Car reviews - HSV - Tourer - R8 5-dr wagon
Extremely good handling, reasonably compliant ride, exceptional acceleration, improved practicality over sedan
Room for improvement
Looks just like an SS Sportwagon from the back, automatic can be ponderous, wagon space not as big as you might think
19 Dec 2008
A JOURNALIST at the launch of the R8 Tourer noted that it weighed 100kg more than the equivalent sedan and was $1000 extra, which meant the additional body work cost $10 a kilo.
HSV chief engineer Joel Stoddart said: "It's a bargain. You can't even get prawns for that."
Whilst said in jest, the $1000 premium is a small price to pay for the performance car enthusiast who also requires a relatively practical car.
In the past, this kind of customer may have thought about choosing a powerful SUV, most of which come with a range of negative character traits including ordinary handling and higher than usual purchase and running costs.
The advantage of the Tourer is that it is so closely aligned to the R8 ClubSport sedan that customers are unlikely to feel they are trading much, if anything, for its improved practicality.
Of course, just like the Sportwagon, the R8 Tourer doesn't have heaps of space in the back compared to traditional wagons such as the Falcon version.
It actually doesn't offer all that much more space than the sedan with the rear seats in place, except that you can load taller items, but the real clincher is the fact that you can fold the rear seats down.
The regular Clubsport and the Commodore it is based on has a ski-port, but not a split/folding rear seat.
It still baffles me why Holden thought this was acceptable for a large family sedan.
The fact that the R8 Tourer has folding seats automatically allows it to become a far more practical tool than the sedan.
So what about the driving experience? What do you have to give up for this extra load carrying capacity. The answer is not much at all.
A run from Melbourne to Healesville proved the Tourer is just as much fun as the sedan. It does weigh 100kg more, but the 6.2-litre LS3 V8 is such a potent powerplant that it makes hardly any difference.
When you have so much torque on tap, this is no surprise. This is a truly delightful V8 engine that, despite having to make do with pushrods, delivers its power far more effortlessly than the equivalent engine over at FPV.
The Tourer accelerates hard, hammering out the same beautiful V8 note that make these cars so much fun to drive.
HSV stiffened up the suspension tune for the Tourer, which means it stays remarkable settled. There is hardly any bodyroll in the corners and it doesn't pitch or dive before and after.
It still feels like a big and heavy car, but it doesn't wallow or carry on. The Tourer happily changes direction on command and the brakes work quite well on the road.
The body sits so flat that you quite naturally expect the ride to suffer accordingly. While it certainly isn't the most supple car on bumpy roads, the Tourer is actually a lot more comfortable than we expected.
There is no rattling of fillings or kidney punching and, like the R8 sedan, this is a car that you could easily cover a lot of miles in.
HSV has introduced a new manual, the Tremec TR6060, which is also used by Ford's Falcon. It's a nice gearbox.
In the past, manual muscle cars like the HSV had such a heavy clutch that driving them in traffic was a chore. They were so cumbersome that you expected your left calf muscle to grow larger thanks to the extra exercise.
It's all so much easier now with the new manual, which has a far lighter clutch action.
You also no longer feel like you are driving a truck when you go for the next gear, with a far crisper shift feel and shorter throw.
The six-speed automatic is adequate and a lot better than the four-speed of the past. That said, it is by no means perfect, with relatively slow shifts. It can also be indecisive, dropping one gear, thinking about it and then dropping another when it should have dropped two in the first place.
It is a world away from the smart and sharp ZF six-speed automatic available in Falcons.
Sitting in the cabin, you feel just like you are driving a regular R8 sedan until you look back and see the extra room.
Rear passengers should be especially happy in the Tourer. There is a lot of legroom and even more headroom than the sedan, which wasn't lacking either.
The Tourer also looks mean. With a sleek profile that resembles a coupe more than a wagon, this is a shape that lends itself to big HSV bumpers and massive alloy wheels.
The only downside from a styling perspective is that it looks just like an SS Sportwagon from behind, apart from the 317 and HSV badges.
It is not like it needs a big spoiler, but customers might like something to show they have shelled out the extra for an HSV version.
All up, however, the Tourer is a very convincing practical muscle car. It is not as spacious as the wagons of old, but it is one hell of a lot more fun.
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