Our fi rst proper drive of HSV's $170K super sedan Ė on road


ENGINE 6162cc V8, OHV, 16v, supercharged / POWER 474kW @ 6500rpm / TORQUE 815Nm @ 3900rpm / WEIGHT 1895KG / 0-100KM/H 4.5sec (tested) / PRICE $169,990 Y ES, I KNOW. Iím a very lucky boy: I got to sample a HSV W1 on the road.

Normally, to get a crack at something as rare and exclusive, youíd need to buy your own. Except you canít; theyíre all sold. And though it depresses me to say it, many punters who do buy their own W1 wonít ever drive them. Because this car is so special that many of them will simply be stuck in a shed under the optional, tailored HSV car-cover and guarded jealously. And even if they do get driven enough to actually bed the engine in, Iím tipping they wonít be driven in quite the same way as I got to while running acceleration times Ė not even nearly. So yes, lucky me.

Is the W1 the big deal we were all expecting it to be? Well, it certainly has the attitude we were predicting.

Y And even though we all knew it was going to be some kind of compromise in pretty important areas, is it actually as compromised as predicted? The answer is a column A, column B deal.

One of the biggest compromises as I see it is that the R-spec tyres, while quite brilliant in the dry, are likely to be a pain in the wet. I didnít get to try them in the damp, but based on what I know about such things (not to mention that HSV admits theyíll be under-performers in the rain) Iíd be leaving my W1 at home if the weather-girl is tipping anything other than sunshine. The solution, of course, is a second set of wheels and Ďnormalí tyres, saving the factory R-specs to maintain the carís originality.

The other big potential for compromised action is that race-bred suspension stuff. At the launch, HSV told us that the W1ís spring rate was getting up towards what the Supercar teams use at a street circuit. Okay, a street circuit demands a softer set-up than a smooth, manhole-cover-free dedicated circuit, and a W1 weighs a fair bit more than the carbon-andhelium silhouette-formula cars that are our V8s, but you get the drift.

Of course, with the Supercars-spec SupaShock dampers, you also lose the ability to tailor the damper settings as you can with the alternative MRC set-up. Thereís no ĎTourí mode in the W1, itís set to ĎKillí twenty-four-seven.

However, the W1 is definitely a car of two halves.

From the front seat, the W1 is surprisingly civilised on first acquaintances. Thereís a fair bit of chat from the front end, a function of the different offsets and scrub radii



Uncompromising performance; it's a fitting farewell


R-spec rubber and moisture; ride quality in the back seat; all sold

that the 265 fronts have allowed. The steering still has that initial degree of artificiality as you knock it off centre and the electric-assistance motor wakes up, but the flat attitude and grip of the R-specs means that the W1 is both pointy and accurate through the helm.

But itís the ride quality that is probably the biggest surprise.

Fundamentally, the W1 takes a country back-road in its stride. Until you swap drivers and pull up a chair in the rear seat. Suddenly, here endeth Column A. I honestly cannot recall a car in recent history where the rear-seat ride is so unpleasant.

The ride is choppy and the racket, both tyre and exhaust, is heinous.

The other observation is that the longer you spend at the wheel, the less impressive that front-seat ride becomes, too. What starts out as complex and detailed info about what the front end is doing, eventually becomes a bit of an assault as the W1 struggles to cope with lumpier bits of the planet. See, while the dampers are good enough to iron out the pattery, small amplitude stuff, they canít do squat about those mighty spring rates and their consequences when it comes to bigger deflective forces. And the longer you drive the W1, the more obvious this becomes.

Here, I suspect, is a great example of familiarity breeding contempt. It also suggests that the non-W1 version of the GTSR is likely to be the better road car, especially as itís $60,000 less.

Of course, the W1 was always going to be about the driveline and, in this department, the compromises are pretty much zilch. Right from the get-go, this car feels up for it; thereís even a slight lope to the idle that tells you all you need to know about the camshaft. It hollers, it spits and it generally feels pretty dangerous, and when you do spank it back, it gets even angrier and more intent on hurling you into the next postcode.

The top-end rush has to be felt to be believed and, where some LSApowered cars can feel like theyíre all over and done with by 6000rpm, the LS9 in the W1 is still cracking on like a good 'un at that point.

Whatís a bit strange is that we couldnít get it to go much faster than a GTSR. We nailed a 4.5 to 100km/h, which is handy for a manual, but it isnít a leap forward. That said, the 400m time of 12.3sec is quicker and, again, suggests that the extra grunt is way up on the top shelf where it can propel the thing to a stonking 196- plus kliks through the traps.

A couple of other things to consider in all this: the R-specs certainly helped in the take-off department, but ultimately, youíre at the mercy of the inertia-versus-grip-versustorque thing. Also, even though the W1 is fitted with launch control, the nice people at HSV asked us not to use it. So we didnít. And thereís more to think about. Like, the first three gears in the W1 are taller than those in the normal GTSR. And while thereís an extra 39kW on tap over an LSA, in percentage terms thatís a fairly nominal hike of nine per cent or so.

Look, weíre not making excuses here (even if the strip we used was somewhat less than optimal on the day) and it remains that on the road, if youíre prepared to explore the upper rev range, the W1 does have more to offer than an LSA-powered HSV. Itís not just faster, either; itís raspier, more aggressive and vastly more urgent.

I could tell you what you want to hear, which is that the W1 is the best Aussie-made road-car. And while itís up there, it isnít perfect. But as a thank you from HSV to the V8, reardrive cars we are about to lose, the W1 is some kind of masterpiece. M

As a thank you from HSV to the cars that we are about to lose, the W1 is some kind of masterpiece