The Courier-Mail - Motoring - - Road Test - BILL McKIN­NON

KICK­ING tyres at a Holden/ HSV dealer, I no­tice there are many more new HSV Club­sport R8 LSAs than Com­modore SSVs in the yard.

“Sell­ing a few?” I ask the sales­man.

A roll of the eyes and rue­ful shake of the head says enough. “There’s a two-month wait on Com­modore but HSVs are slow.”

It’s not dif­fi­cult to come up with pos­si­ble rea­sons.

The Club­sport R8 has sky­rock­eted in price, from $73,290 for the last model (and $61,990 for the dis­con­tin­ued base Club­sport) to $80,990 for the cur­rent one.

The new model has a 6.2litre su­per­charged V8, as used in Chevy Camaro and Cadil­lac per­for­mance mod­els in the US and for­merly re­served for HSV’s top-spec model, the $95,990 GTS.

It has heavy-duty six-speed man­ual and au­to­matic trans­mis­sions, drive shaft, diff and axles, also from Chevro­let.

This up­graded drivetrain is nec­es­sary to re­li­ably and con­trol­lably put the smokin’ per­for­mance of the V8, known as the LSA, to the road.

Holden has done HSV no favours by mak­ing the ul­ti­mate Com­modore such a good thing.

Holden wants the Com­modore to go out glo­ri­ous, so it has com­man­deered the nat­u­rally as­pi­rated V8, pre­vi­ously ex­clu­sive to HSV, for the Com­modore SS.

This en­gine, also dis­plac­ing 6.2 litres and known as the LS3, makes “only” 304kW but for most of us that’s plenty, thanks. The SSV Red­line also gets launch con­trol, de­cent sus­pen­sion and brakes, 19-inch wheels and sticky rubber and costs $54,490.

And here’s the crux of HSV’s most se­ri­ous prob­lem.

There are two bril­liant Holden hotrods, one of them priced at $26,000-plus more than the other. Power in­creases from 340kW to 400kW and torque rises from 570Nm to 671Nm in the lat­est R8, al­though this is de­tuned slightly from GTS spec­i­fi­ca­tion, where it makes 430kW/740Nm.

The R8’s clos­est bang-fo­ry­our-bucks ri­val is Nis­san’s $172,000 GT-R, with 404kW/628Nm.

HSV has stiff­ened the sus­pen­sion to re­duce body roll, sharpen turn-in and im­prove rear end road­hold­ing. AP Rac­ing four-pis­ton brake calipers are on each wheel.

Twenty-inch al­loys with ma­chined faces and grey ac­cents are stan­dard, shod with 255/35 (front) and 275/35 (rear) Con­tiS­port Con­tact tyres. Even from idle, the LSA makes prodi­gious grunt and, up to 4000rpm, its de­liv­ery is far from fe­ro­cious and quite easy to man­age around town.

The six-speed man­ual is typ­i­cally slow in ac­tion and sur­pris­ingly smooth, though there’s some driv­e­line lash, the oc­ca­sional in­el­e­gant lurch, and the clutch is heavy and abrupt. As a day-to-day drive, you would take the $2500 six-speed auto op­tion ev­ery time.

The low-speed ride is hard and un­for­giv­ing, more so than on the pre­vi­ous model.

Fuel con­sump­tion is hor­rific. Drive it like a Prius and you might get 15.0L/100km. Drive it like an HSV and ex­pect 25.0L. Out of town, the 2016 R8’s harder, sportier char­ac­ter be­comes ap­par­ent. Se­lect Sport or Per­for­mance on the Driver Pref­er­ence dial and you get higher trac­tion and sta­bil­ity con­trol thresh­olds (in the lat­ter mode) and weight­ier steer­ing.

The Club­sport used to strug­gle at times to get its power to the road. Not now. The R8 points into a cor­ner im­me­di­ately and ac­cu­rately, feels much more re­spon­sive and bal­anced than 1845kg has a right to and can be leant on with en­thu­si­asm as you drive through the exit.

De­spite its size — it’s a big unit — you feel in­ti­mately con­nected to the R8 and en­joy su­perb, un­fil­tered feed­back from each cor­ner, typ­i­cal of per­for­mance Com­modores.

Drift kings can switch the trac­tion con­trol off; the rest of us mor­tals will live much longer leav­ing it on.

Ride com­fort im­proves as speeds rise and the sus­pen­sion works through more of its travel. Big hits on a rough road can cause a trace of body flex.

In high­way cruise mode, the best I got was 11.9L/100km. Yep: docile yet with ob­vi­ous malev­o­lent in­tent below 4000rpm and abso-freak­ing­lutely manic above it.

A tell­tale sigh from the bi­modal ex­haust as it opens up, ready for ac­tion, sig­nals the be­gin­ning of an in­cred­i­bly re­spon­sive, ex­plo­sive top end. The tacho nee­dle flicks to 6200rpm be­fore you can say “Golly!”, then the rev lim­iter shuts the fun down hard to pre­vent the en­gine from dis­in­te­grat­ing.

HSV claims 4.6 sec­onds for the R8 man­ual’s 0-100km/h sprint, which isn’t that quick for 400kW. Holden claims 4.9 sec­onds for the SSV Red­line man­ual, so the R8’s 0.3 of a se­cond ad­van­tage costs al­most $9000 per tenth.

Carsguide’s Josh Dowl­ing got 4.8 sec­onds out of the R8 FORD FAL­CON SPRINT $59,990 The last great per­for­mance Fal­con, with 345kW from it 5.0litre su­per­charged V8. HOLDEN COM­MODORE SSV RED­LINE $54,490 If the Club­bie is good value, this is the per­for­mance bar­gain of the year. au­to­matic us­ing our satel­lite­based tim­ing equip­ment. HSV has priced the 2016 R8 be­yond the af­ford­abil­ity thresh­old of its po­ten­tial au­di­ence. Holden’s ma­jor VFII Com­modore per­for­mance upgrade, at bar­gain prices, hasn’t helped its cause ei­ther.

The GEN-F2 Club­bie is much more of a track-fit mus­cle car — or per­haps I should say V8 Supercar — than its pre­de­ces­sors.

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