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Car reviews - HSV - Coupe - 4 AWD coupe

The Car

29 Jul 2004

IT may be a couple of weeks overdue, but Australia’s first all-wheel drive V8 performance coupe is now a reality.

That’s right, the all-paw car that took last year’s Sydney motor show by storm is now in production, with around half a dozen examples of HSV’s all-wheel drive Coupe 4 having been delivered to well-heeled customers.

Launched to the motoring media last week, the 13th model in HSV’s portfolio represents the first fully-fledged, Australian-made all-wheel drive performance car, a vehicle that’s so far attracted around 40 orders.

Priced at a lower than anticipated $89,950 – some $8550 below the 300kW Coupe GTS flagship ($98,500) but still $13,260 above the 285kW Coupe GTO ($76,690) - Coupe 4 is the product of an unprecedented joint-venture co-operation between Holden and HSV.

Developed at a cost of around $5-6 million, the Monaro-based Coupe 4 represents the first time HSV has taken the lead in such a significant project, with a new facility at Holden’s Elizabeth (SA) factory, dubbed HSVE, likely to result in more future HSV products being manufactured largely on-line at the plant.

For now, however, just 100 Coupe 4s will be produced for both Australia and New Zealand this year, with a further similar number planned for 2005. After that, Holden’s all-new VE Commodore, based on General Motors’ new rear-drive and AWD-capable Zeta architecture, is expected to be the dawn of a whole new era for all-paw Holden and HSV products from 2006.

However, while Coupe 4 narrowly beats Mitsubishi’s locally-built, pseudo-performance Magna VR-X AWD sports sedan to market by less than a month and features a bellowing 270kW V8 – making it Australia’s first homegrown AWD model, period – Coupe 4 is not as accomplished as it could have been.

First, as with the all-paw Magna VR-X, there’s no manual transmission, the investment cost of which would have made the sticker price unpalatable. So Coupe 4 is available only with GM’s ancient four-speed 4L65E automatic.

And second, Coupe 4 falls short of the full 285kW peak power output offered by the entire HSV range since last year’s Y Series II.

It’s believed 90 per cent of the VYII-based model’s power increase, from 260kW to 285kW, came courtesy of larger (44mm versus 41mm) primary exhaust headers, which were unable to be packaged with the new front differential in the tighter AWD engine bay.

HSV, however, believes that despite its billing as the new jewel in HSV’s crown, Coupe 4’s 15kW peak power deficit to even its entry level ClubSport model ($61,100) will not deter the less youthful buying demographic the new model’s more refined and conservative nature is expected to attract.

Indeed, the Coupe 4 press blurb describes its output as prodigious, and that "precious few cars in the world can boast the level of sophisticated performance technology that is found in Coupe 4".

For the record, Coupe 4’s HSV-enhanced 5.7-litre LS1 V8 produces 270kW ECE (279kW DIN) at 5700rpm and 475Nm of torque at 4000rpm. This compares to 285kW and 510Nm for all HSV models, except Coupe GTS and GTS sedan, which deliver 300kW.

HSV says Coupe 4’s combination of a low ride-height, constant AWD system and the LS1 V8 are "the ingredients necessary to become an instant HSV icon" and put it "virtually in a class of its own". And early interest has come from either long-standing HSV customers or current owners of all sorts of prestige and luxury European vehicles.

Available only on one specification with limited options, Coupe 4 is the product of a nine-month design, development and marketing program shared between HSV and Holden.

Starting life as a left-hand drive Pontiac GTO bodyshell to facilitate the exclusive use of twin exhaust outlets either side of the US-spec fuel tank, Coupe 4 is taken off the Elizabeth production line and its larger wheelarches plasma-cut, rolled, spot-welded and 100 per cent checked before being put back on line before painting.

It’s the first time an HSV model has been modified at the factory, representing unprecedented co-operation between Holden and HSV, while final Coupe 4 assembly occurs back at HSV’s Clayton (Victoria) assembly line.

Springs, dampers, brakes, DANA-supplied front and rear AWD subframes and the newly developed lower control arms and steering knuckle assembly - which correct the roll centre, camber and toe settings to that of the 80mm higher-riding Adventra-based HSV Avalanche AWD wagon upon which Coupe 4’s drivetrain is based – are also fitted at the factory.

Computer Aided Design was employed to design, validate and stress-analyse the new components, the use of aluminium for which is said to save reduce significant weight – from 11.5kg to 3.8kg for the lower control arm and from 5.8kg to 3.9kg for the steering knuckle.

At the rear current HSV Coupe semi-trailing arms are fitted, while 19x9.0-inch rear wheels (fronts are 19x8.0-inch) with a unique offset are fitted to maintain the correct wheel track, which at 60mm wider requires sheet metal mods to provide clearance for the tyres.

In all, 12 development vehicles were built, including seven for barrier and off-set crash testing, and ADR testing.

At the heart of Coupe 4 lies Holden’s traction control-based Cross Trac AWD system (dubbed Quad Drive in HSV-speak), which sends a fixed 62 per cent of torque to the rear wheels, while the MacPherson strut front suspension employs a 27mm-diameter anti-roll bar and the trailing-arm rear suspension uses a 16mm unit.

Brakes are the same as those installed on the high-riding Avalanche and XUV SUVs all-wheel drives (based on the Adventra and Crewman Cross8 respectively), comprising twin-piston front callipers and 336x18mm front and 315x18mm rear ventilated and grooved AP discs. A GTS-specific linear steering rack is also used, while tyres measure 245/35-19 front and 255/35-19 rear.

Weighing in around 195kg less than the 2026kg Avalanche but 140kg heavier than the rear-drive Coupe GTO (1690kg), the 1830kg Coupe 4 has about 57 per cent of its weight over the front wheels, but weight distribution is claimed to be close to the ideal 50/50 split when fully loaded.

Higher, wider and longer than Monaro despite appearing smaller, Coupe 4 was styled more conservatively than other HSVs by Head of Design Julian Quincey. Xenon HID headlights are part of the package, as are Rear Park Assist sensors.

That refinement extends inside, where Coupe comes standard with leather HSV Sports fronts seats – in a choice of anthracite or ochre – including active head restraints, plus eight-way power adjustment and three memory positions for the driver.

There’s also an HSV-exclusive white instrument cluster, HSV multi-function display, HSV LED interior lighting effect, alloy pedals and centre binnacle with oil pressure and volt meter gauges, while other standard equipment includes dual-zone climate-control and a Blaupunkt Premium 260-watt audio system with in-dash six-disc CD changer and rear sub-woofers.

Only three options are available: satellite-navigation, sunroof and the HSV Tyre Pressure Monitor system (TPM) incorporated into the centre instrument binnacle.

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Did you know?

Coupe 4 is available in just three colours: Phantom Black, Quicksilver and Sting Red

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