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2015 HSV Clubsport R8 long-term car review, part 4

By Damion Smy, 16 Jan 2016 Reviews

2015 HSV Clubsport R8 long-term car review, part 4

Culture king... though we suspect Damo spells culture with a ‘k’

Culture king... though we suspect Damo spells culture with a ‘k’.

First published in the September 2015 issue of Wheels magazine, Australia’s most experienced and most trusted car magazine since 1953.

“I CAN’T believe you gave it back,” says HSV’s keeper of the keys, Tim Stevens, as he drives off in ‘my’ Clubbie after I returned it to Clayton, just shy of 16,000km on the odo and near spotlessly clean. Not a single stone-chip near those white nostrils, a scuff on any of those stunning 20-inch wheels, nor a single mark. I loved that car, and it showed.

I’ll miss it.

That doesn’t mean it was perfect. The cabin is tacky but fun, the materials good rather than stellar, and for some reason the boot remote stopped working days from the end – before randomly working again.

On the road, the transmission proved too slow to maximise the 340kW on tap and, while the R8 is a supremely sorted vehicle for its size and price, it still felt like a collection of excellent parts rather than the proverbial ‘fashioned out of a single piece of metal’. The light steering only added to that feeling, and it seemed odd that, in this day and age, it didn’t have idle-stop to save fuel.

Also odd was that the HSV logo came off the passenger-side floor mat, not the heavily used one under the driver. And the bolster on the driver’s side was heavily worn thanks to my backside.

Yet the R8 is a car to sink your heart and soul into. It’s a link back to Australia’s motoring heritage, the golden era that kicked off in the late 1960s, even if its 6.2-litre V8 is made in Mexico.

The idea of this car is archaic – let’s face it, it’s a dinosaur on wheels – but we still bake bread in loaves and wilt over the oldest bottles of whisky. Old doesn’t mean bad. The smartphone proves that ‘new’ isn’t always better, and we often see change for change’s sake.

The Clubsport isn’t something that’s better than a modern marvel like a VW Golf R, for instance. It’s not as precise, not as sharp, even if it is (in a straight line) faster; who can argue with a 4.8sec 0-100km/h time?

HSV-CLub Sport -R8-Damion -Smy -sidejpgNot exactly what you’d call a dignified end to Damo and the Clubbie’s five-month love affair.

In our time together, so many people sat in the Clubsport that would normally shun an Aussie-made machine as a relic; surely it must drive like the HK Holden their grandad had? After all, the Aussie industry can’t have made any progress, could it? Yet the response, time and time again, was, “You know, I didn’t think these things were this fast, or so comfy”.

Okay, so none of them beat HSV’s door down for one of their own, but still, the R8 proved that there’s often little respect and a lot of ignorance for how good these cars are. They’re loaded not only with our proud past, but misconceptions as well.  That, too, stems back to the 1960s.

Cars like my Clubbie are the Aussie cultural cringe on wheels. They’re Midnight Oil; supremely talented, but often overlooked as Bogan bop-alongs.

Modern Australia is a wealthy, latte-sipping nation that sees sophistication in European cars and regards things like the Hills Hoist and Victa lawnmower as artefacts of a daggy past. Many park our beloved V8s in that frame, too.

Yet in 2015 I wear a scarf (questionable a decade ago), sport a beard, drink cappuccinos and wear pointy suede shoes. And I  love Holden V8s, because I love driving, love the sound and don’t care what my peers, parents or poseurs think.

I’ll miss the Clubbie, and hopefully will see her in a few decades, after riding my eggshell autonomous car to a show-n-shine, its proud young owner beaming proudly over his ‘old HSV’. Perhaps there will be a blower on the side, some oddball paint scheme or oversized wheels ruining the ride.

Whatever happens, this particular car will be loved, wherever it ends up.

Bogan brothers hit the highway

HSV-CLub Sport -R8-Damion -Smy -steering -wheelTHE Clubsport completed not one but two return trips between Sydney and Melbourne during its time with me.

The best mileage we recorded was on the last run, 10.6L/100km. That happened to be the same tank that I stretched the furthest: 724km. My brother did the same return trip alongside the Clubbie in his 2005 VZ Berlina 5.7-litre and recorded a figure of 9.2L/100km. That’s not bad for a 225kW V8 with 148,000km on the clock and loaded to the gills.

Read part 3 of our HSV Clubsport long-term car review.

Price as tested: $79,365
Part  1: 2220km @ 13.4L/100km
Overall: 9980km @14.4L/100km
Odometer: 15970km
Date acquired: March 2015