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Cruze pumped by Walkinshaw Performance

Pump it up: Walkinshaw Performance claims to have boosted the humble 1.4-litre Cruze to 180kW and 310Nm without affecting its drivability.

Walkinshaw Performance extracts 180kW from Aussie-built 1.4-litre Cruze

8 Aug 2012

AUSTRALIAN hot-shop Walkinshaw Performance (WP) has turned up the wick on the Holden Cruze’s standard 1.4-litre turbo-petrol engine to 180kW and 310Nm, creating a true-blue hot hatch.

Those engine output figures put the WP Cruze up there among hot hatch royalty, with just a handful of kilowatts separating it from bigger-engined production models such as the Volkswagen Scirocco R, Renault Megane RS250, Ford Focus ST and Subaru WRX.

The aftermarket conversion of the Cruze fills the void left by the absence of an official hot Holden small car from WP’s sister company, Holden Special Vehicles (HSV).

HSV looked at building such a car to replace the Astra VXR that it previously imported from Vauxhall, but opted instead to develop the car by its arms-length subsidiary WP, which has no official ties with Holden.

WP achieved the high specific power output of 129kW per litre by bolting on an upgraded turbo and exhaust manifold linked to an upgraded stainless steel exhaust system bolted to the back of the catalytic converter, along with the necessary engine management tweaks.

13 center imageThe performance boost was engineered with the help of tuning house HPF and, according to HPF owner Rob Vickery has been achieved with a linear power curve that does not reduce the standard Cruze’s driveability.

“Upgrading to a bigger turbo sounds like a simple way to get big horsepower. But in a front wheel drive, without the right engineering behind it, you could easily make it unmanageable and unfriendly,” he said.

Harnessing the extra performance – representing an 80 per cent power increase and 50 per cent torque boost over the 103kW/200Nm donor car – is revamped suspension including front and rear sway bars, uprated Bilstein dampers and lowered Irmsher springs.

WP general manager Tony Harris told GoAuto there was no need to add torque steer-reducing extras such as limited-slip differentials to tame all that power going through the car’s front end.

“The engineering that has gone into the chassis from Holden’s point of view has made it such a pleasure to work with and we haven’t had to use any additional diffs or anything like that,” he said.

A front brake upgrade consists of four-piston callipers and 343mm rotors developed with high-performance braking supplier Competition Friction, which sit behind 18-inch Irmscher alloy wheels.

A matte-white exterior finish by Exotic Graphics – who were also responsible for the chrome Lexus LFA recently shown at last month’s Meguiar’s MotorEx car show in Sydney – is complemented by a WP-branded interior by leather upholstery specialist Blackmans.

Rounding off the extras are WP sill plates and a modified gear shifter said to improve feel – and while WP developed the car as a manual, Mr Harris said he was confident the conversion would work with the Cruze’s optional six-speed automatic transmission.

WP asks $19,995 for the transformation not including the donor car, which costs from $25,040 plus on-roads, bringing the total driveaway price close to $50,000 – up to $10,000 above that of the aforementioned hot hatch rivals.

However, Mr Harris does not expect many people to go for the full package and said the performance upgrades alone would come to around $12,000-$13,000.

“$20,000 is for the ultimate extreme if you like,” he said.

“You can pick and choose what you want to do to the vehicle, from as little as door sills which are $100 up to about $20,000. It gives you the flexibility to do what you want to do to the vehicle.”

Mr Harris described the Cruze conversion as “a truly unique product” resulting from “hundreds of hours of testing, refinement and discussions between the WP team and our suppliers”.

He could not comment on the prolonged absence of a factory-backed HSV Cruze but offered that WP was able to bring its hot hatch to market in its capacity as an aftermarket company.

“We have got a bit more flexibility with what we can and can’t do whereas on the OE (original equipment) side of the business there are more constraints placed upon you,” he said.

Applying aftermarket performance upgrades has natural consequences on a vehicle’s factory warranty but Mr Harris confirmed that WP would cover the conversion.

“Like all our modifications, we make an allowance for warranty,” he said.

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