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Car reviews - HSV - ClubSport - R8 SV Black Edition

Our Opinion

We like
Sharp price, patriotic soundtrack, simple but effective styling tweaks
Room for improvement
Fussy connectivity, tall gearing

HSV logo6 Sep 2016

By DANIEL GARDNER

Price and equipment

SUPERCHARGERS are expensive bits of kit, but the one bolted on top of the LSA V8 doesn’t cost $14,000 so how has HSV managed to strip so much from the price of the SV Black R8 Maloo and ClubSport?HSV certainly hasn’t taken much from the interior which shares the leather trim and infotainment system of the LSA-powered versions, nor has is it taken from the chassis with the same lowered springs, stiffened suspension, 20-inch Rapier wheels and beefy AP Racing four-pot callipers – the latter two decorated satin black as part of the SV treatment.

While the engine has taken a power cut with the removal of the blower, you still get 340kW and 570Nm sent to the rear axle via a six speed manual or an auto with the same number of cogs for $2500, so it’s not like HSV is trying to palm off a fizzer to any old wood duck that walks in.

While higher-end HSVs get a pricey unique pair of front seats, the SV retains the ‘standard’ sports seats of the Holden Commodore SSV, which has saved a bit of pocket change in manufacturing.

As far as we can tell, the only other notable cash-saving features are the white paint and black trims, which do not look cheap and instead create the effect HSV is aiming for, which is a head-turning muscular sports sedan that attracts admiring glances wherever it goes.

Black side stripes, smoked chrome tailpipe trims, a black boot spoiler, mirror cars and side vents complete the special edition look with SV badging in – you guessed it – green, just kidding – black.

Beyond the relatively simple enhancements, the limited edition aligns with the LSA version with features such a bi-modal exhaust, selectable driving modes, room for five and a big boot, which makes the SV Black a bit of a bargain.

Interior

For the special edition, no interior changes were made, which needn’t be a bad thing because the whole HSV range benefits from the significant improvements made to the Commodore range for its final Gen-F2 update in 2014.

The upholstered dash boosts the cabin quality along with the firm but comfortable and supportive leather seats, and we particularly like the three central gauges, which are a constant reminder you are in something a little bit more exclusive.

With its basis in the Commodore, the cabin is also the same spacious and light space that the unlimited sedan offers.

The large central touchscreen is well laid out with easy to navigate functions and attractive graphics, but we had some problems pairing phones and deleting old devices with familiar gremlins that still hang around from the advent of Bluetooth in vehicles.

Minor glitches aside, the SV Black cabin offers a comfortable place for both driver and passengers whether you are cruising interstate or dashing out for a blast through the hills.

Engine and transmission

The engine is the big news with the ClubSport SV Black, except it actually isn’t, because fans of the brand will be familiar with the naturally aspirated 6.2-litre pushrod V8 from its many years of service in previous HSV models.

Although in the final Commodore-based cars it is pushing out more power than ever before thanks to continuous enhancements over the course of its duty. As is typical for the car-maker HSV is not talking about zero to 100km/h acceleration figures but our estimates put the sedan in the realm of 6.0-second machines.

Its basic layout may be as old as Uluru, but the big iron V8 still manages to provoke a smile from people both inside and outside the SV thanks to a combination of a shouty exhaust note and a lovely unapologetic induction note.

HSV has clearly tuned the LS3 to the more power-focused bias with cam-profiles that like to be revved, while keeping the boot in is hugely rewarding, with the best noises and acceleration up at the red-line.

Compared with the supercharged siblings, the SV Black feels a little henpecked and it is still a heavy car no matter which way you look at it, but with the right roads and using the steering wheel paddles to keep revs high, the special edition can boogie.

Our car was fitted with the optional six-speed automatic which is a sturdy piece of engineering and slams gears through with a satisfying thump when pushing on, but a smoothness when driving less enthusiastically.

Our only criticism of the transmission would be in its wide ratios and tall final drive, which would make the HSV demolish unlimited-speed roads if it were ever let off the leash, but it limited the revvy nature of the engine by confining it to one or two gears when on twisty roads.

As a package, the SV Black powertrain is a classic Aussie muscle car mix of brutish power and no-nonsense nuts and bolts engineering that is impossible to dislike and, while it is clearly upstaged by the LSA, we are still happy to see it return for one more celebrity appearance.

Ride and handling

With no changes over the rest of the R8 range, the SV Black chassis and handling is a tried and tested recipe of sharpened suspension, big wheels and uprated brakesThere is no clever electronic trickery going on under the bruiser sedan, but that doesn’t mean it can’t have a good time on technical roads.

Where some sports models many times the price of the HSV would jar and crash through imperfections, the HSV was born and raised on Australian black-top and has the right blend of shock absorbency and firmness.

Ride quality on long cruises is excellent with surprisingly little roar from the massive wheels with a similarly good score for wind noise. As we have previously said about the whole Commodore range, it beats some serious competition for refinement and the Black is no different.

For a large sedan, the SV resists lateral roll impressively and, while the ride is firm, it is in a solid and reassuring way rather than the type of firmness you get from throwing on a set of aftermarket lowered springs.

Braking is also suitably impressive for a car of its size, with the AP Racing four-piston front callipers scrubbing speed with mighty strength and the firm pedal feel earns top marks. We also love the look of the black brakes through the matching satin Rapier wheels.

Safety and servicing

The HSV’s more humble underpinnings are also an advantage when it comes to servicing and with the absence of highly-strung turbocharged engines, exotic carbon-ceramic brakes and complicated drive systems, the HSV is less costly to maintain than many other high-performance vehicles.

Any HSV can be looked after at one of Holden’s Australia-wide service centres and the car-maker includes five-year capped price servicing for the SV Black variants.

Customers will be charged $220 for the first four scheduled services and $349 for the following three after that. For comparison, customers with LSA-powered cars are charged $329 and $399 respectively.

Safety systems include forward collision warning, HSV’s TCS faction control and stability electronics, brake-force distribution (EBD) brake assistance (EBA) and six airbags including curtain type.

Each HSV is also protected from ringing or illegally assigning a false identity to the car with DataDot technology. The tiny discs are applied to mechanical and body components of the vehicle and contain the true chassis number of the car to reveal if the vehicle has been tampered with.

Verdict

The updates to create the SV Black pair may only be relatively minimal aesthetic tweaks but the addition of black flashes on sharp white paint is very effective and stands the SV Black out against more pedestrian offerings on the road.

But, critically, the minor enhancements are not expensive and have actually allowed HSV to create one of the most affordable ways into the brand in its history.

Not only do the ClubSport R8 SV Black and Maloo R8 SV Black offer truck-loads of HSV presence and classic Aussie muscle, they are also one of the best muscle car bargains on the market and a last chance to grab a piece of Australian automotive history before the locally-built Commodore is replaced with an imported model next year.

Rivals

Chrysler 300 SRT8 Core from $ 65,000 before on-road costs
Like the HSV, Chrysler’s muscle car has a massive naturally aspirated V8 at the front sending power to the rear wheels with a generous, comfortable cabin in the middle. It picks up points over the SV Black for 0.2-litres extra engine capacity but is only available as an automatic.

Ford Falcon XR8 from $53,490 before on-road costs
For its final Falcon flagship, Ford could not resist the allure and romance of supercharging and although its XR8 V8 has only a paltry 5.0 litres to play with, it manages a substantial 335kW thanks to the big blower.

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