Ed’s let­ter

Wheels (Australia) - - Contents - ALEX I N WO O D

IT TAKES LESS THAN A KILO­ME­TRE FOR THE MAD­NESS TO DE­SCEND. IT AP­PEARS FIRST AS A PAIR OF FLASH­ING HEAD­LIGHTS, FOL­LOWED QUICKLY BY A BLAR­ING HORN THAT CUTS THROUGH THE COLD NIGHT AIR. THEN A TAT­TOOED ARM EX­TENDS AND BE­GINS TO MOVE IN A CIR­CU­LAR MOTION – THE IN­TER­NA­TIONAL SYM­BOL TO WIND DOWN MY WIN­DOW.

“MATE, THAT IS…PHE­NOM­E­NAL! I HAVEN’T SEEN ONE IN THE WILD YET. IS IT YOURS!?”

So this is what it’s like to drive a HSV GTSR W1 on the pub­lic road. Un­til now, our only taste of what prom­ises to be Aus­tralia’s great­est mus­cle car has been lim­ited to track time in a cam­ou­flaged mule, mean­ing my new friend – his eyes as big as din­ner plates, his fin­ger a blur on the shut­ter of his camera phone as he tries to im­mor­talise the mo­ment, while des­per­ately fight­ing to keep his own Com­modore in his lane – is right: this is the first time a W1 has been re­leased “into the wild”. And the pub­lic re­ac­tion to my burnt orange beast is suit­ably en­thu­si­as­tic. I’m honked at twice more on my way home and other driv­ers and pedes­tri­ans scram­ble to take pic­tures while I’m stopped at the lights.

So the hype around the W1 is gen­uine – lit­tle won­der HSV had no trou­ble sell­ing the 300 units it plans to build, de­spite an eye-wa­ter­ing $170K sticker price – but bet­ter news is the re­al­i­sa­tion that the W1 de­liv­ers on its prom­ise. This is no stick­ers and stripes spe­cial edi­tion: the W1 is the real deal.

I won’t spoil the fea­ture drive on p58, but suf­fice to say our ad­ven­ture in the W1 was the best drive I’ve had this year. A two-day, 1200km, V8-fu­elled so­journ on Vic­to­ria’s twist­ing alpine tar­mac that felt pretty much per­fect, at least un­til the fi­nal few kays as we headed back into Mel­bourne.

With the adren­a­line fad­ing and the LS9’S ad­dic­tive hard-edged sound­track muted as the big eight ticked along at 1500rpm on the free­way, my mind kept re­turn­ing to a nag­ging ques­tion: where does HSV go from here? Now that the W1 has branded its ini­tials near the top of the Aussie mus­cle car fam­ily tree, how does HSV top it?

What made the fi­nal part of our jour­ney so un­com­fort­able was that peer­ing into the fu­ture

doesn’t hold much prom­ise. HSV is play­ing its product cards close to its chest, but the in­tel in­di­cates that with no home-grown rear-drive V8s to fet­tle, the com­pany will fo­cus its at­ten­tion on mod­els like Colorado, As­tra and the up­com­ing Equinox SUV. Com­pany boss Tim Jack­son re­cently told Wheels fu­ture HSVS “need to be ex­cit­ing, in­spi­ra­tional ve­hi­cles”. Will any of that trio fit the bill?

Holden’s new, im­ported Com­modore won’t be a sil­ver bul­let ei­ther. The most pow­er­ful In­signia-based Com­modore will be an auto-only, nat­u­rally as­pi­rated 3.6-litre V6 with 270kw – an out­put well down on HSV’S cur­rent crop of freely avail­able V8s. And don’t hold out hope that Clay­ton’s en­gi­neers will juice up the V6 with a pair of tur­bos – Holden in­sists there’s sim­ply no space un­der the bon­net for the ex­tra plumb­ing. With such lim­ited scope, it’s un­likely HSV will touch the im­ported Com­modore at all.

Ca­maro and Corvette do pro­vide a tan­ta­lis­ing sil­ver lin­ing, es­pe­cially given Walkin­shaw’s new­found con­ver­sion ex­per­tise gleaned from its Ram Trucks im­port busi­ness, but con­ver­sion costs and a like­li­hood of tar­get­ing costlier up­per-end vari­ants are likely to make both cars ex­pen­sive, low-vol­ume ha­los.

All this means that, as I slide the W1’s key back across the counter at HSV HQ, I can’t shake the thought that this is it. This is as good as it’s go­ing to get for HSV. That I’ve just driven the best car this great com­pany will ever make.

I hope I’m wrong.

As the W1 loped along, my mind kept re­turn­ing to a nag­ging ques­tion: where does HSV go from here?

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