HSV Clubsport R8 Review

By: Scott Newman

HSV Clubsport R8 HSV Clubsport R8 HSV Clubsport R8
HSV Clubsport R8 HSV Clubsport R8 HSV Clubsport R8
HSV Clubsport R8 HSV Clubsport R8 HSV Clubsport R8

HSV: A local icon celebrates 25 years

HSV Clubsport R8 Review
HSV Clubsport R8


HSV Clubsport R8

The best part about car companies celebrating birthdays is that it's usually the customer who gets the presents, and so it proves as HSV turns 25.

To mark the occasion, it has re-introduced entry-level Clubsport and Maloo variants and launched a limited-edition, fully-loaded GTS. But the biggest changes have been reserved for the brand's staple 'R8' models - Clubsport, Maloo and Clubsport Tourer.

A power increase is the headline news, with the R8 now producing the same 325kW as the GTS, as well as adopting 20-inch wheels and leather seats as standard. And it wouldn't be an Aussie special edition without the obligatory build plate and '25th Anniversary' writ large on the sills and dash.

Small tweaks, but in addition to the Enhanced Driver Interface data-logging system, 'Competitive Mode' ESC setting, rear parking sensors and camera, and sat-nav that R8 models received as standard as part of the 'E3' upgrade in September 2010, it's a reasonably well-equipped package. The price has crept up to $71,990, however.

After testing the FPV GT R-spec last month, it's enlightening to step into the Clubsport R8 in reasonably quick succession. The first impression is: where's the power? These things are relative, of course, and the 6.2-litre LS3 V8 will happily pull from just above idle, but despite similar outputs on paper, the supercharged GT feels much faster, everywhere. The HSV makes a great noise, though, especially above 3500rpm, and there's plenty of snap, crackle, and pop on the over-run.

Where the Clubby fights back is with its dynamic poise. It's an easy car to drive close to its limit, and it always feels on your side. Initially a little light, the steering provides enough feedback with lock applied to really lean on the front-end, and from apex to corner exit the R8 just squats and fires down the road. Its ability to transfer every one of those 325kW to the tarmac - in the dry at least - is quite amazing. The Clubsport is still denied the Magnetic Ride Control dampers of its big brother GTS, but its ride, while firm, is still compliant enough to avoid complaint.

Any faults? A few. Using that LS3 to the maximum sends the oil temperature soaring and the fuel gauge plummeting, and the six-speed manual 'box can still feel a bit agricultural when cold. Seeing out of a VE Commodore remains a challenge, and the steering wheel is too big.

Minor niggles aside, the latest Clubsport R8 does a pretty good job of being the archetypal Aussie muscle car. Comfortable enough for interstate travel, dynamically accomplished, and with a big V8 that sounds the business. As presents go, it's a shedload better than a pair of socks.


HSV Clubsport R8


ENGINE: 6162cc V8, OHV, 16v

POWER: 325kW @ 6000rpm

TORQUE: 550Nm @ 4600rpm

WEIGHT: 1812kg

GEARBOX:  6-speed manual

0-100km/h: 5.3sec*

TOP SPEED: 250km/h (limited)

PRICE: $71,990

*tested Wheels magazine


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