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Car reviews - HSV - Grange - SV

Our Opinion

We like
Historic car, V8 performance, space, attitude, handling, ride, design after all these years
Room for improvement
Thick pillars, small exterior mirrors, cheesy instruments, last of the line heartbreak

HSV logo14 Dec 2016

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS

Price and equipment

WITH just 50 examples of the last-of-the-line HSV Grange SVs in existence, it’s a no brainer that all ought to have been snapped up by collectors wanting a now-extinct piece of Australiana.

It’s certainly good enough as well as historical enough, being the last locally made long-wheelbase performance luxury vehicle.

In reality, this 6.2-litre V8-powered behemoth is as much a salute to the 1967 Ford ZA Fairlane that kicked off this offshoot of the Great Australian Family Car as it is to six generations of HSV-badged LWB flagships since 1996 – or nine if we also consider the VQ and VR Statesman editions that the Melbourne-based company has produced.

So this is a 20th-anniversary tribute model, powered by a 340kW version of that Chevrolet Corvette-based engine dubbed LS3 340. Just like in the usual Grange.

Priced from $86,990 plus on-road costs, however, it does bring a number of unique visual and performance items to set the series apart.

These include blackout treatments for the door and window surrounds, grille, driving light bezels, bonnet vents, mirror caps, boot spoiler, badges, alloys and 367mm by 367mm ventilated discs and AP Racing four-pot callipers from the HSV range-topping GTS, offset by dark chrome exhaust tips. And, of course, the theme continues inside. Each car is individually numbered.

That’s on top of the usual Grange kit like the Driver Preference Dial which adjust the adaptive dampers, steering, stability/traction controls, and bi-modal exhaust noise, Automatic Park Assist, Forward Collision Alert, Lane Departure Warning, Side Blind Zone Alert, Reverse Traffic Alert, Xenon headlights, head-up display, reversing camera, six airbags, keyless entry, remote-control start (from outside the car), cruise control, auto on/off headlights and wipers, powered/heated exterior mirrors and an alarmIt also gets a multifunction steering wheel, trip computer, eight-inch touchscreen with Siri voice-control access for all multimedia systems, sat-nav, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, CD/USB/MP3 player, rear-seat DVD screens, rear dual-zone climate control, HSV sports seats, heated/power-adjustable front seats with driver’s side memory, bodykit, and 255/35R20 (front) and 275/35R20 (rear) Continental ContiSportContact tyres.

A can of tyre sealant is standard, though buyers can choose a 20-inch temporary spare.

Lots of kit with heaps of space and Corvette performance. Loaded and ready to go then.

Interior

Whatever you may think about the VF Commodore-based dashboard and interior, there is no getting away from the fact that it is an incredibly spacious, good looking, functional, and practical cabin treatment that does Holden proud.

And even on a luxury limo nudging $90K, it works fine, because there is nothing that has been left out – in terms of comfort, safety, or convenience features anyway, as the myriad driver-assist tech that’s included attests to. That the HSV includes such superb front seats just adds to the fundamental rightness of this design. And the mix of Alcantara and carbon-fibre-style materials gels well.

Kicking things off is a great driving position, allowing easy access to controls that are clearly marked and simple to operate after a brief period of familiarisation. The thick-rimmed wheel might not be to everybody’s taste, but it does hint at the formidable power and performance of the oily bits below.

Ample ventilation front and back, thoughtful storage solutions, acres of rear-seat legroom thanks to a vast 3009mm wheelbase, and the inclusion of a very comprehensive multimedia system to keep all passengers occupied further underline the Grange’s very user-friendly interior.

Having said that, it’s a shame HSV hasn’t bothered fitting its trademark EDI Enhanced Driver Interface, which adds a high-performance feel via information displayed within the central screen, including things like G forces, race track data logging, additional gauges, mechanical telemetry and various other information relating to how the vehicle is driven and used. A bit like you might find a Nissan GT-R.

Plus, there is no escaping the decade-old-plus bones of the structure, betrayed most vividly by the relatively tiny exterior mirrors and thigh-thick pillars that do their best to hide whole cars through roundabouts. The HSV-unique instrumentation markings are quite cheesy in their own way, the central screen graphics are pretty dated now (and fussy to comprehend at first), and the fit and finish is really only above American cars, though our Grange didn’t rattle or squeak. Euro and Asian rivals have that honed-quality thing licked compared to Holden.

But that’s nitpicking really (and Holden must be thoroughly sick of hearing such things since 2006, particularly because their very thickness is a result of extremely strong crash structures), because there is a solid and comfortable base to the Grange that really does put it in the limousine league. That boot, by the way, holds 535 litres (though the backrest doesn’t fold to provide additional in-cabin storage capability).

Overall then, the HSV still holds up surprisingly well. Not that it matters really, because that drivetrain really does put the Grange SUV into a performance league no other luxury car for the money can match.

Engine and transmission

For around the price of a base four-cylinder Mercedes E200 with a couple of options there is a great big hulking pushrod V8-powered limo measuring in at 5.2 metres in length. Pushrod? It’s the tried-and-tested American way, but the LS3 340 is no boat anchor.

With 340kW of power and 570Nm of torque at just a tickle of the throttle away, the Grange SV’s performance is best described as commanding, overcoming the 1800kg-plus mass effortlessly to either bound (in Touring mode) or blitz (in Sport or Performance modes) forward. There’s just no inertia or hesitation to the way this normally aspirated V8 thrusts its performance to the rear wheels – relentless muscle is the HSV’s calling card.

The burble is utterly addictive and never annoying (even with the gimmicky bi-modal exhaust in full howl setting), highlighting an increasingly rare and soon-to-be-lost asset it is such a pleasure to waft along in something so heavy yet so effortless.

The six-speed transmission is flattered by just how flexible and giving the LS3 is, since it slurs between each ratio smoothly, but it isn’t especially crisp or fast as the best of the torque-converter autos out there. We were pleasantly surprised by the fuel consumption – an indicated 12.5L/100km is not too shabby at all considering how fond the Grange SV is at going fast.

Ride and handling

Real control and manoeuvrability for something five-metres plus in length is testimony to the talents of both Holden’s and HSV’s engineers.

Wearing wide and sticky footwear, the Grange’s chassis delights on two fronts – by just how comfortable it is in Touring mode (and isn’t this the reason why you’d buy a LWB HSV?), as well as how agile and involving the steering is in the Sport or Performance settings.

As an everyday cruise mobile, the Grange SV’s sheer length and girth will please even the most finicky rider thanks to the MRC Magnetic Ride Control adaptive dampers that smother out the bumps those 20-inch wheels would otherwise probably struggle to tame. That there is not too much tyre or road noise intrusion inside is further praise.

Turn the Driver Preference Dial to the more athletic modes, however, and the sports sedan tautness takes over, making the most of the V8 thrust to really hustle along without delay. Flat, agile cornering with minimal understeer seems somewhat incongruous in a car this large, but there you have it – the HSV handles with exceptional poise and assurance. We reckon the amount of tuning this has received is nigh on perfect.

A heavy right foot on wet roads in Performance allows for a fair degree of tail-out fun, but the rear can be reeled easily and with deft control. The Zeta platform chassis – MacPherson struts up front and multi-links out back – is a fabulous starting point for such a driver-focussed sports sedan. Toweringly effective brakes are the confident ending point.

Safety and servicing

Like all VF II Holdens, the HSV Grange SV scores a five-star ANCAP crash test rating.

It is also covered by a three-year/100,000km warranty, with a five-year or 105,000km capped price servicing regime (whichever comes first) available. It starts off at $329 for the first four standard scheduled logbook services and $399 for the following three standard scheduled log book services.

Verdict

As HSV’s Caprice-based swansong, the Grange SV flies high, providing unexpected comfort and refinement on top of the usual high-performance sports sedan dynamics.

It’s also a heartbreaking moment for the Australian car. This is about drinking in the V8 action, drama, and soundtrack in a way that will never be possible again for the money.

Bottoms up, folks, because the last call has been made.

Rivals

Chrysler 300 SRT from $75,000 plus on-road costs
Despite some outdated Mercedes-Benz S- and E-Class suspension bits underneath, the SRT is a tyre-smoking US hoon-mobile with real V8 punch to go with its evocative exhaust note. For now, this will be the closest thing to the current HSV Gen-F cars once Holden’s local manufacturing ceases.

Infiniti Q50 3.0tt Red Sport from $79,900 plus on-road costs
Forget the silly badge and think of this as a modern-day twin-turbo V6-powered rear-drive Skyline GT-S sports sedan, and this 298kW/475Nm stormer starts to make sense. Backed up by 50 years of Prince/Datsun/Nissan Skyline knowhow, it can be a hoot.

Jaguar XE S from $105,065 plus on-road costs
BRITAIN’S cheapest sports sedan entrant is as tight inside as the Infiniti compared to the HSV’s vastness, and its supercharged V6 isn’t as strong either, but the fabulous chassis, intimate handling, and exceptional ride make this hot-shot both raffish and refined.

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