$64,990 – $79,490
Good: Muscle car performance meets family friendly bodystyle; Muscular engine note; Stylish design plus HSV’s distinctive add-ons; So, so much better than HSV’s previous Avalanche and Senator Signature Estate wagons.
Not so Good: Only seats five; Shallow cargo bay; Fuel economy.
Design and Engineering
Good : Launched in September 2008, with the E Series 2 technical upgrade arriving 12 months later and in September 2010 a second revision arrived in the way of interior upgrades and a bunch of high-tech driver aids.
HSV used the Holden Sportwagon as its base (a great place to start) adding ‘go fast’ bits under the bonnet and ‘go fast’ looking bits to the skin. The performance engine hood with dual scoops, the wild ‘shockwave’ inspired front grilles and the intimidating daytime running lamps up front ensures (from the front at least) it’ll never be mistaken for anything other than the real deal from Clayton (home of HSV). For more than one of our tester’s, the R8 Tourer is one of the best-looking HSV’s you can buy! The optional 20″ SV Performance Forged wheels in Blade Silver look sensational.
Not so good : Whilst the frontal design can’t be mistaken from a Holden, the rear end of the Tourer is less distinguishable from the Holden Sportwagon, however the chrome strip running between the tail lights, sourced from the Calais Sportwagon, ensures a more premium look compared to say an SS Sportwagon. HSV sedans feature bold looking ‘Shockwave’ exhaust outlets, the Tourer goes for a more subtle looking quad exhaust outlets instead (one could argue the quad exhausts are much tougher in appearance).
Interior and Styling
Good : Usual Holden Sportwagon pluses – no short of space in the front or second row – easily accommodating five adults in comfort. The HSV changes (but only a little) to help differentiate the ‘Tourer’s’ Sportwagon origins. The grippy cloth covered front sports seats with electric adjustment (leather covered pews are optional) provide good support, the flat bottomed steering wheel (HSV unique) adjusts for both rake (up and down) and reach (in and out) and the alloy faced pedals look the real deal.
Heaps of rear seat leg and headroom on offer – even with the sloping rear roofline. Almost twice the cargo space over the sedan (895 litres compared to 496 litres) with the rear seats up, and with the split fold rear seats folded flat this ensures over 2,000 litres of load space (the adjustable luggage net comes in handy when there’s 317kW under the bonnet).
The Tourer also comes standard with a reverse camera and rear park assist for those tight car parks.
The E3 R8 Tourer 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 base Holden Sportwagon, 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 / Sportwagon negatives: overly thick windscreen pillars, excessive amounts of hard, dark plastics and the cheap looking and feeling hand brake lever. 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 Tourer’s big 6.2-litre V8 engine produces an impressive 317kW of power and 550Nm of torque – all wrapped up in a family friendly wagon bodystyle – ensuring that is one of the fastest people and cargo carriers on the market. Unlike a number of smaller capacity sports car’s, as speed increases in the Tourer acceleration remains strong (well into three figure speeds for those tempted to test the R8 on the racetrack).
Whilst the 6-speed manual gearbox is a touch heavy and gear changes feel notchy, it does feel refreshingly enjoyable to have this level of interaction with the mighty LS3 engine (especially so in this age of Automatic transmissions easily outselling Manual’s. Auto fans need not worry though, as most Tourer buyers tick the optional 6-speed Automatic transmission box).
Above 4000rpm the V8 roars at a level that turns nine out of ten pedestrian’s heads and inside it’s the sound of the engine (and the thrust forwards) which has kids in the rear giggling with excitement.
Not so good : The wagon bodystyle = almost 100kg of extra weight than the R8 sedan (thank the longer roof panel and all that extra glass), however we couldn’t notice any tangible performance disadvantage as a result. The notchy manual box can get tedious in peak hour stop-start traffic.
Ride and Handling
Good : Impressively sharp handling, true agility (even on a twisty road) and excellent cornering grip – thanks in part to the very, very good multi-link rear suspension of the donor Sportwagon, tweaked by HSV (the Tourer’s springs are 30 per cent stiffer than the Clubsport sedan); yet at the same time the ride (in the front seats at least) feels no less as polished as the R8 sedan (even with the optional 20-inch alloys with licorice thin tyres).
The Tourer really begs to be driven hard with mighty fine steering that provides dollops of feedback, yet never feels overly heavy.
Not so good : Rear seat passengers (at least on the optional 20-inch alloys) must put up with a firmer ride than in the Clubsport sedan. On the road the performance brakes are fine for wiping off speed quickly, however if you’ll regularly undertake track work, you’ll wish for the six-piston brakes that come standard on the HSV GTS.
Buying and Owning
Good : Ticks the safety box with standard anti-lock brakes (ABS), electronic stability control (ESC) and six airbags; as with the Holden Sportwagon, the Clubsport R8 Tourer is awarded a top crash rating in independent crash testing. You should sleep easier at night knowing that all HSV’s feature an improved version of the DataDot anti-theft identification called DataDotDNA Platinum as standard.
The wagon bodystyle = extra versatility over the sedan and superior handling over a high riding SUV. Picks up some neat features over the less expensive and less powerful Sportwagon SS-V grade (including extended cruise control, a rear view camera and the distinctive running lights) and is great value against similarly powerful yet far more expensive high performance Euro wagons.
The standard equipped tyre pressure monitoring system stops any unnecessary worrying of a flat tyre.
If you’ll use the performance on offer regularly, we highly recommend the Clubsport Tourer.
Not so good : High official combined fuel economy figures of 13.9-litres/100km (auto) and 13.7-litres per 100km (manual); Urban driving and performance driving = significantly higher again fuel bills!