Car reviews - HSV - GTS - 30 Years
Throaty V8 song, oceans of torque, comfortable interior, sophisticated tech, fun factor
Room for improvement
As this is the last Aussie-made V8 GTS, there will be no improvement. This is as good as it will ever get.
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1 May 2017
Price and equipment
THIS eighth and last of the V8-powered GTS line from Holden Special Vehicles must feel a bit like Elvis Presley when The Beatles arrived on the scene. One minute simply the greatest, and the next yesterday’s hero.
In this case, “The Beatles” is HSV’s last-hurrah limited edition, the GTSR W1, with its enormously powerful 474kW LS9 supercharged V8, close-ratio manual gearbox, monstrous 410mm front brake discs and race-bred coil-over SupaShock suspension, among other goodies.
This all makes the W1 arguably the best Australian-made car in history, leaving the GTS somewhat in the shadows.
But we cannot let the GTS pass into history without a nod to its place as HSV’s traditional top bare-knuckle fighter and one of our favourite Australian cars.
While some of HSV’s 30 Years celebration variants get more power and other goodies, the GTS version is largely a badge-and-decal and black paint exercise, with a price rise of $500.
With 430kW of power and 740Nm of torque from its blown 6.3-litre LSA V8, the Gen-F2 GTS 30 Years edition is far from a slouch, and will do 90 per cent of what the W1 can manage.
At $100,490 plus on-road costs, it is less than two-thirds the price of the W1 ($169,990), while being more than two-thirds of the car.
And it has one big advantage over the W1: you can buy one. The run of 300 W1s are all pre-sold, while the GTS will remain in production and on offer until stumps in December.
Superficially, the GTS shares many of its features with other HSV models, especially the other top-end offering, the Senator Signature executive express.
Items such as leather-clad heated sports seats with eight-way electric adjustment and lumbar support, dual-zone climate control and nine-speaker Bose sound system are standard on these premium models.
Normally, the snug seats with high side bolsters come in monotone mix of black leather and suede-like Alcantara, but our test car was fitted with the optional Red Hot trim that adds a splash of bright red leather amongst the black.
This ties in nicely with the red contrast double stitching of the trim on the seats, leather-clad steering wheel and dash, which has a strip of Alcantara across the fascia. We thought it looked, well, red hot.
The seats are also extremely comfortable for the long haul, delivering the necessary under-thigh support. Yes, they are a bit of a chore to get in and out of, over the high side bolsters, but hey, this is not a Prius.
Holden’s MyLink infotainment system is front and centre on the dash, offering the usual connectivity, plus voice control and apps such as Pandora and Stitcher. In the GTS, however, its eight-inch screen also displays the Enhanced Driver Interface that gives speed demons a thrill with its performance data display, including G forces and throttle inlet pressure.
The G force meter can also be selected for the head-up display (HUD) on the windscreen, shown alongside vehicle speed, allowing the driver to keep eyes forward while trying to beat 1g in the corners (easy).
As with many other HUDs, the frame around the screen on top of the dash reflects annoyingly on the windscreen in bright sunlight, making us wish, not for the first time, that designers would integrate these devices more seamlessly.
On the console, a knob switches between three driving modes – sport, performance and track – that progressively beef up dynamics while backing off nanny safety nets such as electronic stability control (ESC), throwing more onus on the driver.
A button in the middle of the knob is the traction control button, otherwise known as the “tyre smoke on switch”.
Engine and transmission
Like all HSV engines for yonks, the 6.3-litre supercharged LSA V8 is off the shelf from General Motors’ Chevrolet range in the United States where it is used in cars such as the Corvette. This means the engines are tried and true, coming with the full backing of GM’s powertrain division.
In the GTS’s case, we have the 430kW/740Nm version that – until the recent arrival of the W1 – was said to be the most powerful engine of any Australian-made car.
The six-speed automatic transmission (a six-speed manual is available) is likewise direct from Motown, although calibrated by Australian engineers for the Zeta-based Commodore.
Put them together and we have fun city with a bass sound track. The 0-100km/h dash is done and dusted in a claimed 4.4 seconds, although that seems a little difficult to achieve in anything but ideal conditions. We think more like 5.0 seconds, which is still not bad when you consider that all that power and torque is finding its way to the tarmac via just two rear wheels.
Launch control is only available on manual gearbox variants, but whether it really helps anyway is a moot point.
The auto transmission – a conventional torque converter type – has a manual-shift mode with the inevitable paddles on the steering wheel. After an initial play with them, we left the car to its own devices, allowing the booming torque and hefty brakes to do the talking.
And speaking of talking, the latest GTS gets HSV’s new, throatier bi-modal exhaust system that has V8 lovers in raptures.
Not so rapturous is the fuel consumption that, officially sits around the 15.3 litres per 100km mark on the combined test, but creeps ominously towards 20L/100km rather quickly in urban driving or when pedalling a little harder.
Ride and handling
HSV and GM in the US were among the earliest manufacturers to adopt Magnetic Ride Control (MRC) suspension (after Ferrari), and we are bemused as to why more haven’t taken it on board.
Using iron particles in the damper fluid, the system employs electro-magnets to instantly alter the viscosity to stiffen or soften the damping, according to driving conditions or mode.
The result is a comfy cruise on the commute, and then more controlled handling under the hammer. Standard on the GTS, MRC delivers the best of both worlds.
Matte black 20-inch forged alloy wheels stick the GTS to the bitumen via 8.5-inch rubber at the front and 9.5-inch at the back. The rear end can be made to step out with injudicious application of the throttle out of corners before a combination of traction control and torque vectoring tames the excess.
Unless, of course, the driver has switched them off, in which case you had better be ready to catch it.
The steering is not the sharpest and most intuitive around when compared with benchmarks such as AMG, but certainly up to the task.
Brakes also might not quite match the whopper stoppers on the W1, but with 390mm discs on the front grabbed by six-pot callipers, no one is complaining.
As we figured that as this might be the last time we get to road test such an iconic Australian car, we took it down an iconic Australian road – Victoria’s Great Ocean Road – and despite the plethora of European tourists in clapped out vans, revelled in the experience.
Safety and servicing
The GTS gets HSV’s full suite of safety technologies, including forward collision alert, lane departure warning, blind spot alert, rear cross traffic alert and hill start assist.
The missing link is autonomous emergency braking which, at this late stage in the Australian vehicle industry, is not likely to turn up on anything with an HSV badge until imported cars start to roll through its Clayton plant in Melbourne.
Warranty is three years or 100,000km, with service intervals of 15,000km or nine months. Also thrown in is capped price servicing for the first five years or 105,000km.
The HSV GTS 30 Years might not be as slick as some of Europe’s best, but pound for pound, the GTS delivers as much fun per kilometre as anything else on the road.
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