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First drive: Australia's most powerful car

By James Cleary, 02 Aug 2013 First Drive

Review, HSV, GTS, Australia's, most, powerful, car, 2013, Hungary, review, price, test drive, specs

Say hello to the most powerful production car ever built in Australia.

Say hello to the most powerful production car ever built in Australia. With GM’s 6.2-litre, twin-rotor (Eaton) supercharged LSA small-block V8 stuffed under its bonnet, HSV’s new GTS blows all previous Aussie performance pretenders into the weeds.

The monstrous, all-alloy, 430kW/740Nm powerplant has been plucked from Chevrolet’s thunderous ZL1 Camaro, and is mated to either a heavy-duty, Tremec six-speed manual ‘box, or GM’s own (9L90E) heavy-duty six speed auto transmission, driving the rear wheels in classic muscle car fashion.

But this bruiser delivers more than sheer muscle, and is light years ahead of its old-school, tyre-shredding ancestors. The GTS manages to translate its epic power into a composed and extremely capable performance package.

For a start (literally), HSV has upgraded its launch-control system (available on the manual version only) for optimum step-off acceleration, and although its straight-line thrust is yet to be independently verified, a 0-100km/h claim of 4.4sec feels entirely plausible.

Then, the heart of the GTS’s dynamic abilities is an unassuming ‘Driver Preference Dial’ in the centre console. Switchable through Touring, Sport, Performance and Track settings, the system manages multiple functions including electronic stability and traction control, suspension settings, power steering calibration, exhaust flow, and torque vectoring.

This rapid adjustability is largely underpinned by the use of third generation Magnetic Ride Control. Using dampers containing electromagnetic coils and synthetic fluid containing easily magnetised iron particles, the system quickly and accurately fine-tunes compliance. Linear rate springs also allow greater accuracy in damper valve tuning.

A pre-release drive on the expansive and challenging Phillip Island race circuit proves the worth of this elaborate engineering development.

Mid-range acceleration is slam-in-the-back phenomenal , while the engine’s roar and bi-modal exhaust’s bark combine to produce a pitch-perfect V8 symphony and neck hair salute.

Mega brakes, featuring six-piston front and four pot rear forged calipers, calmly wash off speed as a series of corners ranges into view. The electrically-assisted steering, matched to vehicle speed and driver input (as well as MRC and ESC settings), feels brilliant, the fat Continental rubber (255/35x20 front - 275/30x20) grips hard, and the torque vectoring system quickly reduces any initial understeer as the GTS defies its 1881kg weight with agility and handling response to match hot hatches two thirds its size.

And when the go-fast fun dies down, there’s time to appreciate the fact the GTS picks up all the premium safety and convenience features the VF Commodore platform offers, including side blind zone and reverse traffic alerts, passive entry and remote start, automatic park assist, forward collision alert, lane departure warning, hill start assist/hill-hold control, head-up display and rain sensing wipers.

From a distance it’s easy to assume the GTS is an over-engined throw back, but the reality is dramatically different … and better. It combines stunning speed, with impressive refinement and leading-edge tech. While $92,990 may seem a lot for any Commodore-connected offering, this HSV flagship sets a new standard for local performance and focuses a hot spotlight on some heavy-hitting Germans costing the best part of three times the money.