HSV WK Grange 2003-2004 - Future Classic

By: Mark Higgins, Unique Cars magazine, Photography by: HSV

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A diet largely of hot Commodores led HSV to expand its model range. The Grange was the result

After taking over the hot Holden business from HDT Special Vehicles 1987, new owner Tom Walkinshaw and his lieutenant, ex-GM senior executive John Crennan began plotting a broader range of HSV vehicles to boost appeal and sales.

Following many years of being fed a diet largely of Commodores in various states of tune, there’s no doubt it was a gamble.

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An indication of just how big a punt came early with the slow-selling Holden Astra based SV1800.

HSV retreated to the safety of turning fleet Commodores into fleet Commodores but in 1993 they had a crack at making a snazzier Statesman.

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Being the brand flagship HSV boldly named it the Grange, after the famous Aussie red wine.

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Sheer luxury in a performance sled

Released in September 2003 was the third-generation Grange, the WK. Built at Holden’s Elizabeth plant the Statesman was shipped to HSV for transformation into the Grange. It is powered by a 5.7-litre V8 bolted to an upgraded four-speed GM4L65-E automatic transmission.

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The WK Statesman and therefore the Grange had been given a makeover. Gone was the curvy front and rear styling of its predecessor replaced with straight and angular lines. It wore new headlights and redesigned taillamps and restyled bumpers. The biggest changes were inside with the dash and centre console receiving a major makeover.

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For 2003 the Grange was limited to 100 units for Australia and New Zealand.

The WK Grange was big, lavishly and luxuriously appointed, went like a scolded cat and sold for just $85,990, about half the price of European performance limos.

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At the time HSV claimed the Grange blurred the lines between limousine-style luxury and a performance-bred sedan that delivers exhilarating driving enjoyment. They referred to the Grange as their ultimate luxury limousine stating, "In this market people are buying exclusivity, but they also want a car that makes a statement. Grange is a big statement car. It says, "I’m successful, confident, prepared to lead the way. "Successful people will buy this car because they will be proud to drive the best performance/luxury car Australia has to offer."

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Grange recognised as top shelf

In July 2003 HSV held a series of private functions for current Grange owners and prospective buyers resulting in over 60 of the 100 cars presold.

Upon arrival at wee Tom’s hot Holden shop the standard Statesman was dismantled back to its basics and rebuilt as a Grange.

Cohesive was the word HSV bandied about when discussing the Grange’s styling and, unlike its brethren, it wasn’t plastered with huge wings, flared guards, or loud exhausts. The body kit though extensive was subtle beginning with a new grille, VY Calais headlights and a unique bumper to house the fog and cornering lamps.

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Unique Grange alloy wheels

Between the guards were integrated side skirts and around the back a subtle boot lid spoiler.

The Grange had a lowered ride height from the standard Statesman and rolled on HSV-spec 18-inch alloy wheels.

A first for the Grange was the fitment of the rear mounted HSV Near Object Detection System (NODS).

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Flush grille and lights

Under the bonnet the changes weren’t quite as subtle with HSV engineers focusing on the Grange’s V8 engine’s breathing, both in and out, to eke out more grunt. To ingest more air there was a reconfigured lower airbox with a larger intake and the standard tube from the air box to the engine was replaced by one used on HSV’s 300kW engine. Engineers also improved the exhaling with bigger diameter pipes from the engine to the exhaust tip and custom made headers.

This and other tweaks boosted power of the 5.7-litre V8 to 285kW @ 5800rpm (30 more than the WH Grange) with torque now 510Nm @ 4800rpm. The 4L65E electronic four-speed automatic transmission was recalibrated for better shifting, most notably under hard acceleration.

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Statesman cabin is HSV enhanced

While the engineers were fettling the drivetrain, the suspension experts were ensuring the Grange wouldn’t be labelled a land yacht. Bespoke ‘Prestige’ suspension settings and components improved the ride and handling of the self-levelling system measurably, dialling out body roll and pitch. Preventing drivers getting RSI from twirling the tiller, a quicker steering ratio was added to a custom-built steering rack. Slid under the rear was a limited slip differential. All these improvements resulted in the Grange being lauded for its poise, quick on its feet feel and genuine performance sedan. ride and handling.

To complete the performance package in the Grange the was supplied with HSV’s own performance brake package and customers were offered optional 19-inch HSV alloys wrapped in Pirelli P-Zero tyres.

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Screens in seats were rare back then

While outside and underneath is where the brawn went into the Grange, the most obvious changes were inside where HSV poured in an ocean of luxury, comfort, features and refinement.

Setting the ambience of the interior is plush carpet and soft leather upholstery in a light shale tone on the power adjustable HSV prestige pews with active head restraints, that were a rarity back then. Contrasting neatly are the alloy sports pedals, and HSV steering wheel and instrument cluster.

Naturally the Grange came with dual zone air, as did all Statesmans. Over and above that were a 12-speaker Blaupunkt premium audio system with 430 watts of sound, an amplifier, subwoofer and an in-dash six stacker CD player.

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New to the Grange was the memory settings linked to the two keys so when each driver unlocks the Grange several settings including seat position, air con temperature, radio station, trip computer, speed alerts, transmission mode, dash lights, aerial height and exterior mirrors automatically adjusted to their preferences.

2003 was, for many car makers a transitional time from analogue to digital instrumentation and the Grange was one of the first local models to gain a multi-function display with sat nav as an option.

Rear seat dwellers were well catered for in the sculptured seats having access to a DVD player with a seven-inch screens built into each of the front seat headrests with headphones provided.

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Early style infotainment

Those in the back could also adjust the climate control and audio systems and like most Euro cars, there was a first aid kit, nestled behind the rear seat centre arm rest and access port.

Seven colours completed the Grange palette including HSV Racing Green. 

When new, the Grange set you back a shade under 86 grand. Today with prices starting to gain an upward momentum you can snaffle one from the high $20k to $45k, which is still damn cheap for a very limited run Australian made performance limo.

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FOR
• Very limited number produced
• Prestige and
V8 punch
• Vast interior warrants its own postcode

AGAINST
• Not many unmolestered examples to be found
• Lack of GM dealers could make parts sourcing an issue
• Likes a drink

HSV WK Grange 2003-2004

Body: Four-door sedan
Engine: LS1 5.7-litre V8
Power & torque:
285kW @ 5800rpm,
510Nm @ 4800rpm
Performance: 0-100km/h: 5.9sec, Top Speed 270km
Transmission: 4-speed automatic
Suspension: MacPherson Strut (f), Independent rear Self-levelling
Brakes: Discs front and rear

 

From Unique Cars #457, Sep 2021

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