Last Action Hero

Cockpit view

by SCOTT NEWMAN pics CRISTIAN BRUNELLI

FIRST FANG HSV Clubsport R8 LSA

A bellyful of boost gives the Clubsport R8 LSA blockbuster performance

T’S WHEN the clock runs down that true greatness is revealed. Whether it’s Michael Jordan burying the Utah Jazz in Game 6 of the NBA finals to capture a sixth title, Kimi Raikkonen charging past Giancarlo Fisichella for the lead on the last lap of the 2005 Japanese Grand Prix, or Johnathon Thurston slotting it between the posts to win the 2015 NRL Grand Final, it’s when time is running out and the pressure is at its most intense that you have to dig deep and find a bit extra.

An extra 60kW and 100Nm, for example. Gen-F2 marks the release of HSV’s last ever locally-produced product and the crew from Clayton has reached into the toy cupboard and laid it all on the table for this last hurrah.

The most obvious change is the roll-out of the 6.2- litre supercharged LSA V8 – previously exclusive to the range-topping GTS – across the Clubsport, Maloo and Senator ranges. Rated at 400kW/671Nm, the LSA models neatly bridge the gap between the LS3- powered Maloo and Clubsport R8 – which now adopt entry-level status in HSV’s MY16 range – and the 430kW/740Nm GTS, both in performance and price.

Prices have risen roughly 10 per cent, with the Maloo R8 LSA starting at $76,990 and the Clubsport R8 LSA $80,990; choosing the six-speed auto will add $2500 to either price. The auto-only Clubsport R8 LSA Tourer is $85,990 and the Senator Signature encroaches on GTS territory at $92,990, though HSV’s flagship now starts at $95,590 to create some breathing space.

While the price hike is not insignificant, the engineering changes required go much further than simply whacking a new engine in and declaring “job done”. Whereas LS3-powered HSVs arrive from Holden’s Elizabeth factory more or less in a mechanically turn-key state, the extra cooling systems and associated hardware required for the supercharged engine is installed at HSV's Clayton HQ.

Wisely, HSV has upgraded the whole drivetrain to GTS-spec to handle the extra grunt, so all LSA models benefit from the tough 9.9-inch diff, stronger I driveshafts and propshaft and heavy duty TR6060 sixspeed manual or 6L90E six-speed auto transmissions.

This beefy hardware works hard, though, so there are standalone cooling systems for the gearbox and diff in addition to coolers for the engine oil and charge air, which is pressurised to a maximum of 9psi.

Intriguingly, that’s the same peak boost figure HSV quotes for the more powerful GTS, but Engineering Director Joel Stoddart explains the differing ouputs are due to air intake and ECU calibration. Thankfully, the hi-flow, bi-modal exhaust makes the transition, and it erupts with a menacing pop and gurgle as the engine fires with a push of the starter button.

The Clubsport R8 LSA is perfectly civilised and tractable, with little hint of its power potential when cruising in traffic. Not too long ago the idea of a 400kW Clubsport would’ve induced sweaty palms, but as you’d expect from a factory offering, the R8 LSA is no more taxing to drive than a regular SS.

The addition of forced induction does change its character, however. Though there’s more power on tap, throttle response isn’t quite as crisp as the atmo R8 and moderate acceleration – gentle overtaking, for instance – is often delivered by surfing the torque converter on a wave of supercharged grunt.

Of course, flatten it and things start moving in a real hurry. To be honest the linear delivery and lengthy gearing means it doesn’t feel as outrageously fast as you might expect, but make no mistake, very large numbers can appear on the head-up display in a very short space of time. Against the clock with a strong

headwind, the R8 LSA matches HSV’s 4.6sec claim (for both manual and auto) with 4.59sec from 0-100km/h and crosses the quarter in 12.67sec at 183.02km/h.

Traction from standstill is strong. Simply stand on it and you’ll light a Continental bonfire, but ease into the throttle and you’ll slither through first before it hooks up in second, an addictive blurt erupting on the upchange. In a world of rocket-fast Euro hot hatches, the blown Clubsport doesn’t offer the unrivalled bang for buck it once would have, but it’s still a seriously rapid five-door sedan for $80-odd grand.

Equally, the extra power has had a big effect on the Clubby's dynamics. Spring and damper rates have been stiffened, officially to improve corner-entry response, but part of it must be the need to control the R8 LSA’s substantial 1907kg kerb weight. That’s a hefty 126kg more than the atmo R8, though in isolation it disguises its bulk well. Stiffer and lower than the Commodore on which it’s based, the Clubsport lacks the Holden’s lively agility, though it can be hustled quickly for a car this big. Gentle understeer is the default behaviour when you reach the limit, but of course with 400kW, drivers now have the option of bringing the rear into play with the throttle.

Though the Clubsport lacks the GTS’s Track setting in the driver performance dial, Performance is beautifully calibrated for road use, allowing a reasonable degree of slip front and rear yet subtly intervening when necessary. Incredibly, rather than feeling in any way overpowered, the Clubsport now feels like it has the power it was always meant to have; the engine now has the grunt to stretch the chassis and, equally, the chassis means you can use every bit of the engine’s formidable reserves.

If there’s now a weak link it’s that ride quality has been sacrificed somewhat. The Clubsport lacks the clever magnetorheological dampers (MRC) of the GTS and Senator and while the passive setup is a reasonable trade-off between comfort and control, the car is quite reactive to bumps, particularly at urban speeds. Likewise, the extra weight and speed of the R8 LSA stretches the Clubsport’s impressive brakes.

There’s nothing wrong with their power – pulling up from 100km/h takes just 33 metres – and they hold up well, but the larger rotors and six-piston calipers from the GTS would provide extra reassurance.

But therein lies the point. If the Clubsport could be optioned with MRC and larger brakes, it’s arguable whether anyone would buy the GTS. HSV has done a clever job of positioning the Clubsport R8 LSA so that it feels like a cohesive package without threatening the GTS’s status as top dog. It’s not a subtle car in the way it looks, sounds or drives, but it’s unlikely that subtlety is what Clayton’s core customers crave.

If you want an example of how much the fast car game has changed, consider this: in our December 2010 issue an E3 GTS clocked 0-100km/h in 5.66sec and 0-400m in 13.76sec. Fast forward just five years and we have a Clubsport running times more than a second faster. The clock might be counting down for our local heroes, but in true buzzer beater fashion, their performance has never been stronger. M

Cockpit view

Cabin unchanged; a bit of colour would be nice

GEN-F2 CLUBSPORT R8 LSA

BODY 4-door, 5-seat sedan DRIVE rear-wheel ENGINE 6162cc V8, OHV, 16v, supercharger BORE/STROKE 103.25 x 92.0mm COMPRESSION 9.1:1 POWER 400kW @ 6150rpm TORQUE 671Nm @ 4200rpm POWER/WEIGHT 210kW/tonne TRANSMISSION 6-speed auto WEIGHT 1907kg FRONT SUSPENSION struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar REAR SUSPENSION multi-links, coil springs, anti-roll bar L/W/H 4991/1899/1453mm WHEELBASE 2915mm TRACKS 1616/1590mm (f/r) STEERING electrically-assisted rack-and-pinion FRONT BRAKES 367mm ventilated discs, 4-piston calipers REAR BRAKES 372mm ventilated discs, 4-piston calipers WHEELS 20.0 x 8.5-inch (f); 20 x 9.5-inch (r) TYRES 255/35 R20 (f); 275/35 R20 (r) Continental ContiSportContact5P PRICE AS TESTED $83,490 PROS Massive power; strong brakes; enjoyable to drive CONS Very heavy; huge thirst; jiggly ride STAR RATING . . . .

Not too long ago, the idea of a 400kW Clubsport would have given you sweaty palms

Vital stats

Giving it stick

HSV Clubsport R8 LSA

0-10km/h 0.39 0-20km/h 0.74 0-30km/h 1.10 0-40km/h 1.49 0-50km/h 1.90 0-60km/h 2.34 0-70km/h 2.77 0-80km/h 3.33 0-90km/h 3.93

0-100km/h 4.59

0-110km/h 5.29 0-120km/h 6.08 0-130km/h 6.89 0-140km/h 7.77 0-150km/h 8.70 0-160km/h 9.77 0-170km/h 11.02 0-180km/h 12.30 0-190km/h 13.71

0-400m

12.67sec @ 183.02km/h

80-120km/h (kickdown)

2.59sec

100-0km/h

33.15m As tested by MOTOR: Heathcote Dragway, 2pm, 19°C, dry, strong headwind. Driver: Scott Newman