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.