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Performance Car of the Year 2004 - 5th place - HSV Clubsport R8: classic MOTOR

By Jesse Taylor, 27 Dec 2019 Performance COTY

Performance Car of the Year 2004 5th place HSV Clubsport R8 feature

Less power, more polish punted the Clubsport into the elite six league

Make no mistake, this is a great result for HSV. In fact, it’s a hell of an achievement for any car to crack the Performance Car of the Year 2004 sextet, but HSV has been suffering through a PCOTY drought over the past few years.

This feature was originally published in MOTOR’s April 2004 issue

The 300kW GTS sedan couldn’t crack the top six last year, stuck in seventh on the outside looking in. The last HSV to make a top six appearance was back in 2001, when the VX GTS finished sixth.

So how come the 285kW R8 could go where the 300kW GTS couldn’t? Unlike the more powerful GTS, it presents a polished and complete package for the first time and really took it to the big-dollar Euro boys.

The general order of operation at PCOTY is always slowest to fastest, and a ticket in the hot seat of the HSV signalled the beginning of the big bangers. Both its Avalon acceleration times and top speed runs had it hovering on the fringe of the top six and deep in the minds of the judges.

Despite ‘lacking’ 15kW, the R8 was just six one-hundreds of a tick slower around Winton than last year’s 300kW GTS sedan. It’s hard not be impressed by a bog standard road car cracking a 1:43.50 around Winton, but the R8 got lost in the shuffle of big numbers as the Lambo and CSL waged their own little war six seconds up the road. Still, it impressed all who fanged it, from Cam all the way through our ranks.

Whether you chose to drive it on the lock stops (something all of us had a go at) or preferred the neat and tidy way, the Clubbie had plenty of quills in its bow. Rear-end grip is still a strong point if you’re sensible with the throttle, but does trade off a bit in front-end push on the exit of faster corners. The rear squat also lightens the front wheels in the tighter stuff, so you can expect a bit of turn-in understeer if you overcook a slow corner.

If it was fun on the track, the R8 showed some genuine cross-country ability on the road. There are few finer cars to punt harder over typical Aussie roads. The R8 has real compliance in the suspension, and power and torque aplenty when you’re having a go. The brakes are another plus, although they were getting tired at Winton, but the gearbox is still slow and heavy. And guess what? We never blew the power steering pump.

The GTS has always scared off the judges when the near enough to one hundred grand sticker price came up. But with a loaded R8 scraping under $70k, this HSV represents reasonable value for money.

At the end of the number crunching, the HSV sat in a somewhat lonely fourth place, 25 points adrift of the big three and 15 points clear of the Nissan 350Z. In the final reckoning, the Clubbie impressed MT enough to draw a surprise second place vote for its combination of power and poise for the bucks. He reckoned it good, strong, honest fun. Can’t argue with that.

Unfortunately for the Clubbie, both Morley and Lucky Bastard put the Zed on their ballot forms, thus relegating the big, red HSV to fifth on the pop charts. 

Fat chronic blunt

What’s the bet there’ll be a technofile out there staring in disbelief at a low-tech HSV in fifth place? Keyboard poised to argue the toss with us about dinosaur technology, blah, blah.

Yep, the ClubSport is the only car without double overhead cams in the top 16 (rotary RX-8 aside, nerds). At 5.7 litres, it has the largest-capacity engine in the top six but the worst specific power. It was tied at 50kW per litre with the V6 Crossfire, and only the similar-engined Commodore SS had a worse specific power output at 43kW per litre.

In short, it is a blunt but very effective weapon. And it beat the brains out of many so-called high-tech cars, including the quad-cam, twin-turbo W12 Bentley Continental GT. And you could have 5.4 R8s for the ask of the British/German barge. So there.

PCOTY 2004 Results - 5th

0-100km/h: 5.92sec
0-400m: 14.08sec @ 167.4km/h
0-1000m: 25.13sec @ 216.4km/h
Top Speed: 260km/h
Winton Lap Time: 1min 43.50sec

Judges' Scores

Performance (/20) 17 17 16 16 17 14 17
Dynamics (/20) 18 15 18 16 16 17 16
Driveability (/20) 17 14 18 15 16 16 16
Design & Function (/10) 9 7 8 8 8 8 9
Value (/10) 8 7 9 8 8 6 9
Total (/80) 69 60 69 63 65 61 67

Total Score: 454/560
Votes: 1 x 2nd

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