Soak up the style of HSV ON THE ROAD
Believe the hype, writes Neil McDonald
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.
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.
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.