HSV Clubsport R8 LS3 2008 Review

HSV Clubsport R8 LS3 2008 Review

HSV Clubsport R8 317 fq

HSV’s Clubsport R8 is like a power tool. I, like many other power-crazed DIY enthusiasts, will turn a power tool on and give it a couple of revs — a couple of totally unnecessary ‘blips of the throttle’ so to speak. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a skillsaw, chainsaw, drill, or line trimmer — we all give them a couple of squirts to check they’re turned on. Even though we know they are.

Blipping the HSVs throttle bursts the 317kW and 550Nm LS3 into life and is even better than having a mulcher, bandsaw, nail gun and lathe combined into one megatool. Even at idle, the engine gives the Clubsport R8 the occasional shake. It’s a nice reminder that an LS3 is not to be forgotten.

But you shouldn’t use power tools in the wet. With traction control off (which most sane people won’t try), the Clubsport R8 feels like a Doberman on rollerblades — all bite, but very little grip. So torque-laden is the LS3 that one slip of the throttle and you’ll make a committed attempt at drilling the HSV backwards through some roadside foliage. Even the traction control can’t reign in the power, leaving the R8 with a nervousness under acceleration.

The main problem is the six-speed automatic gearbox. It’s just no match for the engine and chassis, with inconsistent kickdown when you want the power. It turns what could be an exhilarating drive into an apprehensive and meek excursion. I ended up trying to drive the R8 with the sequential manual. It’s better, but not much, with lethargic changes sometimes meaning you hit the rev limiter under acceleration while it thinks about choosing the next cog.

This just means is that HSV has chosen the wrong auto ‘box, therefore I would recommend prospective purchasers harden up and buy the R8 in manual like a proper sports car. Then they can experience the glory that is the HSV’s engine note. This isn’t a weedy, tinny, strained sound like the FPV FG range of 5.4-litre V8s; this is a symphony of eight cannons assaulting the armada of your ears. It comes from a 6.2-litre block of Detroit’s finest metalwork and it’s so lusting for recognition that HSV has put a power and torque plaque on the engine cowling.

“What’s it got, mate?” comes the question from the interested bystander. “Well, let’s just pop the bonnet so I can gloat,” comes your reply.

The LS3 has an extra couple of hundred cubic centimetres over the previous LS2 6-litre 307kW variant, and this gives another 10kW, which isn’t enough to notice, but does give bragging rights over FPV’s 315kW┬Žat the flywheel, anyway.

The view most people will see of your Clubsport R8 is it disappearing into the distance. Observe the twin intersecting LED rings that form the tail lights, and the quad tailpipes that emit the bellowing thunder of the engine from either side of a trapezoidal diffuser.

The Clubsport R8 rolls on 19-inch, 10-spoke mags with a rounded triangle design, wrapped in Bridgestone tyres in 275/35/R19 on the back and 235/35R19 on the front. The alloys partially conceal ventilated and slotted brake discs the size of a satellite dish, gripped by four-pot callipers front and rear. These give a stopping distance from 100kph of just 36m in the dry, doing a great job of ensuring the pointy end, with its fog lamps that frame the deep front splitter, doesn’t get damaged in an emergency situation.

The Clubbie feels much bigger inside than the FPV GT. Holdens let you sink into the depths of the car and the dashboard and steering wheel seem large. The seats, while comfortable, are designed for far wider hips than mine and therefore I found them not supportive enough laterally.

Three dials sit at the top of the centre console for oil pressure, oil temperature and voltage. Beneath them lies the large screen that serves as a multifunction entertainment system and reversing indicator.

I’m sure HSV will sell plenty of autos to lazy drivers who want the kudos of a 317kW badge on the back of their car. For cruising and open road driving, the HSV has all the trimmings, though you might find the noise a bit tiring over a very long distance. With FPV having just released its FG range, which is a big improvement over its previous BF series, which should you buy? I think the FPVs edge out the HSV in terms of driving feel, but if you’re a die-hard V8 fan because of the noise, and you want to sound like Skaife every time you pull away from the traffic lights, the Clubsport R8 will give you by far the most satisfaction.

Price: from $77,990 (manual), $78,990 (auto)

What we like

  • Engine tone
  • Braking performance
  • Power

What we don’t like

  • Gearbox
  • Handbrake lever


Front: 365mm ventilated discs. Four piston calipers Standard
Rear: 350mm ventilated discs. Four piston calipers Standard
Electronic Stability Control (ESC) Standard
Incorporating Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS), Electronic Brake force Distribution (EBD), Electronic Brake Assist (EBA), Standard


317kW, 6.2 litre LS3 Generation 4 alloy V8 Standard
Power (DIN kW) 317kW* @ 6000rpm
Torque (DIN Nm) 550Nm* @ 4600rpm
Recommended petrol – octane rating 98 RON PULP. Note that using 95RON (PULP) or lower will not cause any problems, but will result in slightly less engine performance and economy.


Exhaust system Stainless steel, high performance quad outlet Standard


Linear Control Suspension Standard
Sports Touring Suspension Standard
Electronic Stability Control (ESC) incorporating Standard
Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) – Electronic Brake force Distribution (EBD) Standard
– Electronic Brake Assist (EBA) – Traction Control System (TCS) Standard
Suspension Front: MacPherson strut Direct acting stabiliser bar. Standard
Progressive rate coil springs Standard
Rear: Multi-Link independent rear suspension (IRS). Standard
Progressive rate coil springs. Stabiliser bar Standard
Steering Variable ratio rack and pinion Standard
Track (mm) Front: 1592 Rear: 1590 Standard
Turning Circle (kerb to kerb, m) 11.4 Standard


Acceleration 0-100kmh Manual 4.96 sec
Acceleration 0-100kmh Auto 5.05 sec


6-speed Manual Transmission Standard
6-speed Automatic Transmission with active select Option
Limited Slip Differential with HSV specific ratio Standard
Gear ratios 6-speed Manual / 6-speed Automatic Standard
1 3.01 / 4.03
2 2.07 / 2.36
3 1.43 / 1.53
4 1.00 / 1.15
5 0.84 / 0.85
6 0.57 / 0.67
Final Drive 3.7 / 3.27


Front projector fog lamps Standard
Front driving lamps Standard
Projector headlamps Standard
HSV unique sports rear tail lamps Standard
HSV Performance rear spoiler Standard
HSV Performance body kit Standard
Quad exhaust outlet Standard
Metallic Paint Standard


19″ x 8″ front alloy wheel with 245/40 R19 98Y tyre Standard
19″ x 9.5″ rear alloy wheel with 275/35 R19 96Y tyre Standard
Full size spare wheel and tyre (as per front wheel and tyre) Standard


Dual zone electronic climate control: driver and front passenger Standard
6.5″ multi-function display colour LCD screen. Displays stereo, heating and air conditioning information. DVD player and Satellite Navigation compatible Standard
Power windows. Driver and front passenger windows express down Standard
Electric tilt and slide sunroof Option
Front centre sliding armrest with leather trim Standard
Rear seat centre armrest Standard
Vanity mirror, driver and passenger. Illuminated with cover Standard
Sunglasses holder (except where sunroof fitted) Standard
Satin Chrome finish interior door handles Standard
Passenger overhead assist handles; rear with coat hooks Standard
Two front reading lamps Standard


Steering wheel height and reach adjust Standard
Leather wrap HSV unique Sports steering wheel Standard
Multi-function steering controls for: Standard
– Sound system – Trip computer Standard
– Bluetooth phone – Satellite navigation (where fitted) Standard
Multi-function driver display, featuring: Standard
– Trip computer information – Sound system information Standard
Priority key. Stores settings for: Standard
– Climate control – Sound system Standard
– Trip computer – Speed alert Standard
– Headlamp and interior lighting time delay options Standard
Alloy faced pedals Standard
Leather wrap gear selector Standard
Cruise Control Standard
Rear Park Assist Standard
Power exterior mirrors Standard
Road speed dependent intermittent wipers Standard
Automatic headlamp mode. Switches on at twilight or low light Standard
Headlamps auto-off feature (variable delay) Standard
Trip computer with triple display, including: Standard
– Average speed – Odometer/Tripmeter/Trip time Standard
– Distance/Time to go – Average fuel consumption Standard
– Digital speedometer – Visual and audible speed warning Standard
– Tracks two trips simultaneously (eg. Short day trip within long interstate trip) Standard
– Fuel used/range Standard
Service reminder. Appears 1,000km before service is due Standard
HSV Sports instrument cluster Standard
Tachometer Standard
HSV sports triple center gauges (Voltage, Oil Temp. and Oil Pressure) Standard
Sound system able to accommodate mobile phone kit. Auto mute when in use Standard
Bluetooth mobile phone connectivity Standard
Satellite navigation Option


HSV Sports seats with cloth trim Standard
HSV Sports seats with leather trim (Onyx) Option
4-way/2-way electric/manual adjustment of front drivers seat Standard
Adjustable driver and front passenger seat lumbar support Standard


Entertainment Rear seat overhead DVD player Option
Blaupunkt AM/FM stereo Standard
6 disc in-dash CD player. MP3 Compatible Standard
Eleven speakers including sub-woofers. Total 230 watts Standard
Speed dependent volume control Standard


Twin cup holders in centre console Standard
Centre console storage compartment Standard
Auxiliary power socket in console Standard
Fold down rear seat centre ‘ski’ hatch for long loads Standard


Dual-stage airbags for driver and front passenger Standard
Side impact airbags for driver and front passenger Standard
Side curtain airbags Standard
Front lap/sash seat belts with load limiters and pyrotechnic pre-tensioners Standard
Front seatbelt sash height adjustable Standard
Rear seat child restraint anchor points (3) Standard
Active front seat head restraints to help reduce risk of whiplash injury in a collision from behind Standard
Road Safety Emergency mode after seat belt pre-tensioners are triggered. On-board computer turns engine and fuel pump off. Unlocks doors. Turns hazard lights and interior lamp on, if battery power is available Standard


Remote control priority key: Standard
– Operates central locking – Operates interior lighting. Time delay on entry. Automatic illumination when engine turned off – Operates exterior lamps, to show location of car at night – Enables/disables alarm system – Unlocks boot Standard
– Disables remote boot release button in glove box (when locking) Standard
Horn sounds if either front door is ajar when remote locking Standard
Sound system only operates in original vehicle Standard
Flip key Standard

Words and photos Darren Cottingham

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