Soak up the style of HSV ON THE ROAD

Be­lieve the hype, writes Neil McDon­ald

The Courier-Mail - Motoring - - CARS GUIDE -

THERE has been a breath­less buzz sur­round­ing HSV for months.

Web­sites and blogs have been chat­ting about the new HSV E2 – or the E-Se­ries 2 range – with wild an­tic­i­pa­tion.

In a cun­ning move to cre­ate and main­tain in­ter­est, HSV used vi­ral mar­ket­ing and web­sites for the first time to push the mes­sage that a new range was around the cor­ner. The cam­paign has worked. The cars are on sale and the or­der books are fill­ing fast, with the wait for some mod­els out to next March.

HSV gen­eral man­ager sales Dar­ren Bowler says many cus­tomers have al­ready put down de­posits, de­spite not hav­ing seen them in per­son.

‘‘It demon­strates how strong the brand is even with the eco­nomic down­turn,’’ he says.

The HSV E2 cars rep­re­sent one of the big­gest mid-life up­grades for the Holden brand.

There’s a more pow­er­ful hero car and more ag­gres­sive styling to set it apart from the E1 cars while V8 per­for­mance on all mod­els ex­cept the range-top­ping GTS re­mains the same.

Un­der the bon­net the ex­ist­ing 317kW 6.2-litre V8 car­ries over but HSV en­gi­neers have re­duced fuel con­sump­tion by up to 4.5 per cent.

The Club­sport R8 au­to­matic now re­turns 13.9 litres/100km.

The GTS gets an ex­tra 8kW, now 325kW, and greater vis­ual dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion from other HSVs.

Prices re­main the same, with the Club­sport opener re­main­ing at $65,990. The GTS and Se­na­tor Sig­na­ture rise by $700 to $80,990 and $82,990 re­spec­tively.

Among new driver en­hance­ments are Audi-style day­time run­ning lights, a com­pe­ti­tion set­ting for motorsport track days while man­ual mod­els also get a launch con­trol fea­ture.

Vis­ually, the range also looks more dis­tinc­tive, bor­row­ing the twin bon­net scoops from Holden’s Pon­tiac G8 ex­port cars for the Club­sport, GTS and also the Maloo.

The twin scoops and more assertive grille on the sportier mod­els are de­signed to make them look distinctiv­ely dif­fer­ent from the more lux­ury-ori­ented cars in the range.

The Se­na­tor and Grange miss out on the scoops and HSV says bon­nets can­not be in­ter­changed.

HSV manag­ing di­rec­tor Phil Hard­ing says the up­grade rep­re­sents one of the most ex­pen­sive facelifts in HSV his­tory.

He says 25 per cent of the in­vest­ment was spent on the E2’s styling with the rest con­cen­trat­ing on the en­gi­neer­ing and me­chan­i­cals.

Many of the me­chan­i­cal changes have come about be­cause of de­mand from cus­tomers but also due to a de­sire to keep the HSV ahead of the per­for­mance pack.

HSV’s chief en­gi­neer, Joel Stod­dart, says the ad­di­tion of a com­pe­ti­tion mode and launch con­trol for track days will pro­vide driv­ers with ‘‘con­fi­dence be­yond abil­ity’’.

As the range-top­per the GTS awash with tech­ni­cal so­phis­ti­ca­tion.

The mag­netic ride con­trol car­ries over but has been re­cal­i­brated and is now stiffer and there are wider wheels as stan­dard to pro­vide bet­ter turn-in and sta­bil­ity.

HSV has even de­liv­ered an Aus­tralian-first with its new Boschde­vel­oped cruise con­trol that causes the car to brake when its go­ing down­hill to en­sure it re­mains within the speed limit.

HSV has proven re­mark­ably re­silient to the eco­nomic down­turn with sales down about only 12 per cent this year, com­pared to 15 per cent of the over­all mar­ket.

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The com­pany is on track to de­liver 3000 cars this year.

HSV’s de­sign chief, Ju­lian Quincey, said work started on the E2 early in 2007, not long af­ter the orig­i­nal E Se­ries started de­liv­er­ing record sales for HSV.

This time around he was aim­ing for more styling dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion.

‘‘We needed a new iden­tity that would both ex­cite the pas­sion­ate HSV buyer and equally one that could be picked out by the non car en­thu­si­ast,’’ Quincey says.

Many HSV buy­ers are also com­ing around to up­dat­ing their E1 cars so ef­forts were made to make the E2 cars look lower, wider and even more sporty.

‘‘This made the per­for­mance hood a de­sir­able ad­di­tion to the Club­Sport and GTS mod­els,’’ Quincey says.

‘‘The twin bon­net in­takes also work well with our sig­na­ture twin-nos­tril grille.’’

HSV has also re­sponded to cus­tomer de­mands for more op­tions by in­tro­duc­ing an up­graded op­tion pack- age called SV En­hanced, which ex­pects to be very pop­u­lar.

This in­cludes a freer-flow­ing ‘‘bi­modal’’ ex­haust that pro­duces a meatier sound at higher revs, leather seats and 20-inch wheels on the Club­sport and Maloo.

On the GTS model, the op­tion pack adds six-pis­ton front brake calipers fin­ished in yel­low and also four-pis­ton rear brakes.

The GTS also gets a re­cal­i­brated mag­netic ride con­trol sus­pen­sion with stiffer springs and wider wheels.

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THE quick­est way to dis­tin­guish the lat­est HSV range is by the reti­na­siz­zling day­time run­ning lights.

Th­ese are across ev­ery model ex­cept the Grange. Look past the daz­zling lights and you see an en­hanced, ag­gres­sive styling job that looks bet­ter in the flesh than pho­tos.

Ex­tro­verts will love the styling but many be­lieve they have lost some of the vis­ual sub­tly of the E1 cars, not that it will worry HSV own­ers. HSV chose the Win­ton race track in north­east Vic­to­ria to show off the E2 cars.

On the high­way, there are no sur­prises with ei­ther the Club­sport or GTS. They ride, steer and be­have ex­cep­tion­ally well for per­for­mance sedans, a credit to HSV’s en­gi­neer­ing knowhow. It is only when you get to a race­track that the GTS is al­most in a league of its own.

Even though the 317kW Club­sport has plenty of poke, the GTS ratch­ets things up to 325kW and throws in some mas­sive op­tional stop­pers and its great mag­netic ride con­trol sus­pen­sion. Then there’s the bark of the GTS’s bi-modal ex­haust, which will have HSV fans weak at the knees.

The mag­netic ride con­trol de­liv­ers the type of plush ride that de­fies de­scrip­tion, par­tic­u­larly given the GTS’s mas­sive 20-inch wheels and pa­per-thin rub­ber.

The ad­justable MRC pro­vides con­stant sus­pen­sion ad­just­ment to match road con­di­tions and your driv­ing style.

The GTS – along with the rest of the range – gets the com­pe­ti­tion mode en­hance­ments. On the track this lifts the in­ter­ven­tion thresh­old to al­low more en­thu­si­as­tic driv­ing without com­pletely elim­i­nat­ing the trac­tion nan­nies.

Like­wise, the launch con­trol sys­tem on the man­ual cars al­lows bud­ding dragstrip rac­ers to en­joy the car’s per­for­mance without wor­ry­ing about dam­ag­ing the in­nards.

As the range-top­per the GTS is a com­plete per­for­mance car.

The six-speed man­ual is pre­cise and sur­pris­ingly easy to use.

It is rel­a­tively easy to push the GTS hard without get­ting the car out of shape thanks to the com­bi­na­tion of ex­cep­tional brakes, wheels and tyres.

HSV says GTS buy­ers typ­i­cally come from more ex­pen­sive Euro­pean brands and they won’t be dis­ap­pointed.

It is a per­for­mance blue­blood that can hold its head high against some much-vaunted Euro­peans.

For $80,990 the GTS gives you plenty of lo­cally de­vel­oped bang for your buck.

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