‘I Just Want One!’ went the long-lived HSV slogan, and for a certain breed of patriotic high-performance car fan, that sums up the powerful appeal of the Gen-F2, from the Maloo to the Grange.
These cars are not about subtlety. They’re about having a good time and shouting about it, from their borderline-lairy exterior styling, via often chintzy interior detailing, to the booming, baritone V8 engine note.
But despite the focus on acceleration and handling, and their seriously brash personalities, each Gen-F2 offers value, space, practicality and comfort by the bucket load, which makes them terrific all-rounders.
So, if you get HSV – if you Want One, or even if you just appreciate a uniquely flavoured, talented, home-grown high-performance car – you’re not going to find yourself disappointed.
Everything about driving the Gen-F2 is chunky. The comfy front seats are built for big bodies, so if you’re of small build you might find them a bit too broad between the deep side bolsters. The steering wheel is fat and sculpted, the clutch in manuals is on the heavy side, and the manual gearshift has a notchy action.
While this means it takes familiarity and dexterity to find an easy, smooth flow in the Gen-F2s, it also adds an enjoyable feeling, at the end of a hard drive, that you’ve conquered the beast.
An auto gearbox, of course, removes two elements from the mastery required to drive Gen-F2s hard. It works smartly and decisively, and it still lets you have your fun by way of manual gear-shift paddles on the steering column.
While some of the controls require a bit of muscle, the accelerator is best operated with a light right foot. It is not that, with its broad rear tyres and traction control, there’s any risk your rear-drive HSV will send you off the road backwards. Not in the dry with ESC switched on, anyway. It’s just that you have to be careful not to lose your licence, because it’s all too easy to speed with a big, supercharged engine doing its effortless thing.
The less potent engine in the Grange is still a ripper, with a beautiful, crisp, deep V8 note and straight line shove to impress anyone … who hasn’t driven a supercharged version. Make no mistake, despite the relatively demure exterior, the Grange remains a high-performance hoot to drive.
Heading straight to the other end of the spectrum, the GTS, with the most potent iteration of the LSA V8 engine, is an immensely quick and characterful machine, with additional power from the bottom up and a subtle supercharger whine.
Extra features add to the repertoire of this ultimate Gen-F2, among them the Electronic Driver Interface (EDI), which delivers performance data-logging and lap timing to the infotainment screen. The GTS-only torque-vectoring system cleverly splits power between the rear wheels, through the subtle use of either rear brake, to maximise drive while helping twist the car through the turn (diminishing the natural tendency to push the nose wide when you press the accelerator mid-corner).
The GTS also adds a competition mode to the standard Driver Preference Dial. This takes steering beefiness, exhaust and intake blare, and engine responsiveness, to even greater heights than in the other cars, as well as loosening the electronic stability control’s safety net to allow skilled drivers extra fun on the racetrack.
For a lot less money however, the Clubsport delivers a lot of the GTS’s speed and involvement. That it’s a little bit less powerful, does not have torque vectoring, and gives up some ride and handling polish through the absence of computer-controlled suspension, removes little of the fun it can provide as a road-going blaster.
The one thing that doesn’t change across the diverse Gen-F2 range is the brilliantly honed handling balance, which brings front-end grip to dispatch the tightest set of twisty corners and the rear-end poise and tenacity to blast out the other side – with a disdain for all but the lumpiest of roads. This is even true of the Maloo ute, which has the same multi-link rear suspension as the sedans and wagons (but with a bit less weight over it, so if you’re looking for an ESC-off tail-slide machine, this is it).