Let’s not kid each other here: The best of these cars are world-class performers in their own way.
This feature was originally published in MOTOR’s May 2005 issue
That’s right boys and girls, you could line a GT and a ClubSport up against pretty much whatever else the rest of the world can throw at them, and neither big Aussie would walk away embarrassed. Sure, they might not be able to take on the likes of a supercharged AMG or the new V10 BMW M5 on all fronts, but as full-sized four-doors with the ability to shrink distances, there’s not a lot wrong with them.
All of which makes the ClubSport’s abilities the more amazing, because when the dust had settled and the judges had cast their votes, it was the HSV that finished right at the top of the tree. It was a unanimous winner in its category with every judge giving it the nod over the FPV GT. And as the points will show, the ClubSport was good enough to come screaming home for the overall silverware.
How did it do it so convincingly? Well, mainly by not putting a foot wrong the whole time we were hammering it around Eastern Creek, jamming it down the quarter mile, frapping it on a dyno or flogging pick-handles out of it in the mongrel country of far-western NSW.
To be honest, the last couple of Clubbies we’ve got our mitts on (and that includes the now-superseded VY Series) have impressed us. HSV’s little fiddles here and there – including the power-steering cooler the company claimed it never needed – have taken what was a good, but slightly underdone package and turned it into a true hero-car.
Okay, some of us miss the seats from the old ClubSport R8, but in just about every other way, the Clubbie does the business like it never did before. In VZ spec, the car is now as good a handler as it ever was and ride quality hasn’t suffered. It seems a little less reliant on the sheer grip of its front Pirellis (which has to be said, isn’t a lot) and is therefore a bit better balanced overall.
Even better is the fact that the steering now has some accuracy at the straight-ahead and some meaningful feel and communication built into it, not something that you could have said of a ClubSport of even a couple of years ago.
Mind you, it’s still no surgical-type instrument the way a BMW M3 is, nor does it have the overall tactile talents of a Porsche 911. In fact, jump out of even something like a Honda Integra or a WRX and the Clubbie will feel pretty old fashioned, a fraction clumsy and very heavy.
Do the same back-to-back with a Clio or an Evolution VIII and the HSV will come across as a dinosaur with a thicker than usual skull. But building something with four doors, a big boot, loads of wheelbase and all that grunt, inevitably leads to some pretty heavy engineering solutions. Can’t be helped. Get over it.
Meanwhile, running changes to the ClubSport’s gearbox have seen shift quality improve greatly, although there’s still work to be done in that department before it is one of those think-it-through-the-gate arrangements.
But the engine is the real highlight of the package and the move to the Gen IV should be applauded by anybody who likes their V8s big, brawny and able to grunt from idle to redline with plenty of mid-range punch in between. Compared with the Gen III (still the unit of choice in hot Holdens), even in HSV trim, the Gen IV is a much better tool.
There’s enough bottom-end shove built into the Clubbie’s Gen IV, that you can still be devastatingly quick point-to-point even if you can’t be bothered revving the motor to within an inch of its life.
It’s a feat nothing else in this comparison (apart from the similarly-powered GTO) gets close to pulling off and it’s more or less, given the priorities of people like us, the reason the ClubSport has the local performance game currently kicked to bits. How things can change in just a few short years. Order has been restored, a V8 is back on the throne.
Australia's finest on the All Aussie Showdown
Ford Falcon XR6 Turbo: Champ to Chump?
It won the last All Aussie shootout, but this XR6T was never a threat. Its 193kW at the treads (up 8kW) was strong, but the 0-400m time was 0.7 secs off its best. At the Creek, the XR6T went into limp-home mode dropping it a full second behind the SV8. In short, it’s just not fast enough.
The Numbers that matter
*Higher-res images in gallery at the top