The Best Of The Last From HSV.

Holden Special Vehicles have provided some pretty special cars in their relatively short history. The latest, and the best, of what will be the last Australian made based cars is the HSV GTSR recently undertook a thorough test to find out what would be Australia’s Best Driver’s Car (ABDC) with a comparison of twelve performance oriented vehicles ranging in price from $40000 to $250000. These vehicles included entries from Ford, Porsche, BMW, Fiat, and, of course, HSV. The testing was held in Tasmania over five days with close to twenty thousand kilometres of exhaustive and rigourous evaluative driving undertaken. The testing for the ABDC goes back twelve months, with a look at the cars released over the past year and making a list from those. The aim? To find out which car made the driver feel they were in the country’s top driver’s car. Andrea Matthews, a writer for and a judge in the ABDC, said: ” “I love this award – it’s the one week of the year we get to ask ‘which car makes you feel most alive?'”

What was important to the testing process was the fact that all of the cars included are vehicles available from the showroom. Cars such as the Volkswagen Golf GTi ($46990) through to the Mercedes-AMG C 43 Coupe 4MATIC ($105,615) were rated as was the BMW M3 Competition ($144,900). To ensure that the judging covered as broad a range of driving environments as possible, apart from the Tasmanian roads, the cars were driven at Baskerville Raceway. The drivers themselves included Mike Sinclair, the editor in chief; Marton Pettendy, the managing editor and a contributor to Wheels magazine; Tim Britten, a long time motoring journalist, and race drivers Greg Crick (two time co-winner of Targa Tasmania) and Luke Youlden.The question is simple: what makes for a good, enjoyable, driver’s car? Driveability is obviously important, as is performance, but the most important part of that equation is how it makes the DRIVER feel. They may be quick on a racetrack but will fizz in the hands of the driver. In essence, is it something that makes you wish to drive it over and over again?

At the end of the week, and after all drivers, 12 in total, had spent time with all combatants, it was the HSV GTSR W1 that came out on top. HSV’s engineering director, Joel Stoddart, said: ““This car was built to be driven and built to be appreciated by drivers.” The car has a 474 kilowatt supercharged V8 engine, rides on Pirelli P Zero Trofeo R tyres and Australian developed Supashock suspension, and gets hauled down by race proven AP racing brakes. There’s a premium to be paid for all of this grunt and safety, with $169990 the numbers you’ll need to buy one.

Planning for the car goes back nearly three years, when Holden announced that they, along with Ford and Toyota, would cease local manufacturing. In order to ensure that HSV would sign off in the best fashion, Stoddart says: “It had to be a unique, ultimate car. I put in the presentation [to HSV management for project approval] it had to be the ultimate Australian-made drivers car.”

ABDC judge Greg Crick says of the HSV GTSR W1: “This car is so good it belies its weight and power. (It)Feels like a smaller, lighter car. Every time I drove this car I was more impressed, chassis superb in all conditions.” But that doesn’t give a full picture of what went into engineering the vehicle to be as good as it came out to be. In order to meet EURO V emissions, specially designed headers were fitted, the Tremec six speed manual transmission was fitted with a new input shaft to deal with the huge 815 Nm torque output, and the LS9 engine required a specific serpentine belt due to an unneeded power steering pump. A largerintercooler and radiator package was fitted (which dropped temperatures by as much as sixty degrees), an improved brake master cylinder was fitted and even the front track was widened to improve handling and fit under the widened guards. All of this is mated to the Australian designed, engineered, and built Zeta chassis.The final word on this must go to Marton Pettendy: “Acres of fun. Who said a big muscle car can’t be a driver’s car – and one of the best.”

The 2017 HSV GTSR W1. Winner of’s Australia’s Best Driver’s Car.

(Content courtesy of Red Agency and


Holden and HSV’s Final Hurrah: 2017 Range Released.

As Toyota recently confirmed their date for shutdown, Holden’s moving towards their end of manufacturing as well and has released information about the final cars available. There’s been some additions of features, changes in price and deletion of options. Here’s how it looks for the final locally made Holdens.Colours: there’s three new additions, with Light My Fire (orange), Spitfire Green, and Son of a Gun Grey, with the nomenclature harking back to the way colours were named in the 1970s. Metallic paints are listed as a $550 option.

Transmissions: as part of the rationalisation of the range, the venerable six speed manual transmission is virtually extinct, being available only with the V8 sedans and utes. All other cars are available with just the six speed auto.Range: Holden has dropped the SS-V, but has stayed with the SS-V Redline, whilst the Calais Sportwagon has also been dropped. This has the range sitting thus: Evoke sedan/wagon/ute; SV6 sedan/wagon/ute; SS sedan (with manual and auto)/wagon (auto only)/utes (both transmissions); SS-V redline (same structure as SS); Calais sedan (V6 auto only); Calais V (V6 and V8, auto only, sedan and wagon), and the final Caprice (V8 & auto).Features: SV6 gets satnav and HUD (Head Up Display) as standard and will have 18 inch black wheels. The SS will get the same except for 19 inch wheels. SS-V gets more of the black out treatment (grille, fender vents, mirror surrounds, instrument panel & steering wheel, and DRL surrounds), plus “V” embossed sill plates with the ute gaining a blacked out “sports bar”. The Caprice V gets the leather wrapped steerer from the SS-V


2017 Holden Commodore RRPs

Sedan AT $35,490
Sportwagon AT $37,490
Ute AT $33,490

Sedan AT $40,490
Sportwagon AT $42,490
Ute AT $37,190

Sedan MT $47,490
Sedan AT $49,690
Sportwagon AT $51,690
Ute MT $43,990
Ute AT $46,190

SS-V Redline
Sedan MT $54,990
Sedan AT $57,190
Sportwagon AT $59,190
Ute MT $52,490
Ute AT $54,690

Sedan V6 AT $42,540

Calais V
Sedan V6 AT $48,750
Sedan V8 AT $56,750
Sportwagon V6 AT $50,750
Sportwagon V8 AT $58,750

Caprice V
LWB Sedan V8 AT $61,490

HSV has also released details of their final made in Australia cars, including the GTSR W1, complete with 474 kW and a massive 815 Nm of torque. Just 300 will be made and will cost an eyewatering $169990. The range will consist of the ClubSport R8 LSA, the wagon version, the Maloo R8 LSA, Senator Signature and GTS. The latter will have the 435 kW/740 Nm alloy V8 with the others being powered by the slightly detuned 410 kW/691 Nm version.The bi-modal exhaust has been given a different opening point, lower in the rev range, and all models receive toque vectoring, utilising the braking system. Outside there’s been a refreshment, with different front and rear treatments, new bonnet vents, a new range of alloys, rerated suspension and “Thirty Years” badging, to commemorate the beginning of HSV in 1987. All cars will have the Tremc six speed manual as standard and will offer the GM 6L90E six speed auto and paddle shifters as a $2500 option. AP Racing will continue to offer their 390 mm/372 mm disc brakes as an option, with a price of $3495, with the GTS having them as standard.

The Maloo kickstarts the pricing, with $79990 for the manual and $82480 for the auto. The ClubSport sedan is $82990 and $85490, with the Tourer rolling in at $88990 and $91490. The Senator Signature is $95990 for both transmission options, and the GTS is manual only at $98990. All prices are plus on road costs.


Holden Special Vehicles Clubsport R8 Track Edition: HSV Goes To Bathurst.

There’s a calling that emanates from a relatively innocuous hill in the central west of New South Wales. But this bump in the earth’s surface, just to the south of the former gold mining town of Bathurst, is home to a road that doubles as a race track and, once a year, becomes the home of “The Great Race“. That calling, to a place known as “The Mountain”, to Mount Panorama, entices the faithful and the dedicated with their almost tribal allegiances to a driver or a team, and since the 1990s, has coloured their blood red or blue exclusively. You’re either a Holden bloke or a Ford bloke, such is the Special Vehicles, HSV, was born out of the breakdown in the relationship between car manufacturer, Holden, and its formerly favourite son, race car driver Peter Brock. Brock had taken over the running of the Holden Dealer Team and had formed an after market division, which eventually lead to Holden breaking off their supply deal. In 1987, Holden signed an agreement with Scottish born driver and businessman, Tom Walkinshaw, forming a joint venture that was named Holden Special Vehicles.2017-hsv-clubsport-r8-track-edition-bonnet-badgeOne of the first products of that union was based on the Holden VL Commodore; HSV fitted an aerodynamically tested body kit, painted in a silver with hints of blue. Known colloquially as “The Batmobile” due to the add ons, the Holden VL Commodore SS Group A SV would set the tone for many of the following products.2017-hsv-r8-clubsport-track-edition-sill-badgingIn 2016, HSV unveiled two limited edition models. Using the Clubsport as the donor, there is the Limited Edition SV Black, available in both sedan and ute bodies. The other is a car that harkens directly to the history of motorsport and was driven in Bathurst, the HSV Clubsport R8 Track Edition. Clad in “Sting” red paint, with yellow AP Racing brake calipers visible through gunmetal grey “Blade” alloys at 20 inches in diameter, the Track Edition makes for an ideal way to nod at Australia’s diverse and rich motorsport Panorama is unique amongst the world’s motorsport circuits; its peak is 874 metres above sea level and there’s a height differential of 174 metres between the peak and the lowest point of the track, the starting straight. There’s slopes as tight as one in six and a corner said to have the highest tyre load of any race circuit in Australia plus the fastest corner in touring car racing. There’s a couple of cold isn’t cold is the warmth the place generates for the fans of motorsport that make the annual pilgrimage “out west”. There’s good natured rivalry, with supporters of the red and the blue sharing campsites, gags, memories and, importantly, a love of a good Track Edition packs a 340 kW/570 Nm 6.2L LS3 V8, pinched from Chevrolet. There’s a real transmission, a six speed manual, with an almost too light clutch. It’s unlike older cars, where the joke ran along the lines of being able to tell a HSV owner due to the size of the calf muscle in the left leg. It’s easy to push and balance on the throttle when required and it helps that the gear selector is couched in a definitive feeling gate mechanism. There’s a satisfying snick/snick/snick as you change up or down, as satisfying as the sound of a cold one being opened in the camping grounds.2017-hsv-r8-clubsport-track-edition-bootIt’s a big heart, the LS3 V8. There’s a bore of near as dammit 104 mm, a stroke of 92 mm, with a free revving nature to boot. That peak power comes in at a typically high 6000 rpm, and the peak torque at 4600 rpm. It’s a gentle upwards slope for that torque, though, with just over 400 of them waiting to be told what to do at just 1000 revs. Just like the denizens that pack The Mountain every October, it’s easy going, relaxed, unfussed…until it’s pushed. Leave it in sixth at legal speed and press the loud pedal. It’s called the loud pedal for a good reason. There’s a low, long, subterranean, growl that builds and builds and builds from the front, as the induction system sucks in litres and litres of air, mixing with dinosaur juice and spitting out the remains via the quad exhaust.2017-hsv-r8-clubsport-track-edition-engine-badgeThat quad exhaust is linked to a dial in the humble looking cabin. There’s a choice of Touring, Sport and Performance. Leave the dial on Touring and at idle you’d be pressed to say the engine’s running. Move it to either of the other two and a pair of baffles open in the inner banks of the mufflers, opening the throat of the LS3 and letting the world know it’s an eight in a vee. From a standing start and driven the way a muscle bound car should be sees license goodby speeds reached in a few seconds, a roaring, chest thumping snarl from both ends as you pluck the gears, easily finding each cog as the beautifully weighted selector falls to hand and the clutch and accelerator dance in unison. At Northern Territory legal speeds, the engine is barely ticking over at 2000 rpm.2017-hsv-r8-clubsport-track-edition-front-seatsThe MacPherson struts up front and multilink rear end are sprung with linear rate coil springs and for a car weighing over 1800 kilos it’s adept, comfortable in the ride, eats unsettled surfaces and totally undermines any perception that a muscle car should be uncoordinated in the way it drives. Even the electrically augmented steering is light, two fingertip light and responds instantly, changing the direction of the red machine instantly, as the Continental 275/35/20 tyres grip at either end of the 2915 mm wheelbase.2017-hsv-r8-clubsport-track-edition-boot-wingThe suspension is taut, specially engineered to give an intoxicating mix of Supercar inferring ride, a superbly flat stance into corners and that slow in/fast out response a track aimed driver expects. In fact, the whole package is genuinely one your gran could drive, it’s that docile to use when not exploring the outer limits of the ability the Track Edition has. The car industry uses the term “surprise and delight” to describe certain aspects of a car and that applies to the way the HSV flows on the road.2017-hsv-clubsport-r8-track-edition-bathurst-hell-cornerInside, the lack of visual differentation is a surprise and not entirely a delight. HSV eschews the fabric stitched into the centre line that the donor vehicles have but has stayed with the dash mounted fabric found in the Holden SS. There’s the standard dash plastic and layout, with Holden’s MyLink touchscreen systen with Pandora and Stitcher apps. HSV’s EDI, Electronic Driver Interface, didn’t seem to be enabled in this car. There’s a thumping Bose sound system, beautiful in its clarity buck lacking a DAB tuner.2017-hsv-r8-clubsport-track-edition-touchscreenIt’s hard to suggest any changes however as 2017 beckons and with it the knowledge that Australia’s Own will close the doors as a big car maker down under.2017-hsv-clubsport-r8-track-edition-pole-positionIt’s an engine of many personalities, the LS3, just like those found around the camp sites at The Mountain, especially those at the top, called Skyline. A Wheel Thing commentated from the tower there in the mid noughties, alongside the great Barry Oliver, with an enduring memory being watching Army helicopters doing aerobatics…below the level of Skyline. 2017-hsv-clubsport-r8-track-edition-bathurstIt provides a sweeping vista north, across the circuit, over Bathurst itself and east to the western fringe of the Blue Mountains. Regulars will have their campsites setup with heaters, fencing, signs, and the obligatory ambers on ice. There’s jackets adorned with badges, faces adorned with beards, and kids faces wreathed in smiles when the HSV R8 Clubsport Track Edition visits the top of The’ve got the dial set to Touring, so as to not draw the ire of the campers as we seek a suitable site for some pictures. Photo session over, it’s into the campsite and espy a site with both the blue and red colours on the flags. Photographer Scott grins and says he has an idea. Moments later the rear of the red car is up against the fenceline, with a horde of the curious swarming over the car. They note the working bonnet air vents, the lack of visual identification that it’s a Track Edition outside, door sill and centre console the only places Track Edition is mentioned.2017-hsv-clubsport-r8-track-edition-front-left-wheelThere’s an eyeballing of the body coloured and black wing, the contrasting black inserts in the front bumper against the red and the slim black skirting along the sills of the near five metre long machine…a Ford bloke nudges his Holden mate and points towards the yellow six piston calipers from AP racing with HSV embossing, visible through those “Blade” alloys. Comments are made about the gloss black highlight of the bonnet badge, with the consensus being that it looks wrong. “Where’s the chrome?” asks one. Another in the crowd asks “Howsitgomateorright?” A nod, a smile and then the inevitable question…”Can we check out the donk?”2017-hsv-r8-clubsport-track-edition-engineThe aluminuim bonnet is lifted and instantly the population around the car doubles, as does the number of cameraphones. The engine’s being quietly idling in the background, feeding the dual zone aircon a steady flow of cooling air inside, across the non heated or cooled leather seats and suede wrapped steerer.2017-hsv-r8-clubsport-track-edition-bonnet-ventsIt takes only a moment’s breath before “Goonmategiveitago!” The 6.3L alloy block snarls in response, effortlessly sending the mechanical needle spinning past the over emphasised numbers on the tacho, eliciting a cheer from the red lion faithful, an appreciative nod from some of the blue oval brethren, before one grins, walks away, and starts up his blue oval badged V8 to answer the challenge issued by the HSV. It’s no contest, say many, the red car sounds best.2017-hsv-clubsport-r8-track-edition-tail-lightsThere’s a price to pay for that exuberance. You can’t call 6.2 litres of Chevrolet’s finest economical, unless you own Saudi Arabia. Even those few stabs on the throttle have shifted the fuel needle, as fuel is sucked in from the 71 litre tank, nestled near the 496 litre boot… The LS3 prefers a liquid diet of 98 RON unleaded and will show nothing less than 12.0L of liquid gold being consumed for every 100 kilometres covered, and that on the return trip from The Mountain on a greasy highway after light crowd have dispersed, with many words of thanks, plenty of pictures taken, and thoughts turn towards the coming weekend of endurance racing at the Mountain. HSV is inextricably linked with the history of the place, with Tom Walkinshaw himself having raced in a Jaguar XJ-S. The Track Edition, at $68990, is a wonderful nod and counterpoint to The Great Race, with Holden Special Vehicles building just 150 of the car for Australia and six for New Zealand, making it a rarity, unlike the variety of characters found around Mount Panorama.2017-hsv-clubsport-r8-track-edition-left-front-quarter-skylineHSV was born, in a way, of The Mountain, so it was fitting to take the Track Edition there. The place is iconic, there’s names etched forever into the history of Mount Panorama and motorsport runs deep in the souls of those that journey there every year for their annual pilgrimage. That’s the allure of The Mountain and the allure of HSV.

Go here for the latest in HSV’s range:

A Wheel Thing thanks Damon Paull at HSV and Scott Richardson for photos.

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Car Review: 2015 HSV R8 Clubsport manual

It’s safe to say that the Gen-F2 HSV range will go out with a bang and a half when their supplier, Holden, ceases local manufacturing of the Commodore in 2017. With the entry level sedan, the R8 ClubSport, packing 400 kilowatts and a massive 671 Newton metres of torque, there’s subtlety and brutality in equal measure to be found by the discerning driver.2015 HSV R8 Clubsport engineHiding, or perhaps more correctly, lurking, under the lightweight aluminuim bonnet, is 6.2 litres of the General’s latest alloy blocked Gen 4 V8, complete with a supercharger. In this car, it sits ahead of a Tremec six speed manual transmission, with enough clutch pedal required to test but not wear out the left leg. The gear selector movement is a delight, clicking through each ratio simply but with weight and under low throttle application, it’s easy to snick the lever along, with no feeling that you need to press against it to move.

The sledgehammer up front though, is a surprise and delight feature. It’s possible to have it as docile as a slumbering puppy but as cranky as a freshly wakened crocodile that’s missed out on his coffee. That peak torque is at a high 4200¬ but there’s plenty, oh there’s plenty of twist well below that. In suburban driving, it’s possible to pootle around, at 60 to 80 kmh, in fourth to fifth, with absolutely no indication of the engine stuttering because it’s straining against the ratios.

At even lower speeds, in fourth, it’s loping along yet a mere flex of the ankle has the R8 upping the speed level ante in an eyeblink. At freeway velocities, it’s possible to see under 2000 on the tacho and license losing, here’s your cell, sir, speeds just a few seconds later. At the blunt end is a quad tipped exhaust, linked to a switch just to the driver’s left in the centre console. 2015 HSV R8 Clubsport drive modeSelect Touring, and the sound is muffled, subtle in its V8ness. Twist it clockwise to select Sport or Performance and the note immediately deepens. Under acceleration and gearchange at 4000rpm, there’s a noise like Thor clearing his throat as he whirls Mjölnir, readying for battle. Thank you, bi-modal exhaust, for your thunderous appeal.

The downside is the fuel consumption; HSV quotes around 21L/100 km for the urban cycle, a figure certainly achievable due, simply, to the truly sensational surge of acceleration that engine offers and overwhelms common sense. A Wheel Thing’s varied driving style and locations had a final figure of 13.1L/100 km. For the manual, HSV says it’s a more reasonable 15.3L per 100 km on the combined cycle and 15.0L per 100 for the auto.

Although as potent as a fleet of battleships, the R8 really is a doddle to drive. In Touring, the steering has enough weight to connect the driver to the front end, but the next two modes increase the heft, the effort needed to twirl the somewhat too thin wheel. The clutch travel feels two stage, as in the initial part of the press has an easy progression before feeling as if it tightens up and squeezes before releasing. A little practice is all it took, before getting the procedure dialed in and becoming very quickly accustomed to the mechanism.2015 HSV R8 Clubsport rear wheelBraking is looked after by HSV’s own setup, with red painted AP Racing four piston calipers at the front and four pots at the rear. The brake pedal has minimal travel before there’s positive feedback, with the driver confident of real power to stop the R8.

For a big car, at 4991 mm long and in the order of over 1800 kilos, it’s a wonderfully nimble beast. There’s a fairly tight turning circle of 11.4 metres, considering the front and rear track of 1616 mm and 1590 mm rides on HSV specific dampers which impart a firm, solid, yet surprisingly non harsh ride quality. The steering system has been calibrated to give a heavier feel, having the driver use more effort and supply a muscle car heft. The R8 will also change direction with alacrity but there’s always the sense of mass lurking in the background.

2015 HSV R8 Clubsport profileThe exterior is possibly the most restrained we’ve seen from HSV. Taking the donor vehicle from Holden, there’s vents inserted into the bonnet, the new front bumper with LED driving lights sitting above a blacked out and globeless insert and the larger nostrils now familiar to HSV. Along each side are sill add-ons and the rear gains a simple spoiler, sitting just proud of the bootlip itself. Rubber is from Germany, with Continental supplying the grippy and large 255/35 and 275/35 x 20 inch alloys, in a moderate twin spoke design.2015 HSV R8 Clubsport rear2015 HSV R8 Clubsport frontThe interior is also surprising in its subtlety, yet also the point where some more visual appeal would have been welcomed. The plastics need more punch, the electric seats (neither heated nor warmed, as far as A Wheel Thing could ascertain) have drab plastic (with not evening markings, like some, to indicate what the buttons actually do) on the side and look as exciting as something found on a ten year old Korean car.2015 HSV R8 Clubsport front seats 2015 HSV R8 Clubsport rear seatsAlthough HSV eschews the ventral stripe in the squab the donor car has, with a red squab and plain black leather, there’s no real visual cut through. The dash has black velour only, some piping here would have helped.2015 HSV R8 Clubsport dashEntertainment wise, there’s Holden’s MyLink satnav system, with Pandora and Stitcher apps, a tab for the Enhanced Driver Interface (EDI) which isn’t enabled in the R8 car, and an AM/FM only tuner, lacking DAB and a feature we probably won’t see before local manufacturing ceases in 2017. That’s a pity, as HSV has specified Bose as the speaker suppliers and they deserve a sound source capable of showing off their ability.2015 HSV R8 Clubsport HUD

Being a large sedan, there’s cubic acres of leg space front and rear, a boot the Mafia would love (good for 496L), good vision all around and the usual assortment of hidden driver and safety supplements such as Forward Collision Alert, Blind Spot Alert, Park Assist and Hill Start Assist. The driver also gets the HUD, Head Up Display, which in A Wheel Thing’s opinion is one of the best around, with a clean look and great range of information available.2015 HSV R8 Clubsport front wheel

At The End Of the Drive.

The R8’s street appeal is the monster under the bonnet, and it’s not even the most powerful or most torquey engine available from HSV. The spread of that torque, the sheer usability of it and the not so troublesome once you get used to it clutch, genuinely make it an easier car than expected to drive. There’s plenty of urge to satisfy almost anyone’s need for speed, but at the cost of visiting the bowser more frequently, as the 71 litre tank gets drained quicker than Niagara Falls.

The interior lacks real presence, which, given it’s the place an owner will spend time, handballs the excitement factor back to the engine. It’s a responsive handler and stopper, as expected, looks good in the flesh and, sans R8 badge, would be a real sleeper in red light grands prix.

It’s a fantastic handler, with real communication back to the driver and is a better than anticipated ride, but again, the sell factor is that mammoth torque that makes this car one with and for the driver. At around the $80K price, it’s space shuttle ability for a box of fireworks price and does what it does well enough to make the price, if performance is your goal, outstanding value against the Europeans. Head to HSV R8 Clubsport profile SMP to build your HSV.

A Wheel Thing: 2015 Ford Falcon XR8 Car Review

Australia has had a long love affair with the V8 engine; be it homegrown or imported, it’s been a big part of our automotive history. In 2014, Ford Australia’s FPV division was shut down and the popular XR8 name resurrected. A Wheel Thing spent a week with a living dinosaur.2015 Ford Falcon XR8 2

The 5.0L V8 was once a staple item for Holden; Ford has, largely, stayed with it and in this case, it’s a blown block too. The numbers are impressive: the “Miami”

335 kilowatts and 570 torques hit the road via a six speed manual (a real man’s transmission). Air is breathed in and breathed out via 32 valves, four for each cylinder, with that air forced into those eight cylinders via a huffing and puffing Harrop supercharger.2015 Ford Falcon XR8 3
The torque figure is the important one; it kicks in from 2200 and stays there until 5500 rev, just below the point where peak power is delivered. These numbers combine to provide a virtually seamless level of acceleration and almost unrivalled overtaking ability.
Playing with six speeds manually is delightful, made even more so thanks to a smooth clutch, a light one at that considering what it has to deal with and a gearbox that’s largely free from recalcitrance. It’s a pretty smooth and well weighted mechanism, a clearly defined gate and a decently balanced pickup point for the clutch. It’s a bit jerky and stuttery from cold but warms up and smooths out quickly. Quite simply, it made using that mammoth torque an utter delight.

The Suit.
See my review of the XR6; apart from the bonnet bulge now extending through to the windscreen compared to the previous XR8 and FPV models, different 19 inch alloys and the addition of four exhaust tips, there’s no difference…..not exactly shouting that this is a hero model, sadly.
Kerb weight is a not inconsiderable 1861 kilograms, however…2015 Ford Falcon XR8 5

On the Inside.
Identical, down to the lack of keyless start, to the XR6. Bar, of course, the fact that there’s a clutch pedal and a manually operated gear selector….2015 Ford Falcon XR8 4

On The Road.
It’s here that the 8 differentiates itself from the 6. It’s a combination of using flint to start a fire and 21st century explosives. The whole procedure is pretty simple; sit in, strap in and, in the words of Russell Crowe in “Gladiator”, unleash hell.2015 Ford Falcon XR8 5
Although the lack of a starter button somewhat diminishes the experience, the half dozen or so revs before the whoomph from the rear end is a pointer to the demon that lurks within. It rapidly settles down into a quiet, restrained rumble, a hint of blower belt whine from the ….a gentle stab of the accelerator, a lift of the clutch and 500 odd torques move the beast forward.
Given its druthers, the 5.0L will shrink the horizon, collapse eyeballs and shatter the laws of physics, leaving a mix of supercharger wail and a snorting, bellowing roar from the quad tipped exhausts behind. The somewhat notchy gear lever is moved rapidly through the gate, the engine revving slightly as it comes off the clutchplate.2015 Ford Falcon XR8 1

Under light throttle, there’s a hesitancy to start moving, especially when cold, before the revs pick up and the torque again makes its presence known. In 5th gear around town, there’s barely a need to change gear, with a simple flex of the ankle being all that’s required to move along.
It’s a razor sharp, yet user friendly setup, as is the chassis. Although wafer thin sidewalls clad the alloys, the suspension rarely allows a harsh ride through, such is the work on the suspension and it provides an immense measure of confidence, as does the almost thought activated steering.

The Wrap.
Compared to the somewhat lighter yet more lethargic XR6, the XR8 is a revelation thanks to the quad cammed monster bolted between the front shock towers. It really is a case of “What do we need? More powerrrrrrrr” to extract the most from the chassis, long regarded as a highlight for Falcon. It’s no wonder that around a third of the current sales figures are of the V8.
Although the interior is ancient, in design terms, the electronics are simple to use, easy to read and that engine lights the candle. Long live the XR8.
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Seriously Raucous Transport: Chrysler 300C SRT8

20140712_083142Noise can be painful; think of a mosquito buzzing around your head at 3am, living next door to a highway and so on. There’s good noise; the happy gurgle of an infant, the pop of a champagne bottle. Then there’s the sound of a car engine and exhaust. Formula 1 has found out what happens when you mess with noise but thankfully there are still plenty of car makers that understand that the right noise can make a big difference. One of those is Chrysler; they’ve taken the heavy and dour 300C sedan, punted it over to their performance arm called SRT (Street and Racing Technology), they’ve sprinkled the get up and go dust and thrown it back into the garage with a 6.4 litre V8 and deep breathing exhaust. Peak mumbo is 347 kilowatts at 6100 revs. What’s more important is the mountain hauling torque; 631 metres of Mr Newton’s finest and a reasonable 4150 rpm is what’s needed to see that at its peak, with a huge percentage available from 1500. The noise comes courtesy of the drainpipe sized exhausts; hit the Start button on the dash (make sure you have the key fob on you, of course) and the air is rent asunder by the dragon’s rumble. The engine settles down into its measured beat after a few seconds, the thrum of the exhaust teaching Barry White what bass is all about.SRT1

Being based on the 300C sedan (and wagon), the SRT8 version starts from a heavy base model. The external shape is largely unchanged, looking, as it is, hewn from a solid piece of steel, with the test car coming in a midnight shade of black. It’s big, at over five metres long and 1.9 metres wide. There’s a restyled chin, 20 inch polished alloys rolling on more acres of rubber than a plantation, a subtle bootlid spoiler and a touch of chrome around the tail light plastics. There’s the C shaped LED running lights, the crosshatched and blacked out grille with the SRT2end result looking very sinister.SRT3
The interior is largely unchanged, with electric seats and heating switches front and rear, heated steering wheel, black leather, memory seating and a slightly modified touchscreen interface. There’s the addition of an SRT icon with info covering G force rating, oil pressure, lap time, kW and Nm, adjustable ride settings and more. The user interface is simply laid out, as it should be but the satnav screen is something akin to a primary colour kid’s cartoon when it shows the roads, however the 3D background is well shaded. Naturally, there’s the usual swag of safety bits with electronic aids and airbags, plus an archaic foot operated parking brake. Of a very minor concern was the Collision Avoidance alarm, it constantly picked up the same corner, not far from my house, as being an obstacle. Otherwise, no issues, bar a loose and somewhat ill fitted piece of faux carbon fibre surrounding the gear selector.SRT4

On the road, everywhere you go you’re followed by that intoxicating, enticing rumble. You ride on those magnificent 20 inch diameter alloys with 245/45 rubber and, unless you’ve switched the damper settings to Sport, you’ll endure jiggling every inch of your journey. Sport and Track firm up the ride without losing just enough compliance to smooth out most minor niggles and change the gear change points on the five speed auto. Yes, I said five speed. This, from the same family that has just launched the new Jeep range with a NINE ratio transmission. There were times when the feeling was of a computer interrupting power delivery, with the car seeming to edge forward then back when idling along on the freeway. SRT7SRT6SRT8What the car doesn’t feel is heavy. SRT5The standard 300C has a weight about it; its ride, handling, steering feel leaden but the SRT is lighter in how it feels. Steering is more a assisted sense(hydraulic too, not electric); response, despite the lack of a ratio or two, is almost immediate; the three mode suspension sharpens the ride to a more acceptable level. At a dead weight of 2000 kilos, part of the reason it feels lighter than the standard can be attributed to the lurking monster under the acre of bonnet. Thrown into turns it’s not entirely nimble but having so much rubber on the road provides a velcro grip and understeer is controllable. Rolling acceleration is stupendous, going from legal to jail in just a couple of seconds.
Then there’s the combination of a five speed auto and a throaty 6.4L V8. It drinks like a man at a water tap after two days in the desert. Chrysler’s own figures quote around 13L per 100 kilometres but having a 72 litre capacity tank with such a powerplant, that prefers Premium, is akin to giving a walnut to a squirrel and telling it to live for a week off that.

With its real closest competitors being the two local offerings, from Ford and Holden/HSV, the 300C SRT measures up well and considering its price range, in the mid $60K bracket, offers more fun for the buck than others higher up the price ladder. But it will be truly harder to beat that unbelievable soundtrack from the exhaust.
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Classic Cars: Holden Monaro

There’s something about the shape of a classic two door car that attracts the eyes like little else; Jaguar found that with the E-Type, Ferrari with the GTO (and pretty much every one of their cars!) and Australia’s Holden did it with the Monaro.

HK GTS MonaroJuly of 1968 saw the release of the first “two door pillarless coupe”, with the HK Kingswood losing two doors, gaining a redesigned roof and kickstarting a legend, with the release of the Monaro. There were three models; the base, the GTS and the GTS 327. The entry level model came with Holden’s trusty 161 cubic inch cylinder engines with the GTS offering the 3.0L or 186 c.i. with standard or 186S engines. Naturally enough, the GTS 327 came with the Chevrolet 327 V8, with 186kW or 250 brake horsepower. Engineers originally claimed the engine bay was too small to hold the American iron, fastracking development of an Australian designed and built V8, however a remeasuring found the Chev would slot in nicely. The HK Monaro also provided Holden with their first victory at the Bathurst 500 race, with Bruce McPhee and Barry Mulholland (piloting the car for just one of the one hundred and thirty race laps) backing up the pole position and fastest race lap. The HK was distinguishable by the narrow, American influenced tail lights and a short vertical/wide horizontal bar in the grille.

HT MonaroBarely a year later the facelifted HT Monaro arrived on the scene. The 327 was dropped in favour of the 5.7L 350 cubic inch and the HT saw the addition of a two speed Powerglide automatic. The hairy chested V8 had 300 ponies (224kW) in manual form and was slightly detuned for the auto. The HT also saw the introduction of Holden’s own 4.2L and 5.0L V8s plus, later in the HT’s life, the three speed Trimatic automatic. The grille was updated with the addition of a plastic, multi slatted design and increased in size tail lights, plus the addition of a round speedometer, replacing the strip style. Go faster stripes,available on the HK and located on the driver’s side, were relocated to running down the centre of the HT. Looking good but performing no real function were two air intakes on the bonnet. Rubber bushes in the suspension replaced the sintered bronze bushes found in the HK. 1969 also saw the formation of the fabled Holden Dealer Team; put together by racer and engineer (the late) Harry Firth, the team featured rally ace Colin Bond, McPhee and Mulholland, Tony Roberts and a young, almost untried driver named Peter Brock.

HG Monaro1970 launched a new decade and the HG Monaro. External changes were mild; the grille was separated into two part, taillights were modified slightly, some badging was added and chromework reduced. At the front of each fender was a bold “350” decal, to stamp its authority on the road. The non 350 powered GTS had a softer suspension, improving the ride and disc brakes at the front were added as well. The HG would also be the last of the smoother, rounded design before the release of the HQ.

1971 had the world watching their tv sets to see what was happening in Vietnam and the HQ Holden was released as well. A sleeker, more angular design, the HQ Monaro had a completely different profile yet had the family resemblance; a larger rear window and squarer rear quarter window seemed to ease the sporty look, with the design HQ GTS Lina Mintnow seen as one of the best to come from an Australian design studio. There was a change of engine and name specification, with the GTS nomenclature being V8 only. There was the addition of the LS range,with engines from 173 c.i. in the entry level non LS, through to the 3.3L or 202 c.i. six and above for the LS. From the start until 1973 the HQ had no body striping, plus, with the HQ Statesman luxury vehicle also being fitted with the 350, there was a perception the range wasn’t as sporty as before. The three speed Turbo-Hydro automatic gearbox also was seen as a dulling of the range, at the time. Adding to the spice was the change to a smaller car for Holden’s main racing duties, the Torana. It wasn’t until 1973, with the release of the first four door Monaro GTS that body striping was added to the HQ range, possibly in an effort to clearly differentiate between the Kingswood and the Monaro. A final kick in the pants for the Monaro faithful was the deletion of the 350 decals, being replaced with a generic V8 bootlid badge. In 1974, the final year of the HQ, the manual version of the 350 was discontinued and the engine itself was shortly after deleted from the range, along with the slow selling auto.

1974-1976_Holden_HJ_Monaro_GTS_sedan_01The facelifted HJ continued the Monaro name, with leftover HQ two door bodyshells being fitted with the HJ’s squared off front end whilst the four door GTS became a model in its ownright, with the HQ GTS being an optioned up Kingswood. The GTS also came with either the 253 c.i. or 308 c.i. engines as the 350 c.i. and entry level coupe were discontinued, however the LS was continued with the 3.3L. Just 337 LS coupes were produced, making them one of Australia’s rarest production cars. The GTS coupe was discontinued with just over 600 examples produced. Of note though was the ability to option in bodywork in the form of front and rear spoilers.

Mid 1976 saw the release of the HX range, effectively a mild facelift and also effectively the end of the Monaro nameplate. Alongside the four door Monaro GTS sedan, there was the release of the specced up LE two door pillarless HX GTScoupe, complete with glitzy gold wheels and leftover eight track cassette players, plus emission controls for the engine.

Late 1977 had the Holden GTS released, complete with four headlight grille, disc brakes all round, front and rear spoilers as standard, the introduction of Radial Tuned Suspension and the 4.2L as the standard powerplant, being shuffled aside in June of 1978 in favour of the 5.0L. At the same time, Holden had also released the Opel based Commodore, with the then mid sizer ending the run of the GTS in December of 1978. The HZ itself was phased out in 1980.HZ GTS

In the late 1990’s, Holden designers produced a concept car; based on the Commodore of the time and shown at the Sydney Motor Show in 1998, the media quickly christened the coupe concept as a Monaro and such was the public interest the car was put into production. Available as the CV6 with a supercharged 3.8L V6 or CV8, featuring Chevrolet’s 5.7L V8 and with six speed manual or optional four speed auto, the CV6 failed to ignite and was dropped soon after introduction. The car would also be sold as a Pontiac GTO, with styling changed at the front to suit the American market, plus the Monaro was updated front and rear in line with the introduction of the VZ Commodore. VT VZ MonaroPublic interest quickly waned, however, with export markets drying up and some questionable styling changes affecting public perception overseas, the final Monaro was sold in February of 2006. Various racing versions including a 427 c.i. powered car were raced whilst Holden Special Vehicles released their own under the name of Coupe, not Monaro, including a limited run all wheel driver version. With Holden discontinuing local manufacturing by 2017, it’s exceptionally unlikely that the Monaro name will ever be seen again on a Holden badged vehicle.

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