Living the dream

A teenage fantasy becomes reality

ALEX INWOOD

OurGarage

NEW ARRIVAL

ITíS 2001, Iíve just finished playing a game of high-school cricket, and one of the defining moments in my love affair with cars is about to happen.

As I slide my gear into my bag, a member of the opposite team is collected by his dad in a brand new HSV Clubsport. Itís a white VX, itís immaculate, and as they cruise slowly past at a pace guaranteed to attract as many eyeballs as possible from the watching crowd, the kid rolls down the passenger window and plants his elbow firmly on the sill. In that moment, it is the coolest car in the world.

I should point out here that I grew up in Bathurst, at the foot of Mount Panorama, and had such an affinity for fast Holdens that I painted my BMX bike red and plastered it with Mark Skaife stickers.

Anyway, you can appreciate why collecting my new HSV Clubsport R8 LSA long-termer was so exciting.

Mineís a wagon, and first impressions of the home-grown steed that will fill my driveway for the next four months are brilliant.

HSV has given the Clubsport a visual overhaul for the Gen-F2 series, and the addition of matte-black inserts in the front bar, side skirts and bonnet, plus a new design for the machined 20-inch wheels (255/35R20 up front and 275/35R20 out back), has turned the aggression up to 11.

If thereís a visual disappointment, itís at the rear, which remains unchanged in wagon spec Ė HSV says that Tourer volumes are so small it didnít justify the investment Ė and it looks a little Plain Jane compared to the rest of the Clubsportís pumpedup physique.

Still, that letdown is quickly forgotten when you prod the start button. Under that vented bonnet lies the same 6.2-litre supercharged V8 as HSVís flagship GTS, only in a lesser 400kW/671Nm tune.

It barks into life, and with Sport mode engaged on the selector dial, settles into a loud and lumpy idle that rocks the car.

Normally I like to break in a new long-termer over a series of short trips (usually to and from work) where I learn the ins and outs of its character over a period of weeks, but this time is different. With a few days of annual leave approved and a beach cabin booked on the NSW coast, the wife and I throw the fishing rods in the 895-litre boot (the Clubsport sedan has 496L) and head north.

It takes less than an hour for the HSV to work its way under my skin.

Itís roomy, sublimely comfortable, and in top gear on the Hume freeway, with the big blown eight ticking over at little more than 1200rpm, an effortless cruiser. Itís not even that thirsty for a car with this level of performance, with long stretches of flat freeway returning a fuel reading in the low 11s.

The one thing I canít get on board with so far is the sound. Sure itís mean on start-up, but the Clubbyís audible package is bit of a letdown low in the rev range, where itís too quiet and lacks character. This changes drastically above 4200rpm, where flaps in the exhaust open with a loud metallic snap and the big bent-eight lets loose with a bellow, yet even here the note isnít what I was expecting. A Holden VFII SS-V Redline, which costs $30K less, sounds better.

Still, itís clear the rest of the Clubbyís package is living up to the memory I have of that white VX.

Except mineís even cooler because itís supercharged. And itís a wagon, and fast wagons are awesome.

Rarer than a Ferrari

Yep, you read that correctly. HSV only sells about 150 Clubsport wagons each year, fewer than the 167 cars Ferrari moved in 2015.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I pulled up next to another R8 Tourer on a freeway on-ramp in Melbourne. His was black, which made it look even more sinister, and heíd optioned the ĎRed Hotí leather trim that adds red accents into the top of the heavily bolstered seats. He seemed to appreciate the spec of my Clubby, too, and we gave each other a respectful nod as we accelerated away from the lights.

HSV CLUBSPORT R8 LSA TOURER

Date acquired: March 2016 Price as tested: $85,990 This month: 2555km @ 12.5L/100km Overall: 2555km @ 12.5L/100km

I see the light!

Iím ashamed to admit that I havenít always liked station wagons.

In fact, I kind of hated them. To my younger self, wagons seemed so uncool and so old-fashioned that I figured you only bought one if you valued practicality over everything else. Maybe I thought this way because my Pop drove one? In any case, Iíve since seen the light. Wagons, especially fast ones, offer such a convincing blend of performance, looks and, yes, practicality that I find myself wondering why anyone would ever buy an SUV instead.

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