$67,990 – $69,990
Good: Muscle power; on-road presence, throaty engine note; spacious interior for five adults; excellent grand touring choice – equal part performance car and family hauler; honest bang for your bucks.
Not so Good: Thirsty in traffic or when pushed; Carry over Commodore minuses.
Design and Engineering
Good : In September 2009, three years after HSV released the all new Clubsport R8 E Series (the first one based on the all new 2006 VE Commodore) the radically face-lifted E Series 2 went on sale across Australia.
The twin-nostril bonnet (a la Pontiac G8) and a new nose treatment which has an official name of ‘Shockwave Graphic’ ensure this model will never be mistaken as a ‘regular’ SS Commodore. HSV engineers also focused their attention on improvements to the handling. We say ‘job well done’.
E Series 3 arrived in October 2010, the most noticeable change to the exterior is the new, flatter rear spoiler, fitted primarily to aid rear visibility.
Not so good : Love it or hate it styling (but we reckon this is the right way to go as a 6.2-litre V8 is never going to be politically correct in this day and age).
We’re not so sure if the new rear bumper styling works as well as the changes up front and one of our reviewers thinks the flash new daytime running lights (of which Audi owners will be familiar with) are a little too ‘razzle & dazzle’.
Interior and Styling
Good : Usual Commodore pluses – no shortage of space in the front, second row or boot space – accommodating five full size Aussie blokes in comfort. The dual zone climate control is on top of our lands big temperature fluctuations. The HSV changes help to differentiate the ‘Clubbies’ Commodore origins. We like the colour coded background in the driver’s instrument cluster which matches the exterior paint colour, the three gauge binnacle on the top of the dash above the centre console features readouts for voltage, oil temperature & oil pressure, giving a not so subtle hint of the vehicles capabilities.
The grippy cloth covered front sports seats (leather covered pews are optional) provide good support, possibly the most comfortable sports seats on the market and the alloy pedals look the real deal.
From October 2010 (E Series 3) the Clubsport is fitted with HSV’s Enhanced Driver Interface (EDI) which allows the driver to access performance data such as lap times and g-forces. As with the donor Commodore the centre dash design is now more logically arranged – the sat-nav and audio controls are positioned higher than previously and surrounded by classy piano-black trim.
Not so good : Usual Commodore negatives – overly thick windscreen pillars means vision suffers (a disadvantage at a round about or t-intersection or when scanning ahead when slicing through your favourite super twisty b-road; excessive amounts of hard plastics and the cheap-looking, uncomfortable to grasp hand brake. The sports seats are very good, but they’re on the large side so smaller folk will move around a little more than they wished.
Good : The late 2009 facelift (and the late 2010 tech-change) see’s no change to the output’s of the big 6.2L V8 (still 317kW of power and 550Nm of torque) but who are we kidding – one thing the Clubsport R8 doesn’t lack is a shortage of ‘oomph’. We love when driving the six speed automatic in manual mode, the Clubsport R8 blips the throttle when shifting down a gear to keep the engine on song. Go for the six speed manual gearbox and the Clubsport R8 comes with ‘Intelligent Launch Control’ whereby the system manages traction control and torque output to maximize acceleration. Just a few features to stay competitive with its luxurious German rivals Mercedes-Benz and BMW.
Not so good : The HSV Clubsport R8 is a big car, so performance is seriously quick rather than ‘oohhh my …. God’ quick. Nevertheless, the standard V8 kickdown in gears will not disappoint.
Ride and Handling
Good : Truly impressive handling for such a large car; excellent amounts of traction in the dry (much more so than previous generation HSV’s). The HSV Clubsport R8 plays both roles well, being a refined highway cruiser thanks to a comfortable ride over a wide range of surfaces or a real player as you slingshot from corner to corner on a twisty back road (impressive stuff in a car weighing 1800kg and a sign of excellent weight transfer capabilities). The steering inspires confidence and the new ‘Competition mode’ stability control allows for more driver control within a limit.
Not so good : The performance brakes are well up to the task of hauling down 1,800kg out on the road however on the track might be a different matter. Find drilled and grooved ventilated discs all round attempting to keep the brakes at an operating temperature. The more expensive HSV GTS comes standard with larger six-piston brakes.
Buying and Owning
Good : Ticks the safety box with standard anti-lock brakes (ABS), electronic stability control (ESC) and six airbags; as with the Commodore, the Clubsport R8 is awarded a top crash rating in independent crash testing. You should sleep easier at night knowing that from the September 2009 facelift, all Clubbies feature an improved version of the DataDot anti-theft identification called DataDotDNA Platinum as standard. Another useful new feature is ‘Extended Cruise Control’ – it could even help you keep your license – the system applies gentle braking pressure when it senses that a set speed is being exceeded by 1-2km/h. HSV offer more cost options than ever before; these include a performance suspension upgrade, a bi-modal exhaust, 20 inch wheels (19’s are standard) and leather interior.
Not so good : The automatic Clubsport R8 misses out on ‘Intelligent Launch Control’; whilst Holden Special Vehicles claims fuel consumption has improved over the pre facelift model (now a more respectable 13.9 litres per 100kms), in the real world the 6.2-litre V8 can still post some scary high economy figures.