A few years ago it was my dream to run with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain. Unfortunately, through circumstance and fear I never realised that dream, but I did attend a bullfight in Madrid. I remember being entranced (if not a little disturbed) by the deadly dance between matador and bull, and thinking that it was more than just a spectacle of danger and death it was an exercise in raw power and control. A bullfight isn’t something easily forgotten, but neither is it something I thought of much¦ until I jumped into the drivers seat of the HSV R8 Tourer.
The R8 Tourer runs at full strength with the Chevy LS3 engine, a 6.2-litre V8, producing a whopping 317kW and 550Nm of torque. At full throttle all senses quickly realise the Tourer has capabilities far beyond any other similar priced wagon on family detail.
On first inspection it’s impossible to miss the pouncing stance, and staunch HSV bumpers that give the Tourer its menacing charm. Sports styled ‘E-Vents’ are branded into the body behind the front guards sitting purposeful in appearance but sadly only for show. Large cross-drilled brakes with bright red callipers set off chunky 19″ deep-dish rims. The finishing all looks sharp and the coupe-like roofline lends itself well to the body alterations. HSV missed a trick at the rear end, making no changes over the SS Sportwagon except for the 317 boasting badge. Customers probably wouldn’t want an oversized rear-wing, but a little something extra could only charm. Overall the Tourer is dressed with suitable flamboyance leaving no doubt it has come to play.
Before rousing the beast, a check over the interior equipment reveals white HSV driver instruments and matching triple gauges in the centre binnacle displaying oil temperature, oil pressure and voltage. At night the cabin lights up with a taunting red glow that illuminates from all gauges and buttons. A six-disc in dash CD player with DVD and sat nav-capable display screen works as the Tourer’s control centre.
The interior atmosphere is pleasant but a little dark and uninspired; some of the plastics have a cheap feel, particularly the additional piece of trim to house the extra gauges. The tested model had the optional leather upgrade which provides soft wide seats that cosset driver and passenger firmly. The rear passengers are also well treated with good legroom and superior headroom over the R8 sedan. With the rear seats up or down the Tourer has more space to load items than almost any other vehicle that can match it for power, with the exception of $150k plus european estates. This extra capacity naturally gives added value to families, tradesmen and anyone who dared dream a muscle car could also be practical.
Fire up the motor and you’re treated to a great V8 engine note, thunderous when pushed and grumbling at idle. At only 100kg heavier and running the same LS3 power plant the R8 Tourer is no watered down version of its sedan sibling. With so much torque on tap, power is delivered effortlessly and the Tourer will charge from 0-100kph in around 5 seconds.
The tested model had the Tremec TR6060 6-speed manual gearbox which is interestingly also used by Ford’s Falcon. It has a short throw and responds with a reassuring click when shifting. The gearbox is stiff at times but if treated firmly it’s not a problem. Combine the no nonsense gearbox with a light clutch action and the Tourer is easily kept docile at low speeds and in traffic.
With all the weight and power does the Tourer handle like it’s in a china shop? No¦ not really. It can’t evade feeling like a large car, but it doesn’t pitch or dive when braking, and body roll is acceptable. The steering is well balanced and keenly responsive. Agility was never going to be this beast’s strong suit, but cornering at speed isn’t terrifying and the Tourer won’t oversteer without conscious provocation. If you do go sliding into the dust, the ESC (Electronic Stability Control) is eager to pick up the slack. The ESC can, of course, be disabled, but you’d want the courage and skill of a matador to do so.
HSV stiffened up the suspension tune for the Tourer, which keeps it settled when driven enthusiastically but does little to help overall ride quality. The body sits so low and flat that most road bumps and dips are passed on to vehicle occupants. The Tourer’s hard ride is the most obvious yet understandable giveaway of the vehicle’s Jekyll and Hyde persona.
If the balance of power shifts suddenly and things turn sour the Tourer has active safety systems that make appropriate changes to give command back to the driver. Six-airbags are fitted and the showpiece 4-piston brakes enable rapid stopping power if needed.
Overall, the Tourer is an effective option for those who want the brute force of an angry V8, but require the practicality of a wagon. There may also be some who fall in love with the shape or crave something a bit different. For owners to get the most from the Tourer they would need to value its performance over the extra carrying space that could be found in a much cheaper vehicle. With a 15.2l/100km fuel economy it’s no economical family run-about, and the throbbing V8 never stops provoking the driver to let it charge. Only 120 cars are scheduled for production in the first year, so HSV is showing some trepidation, but the Tourer should have enough presence and raw power to be saved by admiring fans.
Click through to the next page for a list of specifications
Price: from $82,090
What we like:
- Exceptional Acceleration
- Improved practicality over Sedan
- Good steering and handling for size
What we don’t like:
- No real styling changes at the rear
- Cheap interior plastics
- Ride quality
Words and Photos, Adam Mamo
HSV R8 Tourer (2008) – Specifications
317 kW 6.2 litre LS3 Generation 4 Alloy V8
Capacity (cc): 6162
Compression Ratio: 10.7:1
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
Linear Control Sports Touring Suspension with Electronic Stability Control
Electronic Stability Control (ESC) incorporating: Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) – Electronic Brake force Distribution (EBD) – Electronic Brake Assist (EBA) – Traction Control System (TCS)
Suspension Front: MacPherson strut Direct acting stabiliser bar. Progressive rate coil springs
Rear: Multi-Link independent rear suspension (IRS). Progressive rate coil springs. Stabiliser bar
Steering Variable ratio rack and pinion
Track (mm) Front: 1592
Track (mm) Rear: 1590
Turning Circle (kerb to kerb, m): 11.4
Wheel Base: 2915
Front: 365mm ventilated discs. Four piston calipers
Rear: 350mm ventilated discs. Four piston calipers
6-speed Manual Transmission or 6-speed Automatic Transmission with active select
Limited Slip Differential with HSV specific ratio