HSV GTS 2008 Review

hsv-gts-317kw-fq

A quick question to test your celebrity knowledge. How many successful Aussie exports to Hollywood can you think of in 5 seconds? Well, Mel Gibson, Russell Crowe (he ain’t a Kiwi anymore) and Nicole Kidman are probably the most prominent. So then what about Aussies that are big in the UK?

Barry Humphries’ alter-ego Dame Edna is the only one that immediately springs to mind. So let’s look at that list again. We have a madman who thinks he’s Christ, an ice-queen who was married to a weird religious freak, a cross-dresser and a guy with anger issues who thinks he can sing.

So what do these celebrities have in common with the new HSV GTS? It seems that to become a super-star in either the States or the UK you have to be a bit loopy.

Thank Christ (not Gibson) the HSV GTS has only one role to play as an Aussie export, and that is to go fast. The fact that the GTS can accomplish this with ease is the main reason why the big antipodean bruiser has attracted such a large fan-base outside its domestic market.

Here in New Zealand it deserves as much adoration as it garners in more populace corners of the world because of its depth of talent.

What other car (besides the FPV F6 and GT-P) can offer comfort for five adults with the straight-line stonk of a high end sports car at a similar price? It’s an honest, no nonsense brawler that lets you dictate the pace and can deliver an equal amount of enjoyment either crawling around town or roaring across country roads.

The 317kW LS3 V8 is the muscle behind the latest HSV GTS and is good for 0-100kph in just under 5 seconds with a quarter-mile time in the mid 13s, which is seriously quick for such a large car. It is an engine that really gets under your skin with the power it delivers and with the way it sounds.

The engine note while noticeably more vociferous than any FPV product still could be a little louder given that this is the top of the line model (notwithstanding the new W427 ) but what it lacks in volume it makes up for in power and sheer enjoyment on any road. Drop the clutch and either ride the torque and short-shift your way to the speed limit (we achieved a reasonable 13.8l/100 km this way) or let the long gearing do its thing and enjoy one of the few sonic delights left in the automotive realm.

But it’s not just the ‘boring bits that join the curves together’ where the HSV rules. Corners can also be had at sports car pace without the need for an ambulance standing by. The composure of the big lion through the twisty stuff is commendable with great steering feel though the chunky steering wheel letting you know what’s going on at the pointy end. One thing is that the HSV feels like a huge car, though. Compared to FPV’s offerings, you feel like you’re swallowed by the car rather than being an integral part of it.

The 20-inch one-piece rims are a work of art and are as functionally competent as they are gook-looking with sticky Bridgestone 245/35R20 fronts and 275/30R20 rears keeping the GTS on the black-top.

Behind those lovely wheels lurk grooved discs (365mm front and 350mm rear) and four-pot calipers that adhere to the ‘bigger is better’ philosophy rather than relying exotic compound technology for excellent braking power.

As impressive as the brake and wheel combination is, the suspension is just that little bit more special. The Magnetic Ride Control (MRC) which comes as standard on the GTS is said to imbue the car with sports car quality performance without compromising the ride comfort. While it’s definitely noticeable when you turn it on, during our time with the HSV though, it didn’t seem to make a difference whether the MRC was on or off as the ride quality stayed firm without being harsh and continued to feel sporty.

The traction control system is a bit of a spoil-sport as it reins in excess wheel-spin and sideways movement, but turn it off and you can indulge in some serious drifting.

As great as the GTS is, it is still based on the standard VE Commodore and as such the interior is not as good as FPV rivals with a very cheap plastic dash that squeaks when flexed and a horribly ugly handbrake. The seats however are excellent as is the steering wheel and along with decent controls and cool dials go some way to make up for the stingy base origins. The rear seats can fit tall adults in comfort with excellent headroom and legroom. One other low point in the GTS is the bland stereo which lacked dynamics and volume, but who needs music when you have an LS3?

One final thought that is a serious point of contention here at the Car and SUV offices is the styling of the GTS. It is a very handsome car, of that no one disagrees. There are some here though who think the front end of the HSV could crack mirrors. True the Darth Vader-esque visage is not everyone’s cup of tea but it does express the aggressive nature of the car quite well, and from all other angles it’s beautifully sculpted.

If you don’t mind a car as angry and mad as Russell Crowe and Mel Gibson combined into a sexy Nicole Kidman body with Dame Edna’s face then the GTS is sure to light your firecracker. It is a great car and styling/interior plastics aside, one that anyone interested in driving should sample at least once.

For the full specifications of the HSV GTS click through to the next page.

Price: from $92,990

What we like

  • Power, power, power
  • V8 noise
  • Sheer accelerative force
  • Sexy styling (except the front)
  • Ability to accommodate the whole crew at speed

What we don’t like

  • Slightly vague gearshift
  • Interior plastics
  • Face like a smashed crab (to some)
  • You don’t feel quite as in control as in an FPV (this could be an illusion due to it feeling like a huge car around you)

Specifications

BRAKES

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
ENGINE
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
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.
SUSPENSION
Linear Control Suspension Standard
Performance Suspension with MRC 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
Turning Circle (kerb to kerb, m) 11.4
PERFORMANCE
Acceleration 0-100kmh Manual 4.96 sec
Acceleration 0-100kmh Auto 5.05 sec
TRANSMISSION
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

Words Ben Dillon, photos Darren Cottingham

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