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First drive: HSV powers up

Power play: There has been plenty of work under the bonnet for the Y Series 2 range.

Holden’s hot car company pips Ford for horsepower – depending how you judge it

9 Sep 2003

THE power battle between HSV and FPV has been rejoined, with the hot Holden tuner bumping its peak power rating to go toe-to-toe with its Ford rival.

HSV is claiming a boost from 260kW/475Nm to 285kW/510Nm for the 5.7-litre LS1 V8 engine that powers virtually all models in the updated Y Series 2 range.

The higher-tuned 300kW C4B version in the GTS sedan and Coupe are the obvious exceptions.

But that 285kW is on the ECE rating, while on the DIN rating LS1 actually now pumps out 292kW. What does FPV claim? 290kW DIN.

It’s a minor victory, but a victory nonetheless in this horsepower obsessed part of the market.

HSV had been the dominant power player until FPV arrived last year with a three-car Falcon-based range of 5.4-litre V8s pumping out 290kW and 520Nm of torque.

Adding pressure from another direction has been Holden’s ever-increasing power push, models like the SS now set at 245kW and 465Nm.

So while Y Series 2 is virtually unchanged to look at and features the same Commodore-based model line-up, there has been plenty of work under the bonnet.

To achieve that power and torque increase, HSV revised the lower airbox and the “zip” tube which directs air from the airbox to the engine. Those two changes mean greater and smoother volume flow to the engine.

On the other side of the cylinder head there’s an exhaust system that has been matched precisely to the individual exhaust ports, reshaped, enlarged and then thoroughly tested. HSV claims a meatier noise as well as better performance.

HSV claims all this work has resulted in a drop from 5.6 to 5.3 seconds for the 0-100km/h dash and 13.9 to 13.5 for the 0-400m in manual guise. In four-speed auto guise it’s 6.0 to 5.6 and 14.1 to 13.7.

Speaking of the automatic transmission, it has been uprated from the old 4L60E transmission to the 4L65E already mated to the GTS. All these changes also apply to the long wheelbase Grange and the GTO Coupe.

Other mechanical changes are limited to the addition of a strut brace in all models and a revision of HSV’s “Performance” suspension set-up, which is now standard on ClubSport R8 as well as GTS. Front springs were revised, rear rebound control increased and more digressive shock absorber valving incorporated. R8 also upgrades from 18 to 19-inch wheels.

Inside, HSV’s trio of seats – Sports, Performance and Luxury – have been redesigned and now incorporate active head restraints and a minimum four-way adjustment. There’s also a new anthracite steering wheel across the range, while the R8 is boosted to full leather interior.

There’s a plethora of new options that become available from October – an adjustable suspension system called APS, a tyre pressure monitoring system (TPM), Xenon performance driving lights and a drop-down DVD player in all sedans. All that’s in addition to familiar items like 19-inch wheels, sunroof and sat-nav.

The GTS models will arrive in February with APS, TPM and the driving lights as part of the standard mix to boost them away from the rest of the range, as it does not appear that power and torque will be uprated. They will be available to order only, with a maximum of 100 to be built in 2004.

APS is the most intriguing new feature. Developed in conjunction with the Holden Racing Team and Ohlins suspension, it allows the driver to pick between 22 suspension bump settings. And it is done the old-fashioned way by reaching in behind the wheel and twiddling on a knob – no German-style cabin-based electronic adjustment here.

Pricing across the range has risen on average about one per cent compared to Y Series, with the Clubsport auto\manual kicking things off at $60,200. It’s TBA for the GTSs at the moment.

The Series 3 GTO Coupe is actually being launched as a limited edition called (appropriately enough) GTO Coupe LE, which has all the fruit and comes in at a $79,990 price tag. Just 100 will be built, with regular production expected to kick off in February.


Y Series 2
HSV ClubSport man/auto: $60,200
HSV ClubSport R8 man/auto: $69,150
HSV Maloo man/auto: $52,400
HSV Maloo R8 man/auto: $59,600
HSV Senator man/auto: $75,500
HSV Senator Signature man/auto: $81,050Coupe Series 3
HSV GTP Coupe LE $79,990


IF you are familiar with HSV, expect nothing too different here. HSV’s sedan and utility range is still a noisy, slightly clunky but always exhilarating thrill ride.

There’s oodles of grip, precise steering, body-hugging seats and now even more power and torque to thrust you forward.

All right, so it’s not the most finessed result, maybe lacking a little of the panache that the Germans provide through their M Sport, AMG and quattro divisions, but in terms of sheer bang for your buck these cars deliver big time.

The new exhaust noise still does not overwhelm from the drivers’ seat, so the engineers could tune that up a bit more, and there’s certainly no question about the chassis handling the extra oomph – which to be quite honest was not all that noticeable. It’s gone up from impressive to very impressive.

It is definitely better as a manual than an automatic. Punching up and down through the gears using the stubby shifter now standard across the range is a lot more fun than the auto which, lacking a manual shifting option, dulled the performance and the fun.

Our familiarisation drive included plenty of laps of the ride and handling circuit at Holden’s Lang Lang facility, a few laps of the high speed bowl at 180km/h and then plenty of on-road kilometres, albeit at a pretty conservative pace.

But undoubtedly the most educative process of the day was sitting in the passenger seat of an APS-equipped GTS Coupe with V8 Supercar champion Mark Skaife doing the driving, for just one lap of the ride and handling circuitSkaife knows the circuit like the back of his hand and the Coupe was like a plaything in his hand as he casually stomped on the brakes at the last minute for each corner, flicked it into oversteer slides then hammered the throttle hard and headed for the next corner.

At one memorable point, Skaife drifted this big, heavy car through a fast sweeper, sliding all four wheels from inside to outside of the turn, judging the grip level perfectly.

The coup de grace was a full lock slideways circuit of the dry skid pad, blue smoke pummelling off the 19-inch Pirelli P-Zero tyres and out from under the guards.

Spectacular stuff, but the point was that the Coupe’s suspension set-up coped with all these challenges really well, adjusting and sorting to inputs that came at it a lot harder and faster than virtually anyone else could deliver.

Overall, HSV has done what it had to with VY Series 2, responding to the challenge set by FPV and re-setting the performance bar – albeit very narrowly. The result is a very exciting drive indeed.

For the full rundown on the WK Grange, go to the New Models section and our story “First look: HSV reveals WK Grange flagship”

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