$86,990 – $92,980
Good: Throttle response; muscular engine note; trick MRC suspension; a sports luxury car that focuses hard on the performance side.
Not so Good: Interior lacks a true luxury feel; fuel economy; carry over Calais negatives.
Design and Engineering
Good : As with HSV’s other Commodore based models – the Clubsport and GTS, the current generation Senator Signature took a significant step forward in October 2006 when the E Series (or VE Series in Holden terminology) was launched to rightful acclaim. Three years later, in September 2009 to be exact, the team at Clayton, the home of HSV, unveiled a big facelift for the range, calling it the E Series 2. However as the more understated model (but not sure if this is ever the right word to use with this brand), the more luxury targeted Senator Signature does without the lairy and polarizing twin-nostril bonnet fitted to the Clubbie and GTS. Thankfully the wild ‘Shockwave Graphic’ bumpers remain and in a number of our reviewer’s eyes this is best looking of the current HSV range. The E Series 3 model arrived in October 2010 but only HSV anoraks will notice the differences to the exterior. Umm, the chrome exhaust tips are now mounted in the rear fascia instead of attached to the exhaust pipes, delivering a flusher fit.
Not so good : Some may think that the Senator Signature has lost a little too much subtleness with the wilder E Series 2 styling. If you’re coming from a more restrained BMW or Mercedes-Benz, this makes sense, however we’re glad that HSV is proud of the 317kW under the bonnet and is willing to advertise on the outside the power within. The HSV logo has definitely grown in size of late and sits in a front grille that shows no restraint in the use of ‘bling-like’ chrome.
Interior and Styling
Good : As the sports luxury choice of the standard wheelbase HSV’s, the Senator Signature’s interior is a notch more premium – think Calais versus base model Omega in Commodore world. And as with all Commodore’s, the amount of room inside for a family of five is excellent. A couple of six foot plus teenagers will comfortably fit in the rear behind equally tall parents in the front row. On top of this a couple of golf bags will still fit in the boot, which in truth isn’t as big as previous generation model’s, thankfully styling was given priority over an ungainly rear end.
The driving position is very good – the chunky steering wheel adjusts for both rake (up and down) and reach (in and out) and the soft Nappa leather finished HSV luxury seats have three memory settings for the driver. The use of a combination of leather and suede-like finishing’s around the cabin also helps lift the ambience of a vehicle priced well over the luxury car tax threshold.
From October 2010 (E Series 3) the Senator 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 donour Holden Calais, 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 : As a sports luxury sedan, it’s evident that more focus and dollars has been spent on the ‘sports stuff’ under the bonnet than the ‘luxury stuff’ in the cabin. However we shouldn’t be too harsh on HSV, as they are effectively stuck with the pluses’ and negative’s of the donor car. As with all VE Series based Commodore’s, the hand brake looks and feels cheap and there is an excessive amount of hard and non luxury feeling plastics scattered around the interior.
Good : HSV made the move from 6.0L to 6.2-litre in 2008 with power jumping from 307kW to 317kW and torque remaining a big 550Nm. The facelift in late 2009 saw no increase in power, but we’re not complaining as this engine is a real gem. Whilst a number of manufacturers are turning to smaller displacement engines and turbo or supercharging, one drive of the Senator Signature quickly tells you why HSV has done so well sticking with the traditional big V8 formula. The sound of this 6.2-litre motor is hairy chest tough and utterly addictive. And whilst the performance isn’t supercar like quick, make no mistake it’ll still beat 99 per cent of cars off the lights, you’ll have to pay over double the Senator’s asking price to get the same performance from a similar sized European luxury player.
Not so good : Acceleration doesn’t feel as scary rapid as say an FPV F6E, however HSV’s 6.2-litre V8 power comes on tap smoother.
Ride and Handling
Good : As with the HSV GTS, the Senator Signature comes standard with the excellent Magnetic Ride Control (MRC) suspension. Of the three settings we prefer the middle ‘Sports’ mode which provides an impressive balance between ride and handling. The MRC suspension is calibrated differently compared to the more sports focused GTS model, with the Senator Signature a greater emphasis is placed on luxury. But make no mistake this almost 2 tonne vehicle still handle’s like a sports sedan should. Praise should also go towards the communicative chassis which stays composed and competent when the Senator Signature is pushing on with a real turn of speed. The steering is great, inspiring confidence and high levels of feedback between the road and the driver.
Not so good : The ride on the standard 19-inch alloys is on the firm side, however not significantly worse than similar powered competitors.
Buying and Owning
Good : DataDotDNA Platinum is standard = makes your Senator Signature less attractive to thieves. Standard front and rear park assist will reduce the likelihood of scraping the bumpers, dual zone climate control should keep everyone at the right temperature inside and the rear seat overhead DVD player will be a positive for the teens in the rear. The options list is nice and short, with even Magnetic Ride Control suspension coming as standard – just the bi-modal exhaust to tick (we recommend doing so) and for every five Clubsport’s sold, HSV move only one Senator Signature, in fact this model is even rarer than the GTS.
Not so good : The official fuel economy is high at 13.9 litres per 100kms with the six speed automatic transmission or 14.8 litres for the six speed manual. And it’s worth noting that this is the combined figure – in traffic it’s significantly higher again!