...and then we drove it

TRACK TEST HSV GTSR W1

by DAVID MORLEY pics CRISTIAN BRUNELLI

01 FIRST LOOK 02 FIRST DRIVE

Our first, and maybe last, fast blast in the ultimate HSV is a bittersweet moment. Add in an empty Phillip Island and itís something special

IDEALLY, weíd have driven the W1 on the road. But, given production doesnít start until April and HSV isnít even sure there will be a press car (though thereís certainly a desire for a car to be made available) a handful of laps around Philip Island might be the best weíll ever manage. But hey, thatís a pretty good second prize, innit? Exactly. Thing is, in any other car, a few hot laps might be less than relevant, but the W1 is so damn track-focused that any assessment without a track component would be incomplete. So, yeah, weíll cop I it sweet.

Just jumping inside the W1 is enough to let you know this is special. That diamond-stitched Alcantara is plush and while the same stuff on a steering wheel and gear-shift knob is often asking for trouble, we donít reckon too many greasy paws will be allowed inside a W1. Then you give the starter button a stab and listen as that LS9 blapps into life and, again, you know youíre sitting in something tasty. Itís definitely raspier than the LSA and way more urgent sounding and feeling. And thatís at idle. And, man, itís loud! Yeah, you can shut it up by about 80 per cent by selecting Tour on the drivemode dial, but why would you? Because itís not just decibels, itís brilliant.

There seems to be a bit of camminess at idle, too, although at other times youíre inclined to think that it sounds more like a fattened-up LS3 rather than an LSA with more. Either way, for a blower motor, there seems to be evidence of a fair bit of overlap and, clearly, that cam is a big part of how this thing manages to shovel out those 474kW.

So youíd be forgiven for thinking that it might be a tad soft off the bottom. Bzzt. Okay, the taller first gear is going to make matching HSVís 4.2sec 0-100km/h time difficult to say the least, but the 12.1sec second quartermile claim seems vastly less fanciful.

Trundling down pit-lane to hit the circuit proper, thereís no hint that first gear is taller than a stocker, really. Then again, 815 Newtons should do a pretty good job of disguising a tall first cog. But what strikes you even more is how docile the clutch is. Okay, so the twin-plate design should make it lighter, but this thing is the complete opposite to the light-switch stuff you often wind up with in really bigpower applications. And the gearshift via that stumpy little lever is way, way smoother and slicker than a gearbox capable of this sort of punishment has any right to be. If ever a driveline belied its industrial-strength capacity, this is it.

The VF Commodore base-car has always been a good steerer with an intuitive feel to the way it tips in, and that hasnít altered here. If anything, itís even sharper and that altered offset geometry must be playing a part there. Then again, the R-spec Pirellis would be having an effect and HSV admits that the tyres are probably the bulk of that difference, helping to justify such a radical fitment for what is ostensibly a road-going car.

Which bring us to the subject of what the Pirellis will be like in the wet. Joel Stoddart admits that theyíll likely be ďnot as capable as a normal road tyre in the wetĒ, but in the dry, theyíre a bleediní revelation. Combined with the monster anchors, you can go rushing deep into corners only to find you should have waited another 50 metres before bailing. You really need to recalibrate your brain to account for the fact that the grip is now a match for the braking hardware and the middle pedal is now controlling a beautiful relationship.

Same goes for cornering. The amount of mid-corner speed of which the W1 is capable is going to leave you speechless. As you get some heat into the Trofeos, you can actually start to feel a tiny teensy bit of oversteer as you get into the apex. And itís not just the absolute grip they provide; the feel and feedback is phenomenal, too.

Like all R-specs, these ones need a bit of heat in them to really start working, but with a big heavy car like this one, that wonít take long. And thatís when youíll go from slipping a bit wide of the apex if youíre not patient enough, to sometimes being too tight when youíve underestimated the grip. And thatís when youíll hit the ripple-strips and discover that even though the W1 is firm beyond road cars as we know them, itís not harsh in the way it rides. Thatís surely down to those racecar- spec dampers, but the way theyíve been installed in the HSV means I couldnít get them to contribute any bump-thump into the cabin. Impressive.

Then thereís that engine. Thereís enormous flexibility here, partly because of the raw numbers, but also because the shorter fifth and sixth gears (100km/h in top is now a 1900rpm proposition) keep her on the boil.

And once itís up and making boost in first, changing gears is like tossing T-bones one after another at a Great White. Give it second. Gone. Into third. Gone. Into fourthÖ You get the picture.

Exactly what the W1 will be like on the actual road is anybodyís guess. But awesome is our suspicion. Oh yeah, itíll be super-firm and the tyres will be crapola in the wet and itíll drink ULP like crazy if you drive it properly. But you will be the absolute king of the road. And you will almost certainly be driving the best thing with four wheels this country ever produced.

A-hundred-and-seventy-grand is starting to sound cheap.

You can go deep into corners only to fi nd you should have waited another 50 metres

Luff y Says HSV hires our man

OFF the back of his sterling work with HRT, MOTORís very own Wazza Luff has taken on the role of HSVís development driver. And he seems to be enjoying the work, too, managing to get a W1 prototype around Winton back in December last year in a time of 1.33:2, more than four full seconds faster than the previous best set by a GTS during HSVís own testing.

So what gives, Luffy?

ďRight from the outset, I was so impressed with this thing.

By turns three and four Iím thinking this is something really special. And itís not like theyíve just bunged a set of R-Specs on it or a set of high-end shocks; the tyres and SupaShocks really complement each other. For a car as heavy as this, the mid-corner speed and turnin is phenomenal. You really wouldnít expect an 1800 or 1900kg front-engined car to feel as nimble as it does around a tight track. It makes you realise how much work has gone into it, and Iím so pleased that HSV has decided to give the big girl a proper send-off.

ďAnd the lap-time everybody is talking about wasnít done with that specifically in mind.

We didnít tip 20 litres in, strap on a brand-new set of rubber and go for a lap time. The lap was done at about 1pm on a stinking hot day and the car was weighted to check for guard clearance and all sorts of things. So if you wanted to just go for a time, I reckon itíd go a heap faster.Ē Ė DM

ďGTSR gets a bunch of the W1's good bitsĒ

Also driven: the 435kW GTSR

OKAY, so everybodyís talking about the W1, but with just 300 examples to be built, itís the GTSR, on which the W1 is based, that will be the HSV we mortals will aspire to. Is that a tragedy? No, not at all. And, in fact, the GTSR gets a bunch of the W1ís good bits including the bold new look, headlined by those fattened front fenders and the new front bar that goes with it. And inside, while you donít get the full Alcantara business, you do get some of it, crucially with that gorgeous diamond-stitch thing going on.

Itís also a seriously good thing to drive whether youíre in the sedan or the Maloo version. The dyno might notice the extra 5kW, but Iím tipping you wonít (I didnít). But that doesnít mean it isnít still a riot, because the LSA remains a force of nature.

By far, the biggest improvement is, of course, the new braking hardware. While the GTSR stuff doesnít get the W1ís R-Spec rubber, it does get fairly snotty ContiSportContact 5Ps which will wear better and actually work on a wet road.

No cause for sookiní, then. And man, the whole package really ties the big guy down. The pedal feel is excellent and if you can make these mothers fade, youíre a better butcher than I.

The other big selling point for the GTSR as opposed to the W1 is the fact that you can option the automatic transmission, which is going to broaden its appeal no end. In fact, with the paddle shifters the two-pedal HSV stuff gets as standard, thereís even one less reason to opt for the manual. And with the seamless urge that the auto provides weíd be very tempted.

The other massive advantage held by the GTSR is the dollar thing. While the W1 will get you two beersí worth of change from $170,000, the GTSR and GTSR Maloo come in at $109,490 and $96,990 respectively. Enough left over to build a shed to keep it in. Ė DM

Driven: GTS & Clubsport Celebratory update for 2017 HSV range

ALL THIS talk of LS9s and bulked out guards risks overshadowing HSVís breadand- butter (if thatís an appropriate term) range. But tucked in below the W1 and the rest of the GTSR gang lies the volume-selling HSV stuff which, as well as celebrating the 30th year of HSV, will also stand as markers of the end of the Zeta platform and the end of locally made HSVs.

The point is that the HSV range weíve come to know still represents the high-water mark in volume-selling local hot-rods and even though they donít bear the GTSR badge, they still stand to be considered pretty damn collectible.

For this last hurrah, the range has been given a HSV 30 badge, some interior stuff like sill plates, floor mats, an underbody build plate, and some exterior bling including a new wheel design, decals and badges. But donít be thinking this is a sticker-kit upgrade.

Nope, thereís a new tune for the Clubsport, Maloo and Senator LSA models that hikes power by 10kW (to 410) and boosts torque by 20Nm (now 691). The bi-modal exhaust valve has also been recalibrated to open earlier than before, purely in the interests of returning more bark.

The biggest news is that torque-vectoring is now standard on all HSV 30 models.

When the computer detects a yaw moment, the ESP brakes the inside rear wheel and sends more torque to the outside wheel. And if the stock stoppers arenít enough for you, you can option up the AP six-piston front calipers and 390mm rotors from the GTS.

A tricky little slalom exercise proves the worth of torque vectoring, although it pays to remember that it doesnít do squat if you arenít inputting some percentage of throttle application at the time. Back out of it and you're on your own, and she'll lay down some pretty lairy sideways stripes.

Beyond that, the experience remains the same as before, so itís still ridiculously good fun. I mean, you donít supercharge a 6.2-litre engine to do the school run, do you? Ė DM

Price update What HSVs now cost

More power for all models bar the GTS and price hikes across the range