, HSV
wanted all the other hardware the LSA brings, such as the stronger differential and axles, and extra cooling ancillaries.
Once at HSV, the LSA will come out and the LS9 will go in, a process it perfected with the W427, when the massive 7.0-litre V8 was installed by hand between 2008 and 2009. If you can only drive an automatic, this car’s not for you. It will come with the ZR1’s six-speed manual transmission only.
Don’t hold your breath for a power increase to 500kW or beyond; the LS9 is already so powerful, it’s understood HSV does not want to further stress the driveline. Maintaining the standard power and torque outputs (as HSV did with the LSA) means the LS9 will keep its GM-tested reliability standards.
While HSV is understood to have developed a unique suspension calibration for its final supercar, appearance changes will be relatively limited. The front bumper, rear wing, rear bumper inserts, unique (but still 20-inch) wheels, and badging are expected to find themselves under the scalpel for some cosmetic surgery.
The rear wing won’t be a centremounted surf board similar to the one fitted to the GTS-R from 1996. The aluminium boot-lid can’t handle the extra weight and stress of such a design.
Like the W427, the front fascia is expected to have a dramatic appearance change, which may not sound like a big deal, but trust us, it is. Front bumpers cost a cool $1 million (or thereabouts) to tool up, test and produce because they must meet crash safety standards.
This adds massive cost to the development of any car, but even more so when only about 250 bumpers (plus some spares) will be made.
Don’t expect a see-through panel in the bonnet (as per the Corvette ZR1) to show-off the flashy LS9; the cost to re-engineer and re-test a new bonnet is also prohibitively expensive.
And don’t expect to see carbonceramic brake discs or carbonfibre wheels. The GTS six-piston front calipers (made by AP Racing for HSV to its bespoke design) and 390mm discs are already the biggest ever fitted to an Australian production car.
The cost to conduct validation and stability control testing on carbon-ceramic brakes would have blown the budget. Same deal for carbon-fibre wheels. These items alone would have added at least $60K to the cost of each car.
Contrary to speculation, the GTS-R badge won’t be used on this
End of the line: HSV’s swansong Commodore might not look exactly like our illustrations, but it will be breathtakingly conspicuous
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