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First drive: HSV gets GTS rolling

Limited-build status: Only 150 examples of the HSV Coupe GTS will be built for the time being.

HSV's hot Coupe GTS is ready to hit the streets, albeit in limited numbers

8 Feb 2002

HSV's latest hero car, the Monaro-based Coupe GTS, has officially arrived.

But didn't they launch that car last year, I hear all you HSV aficionados say? Well yes ... and no.

When HSV rolled out its GTO and GTS Coupe models in December last year, around one month after the Monaro was officially released, the GTS was still a pre-production model.

And HSV's engineers were the only people allowed to drive it.

Two months on and the GTS is finally ready to hit the streets. So local media were given the chance to turn its wheels in anger around Holden's Lang Lang Proving Ground, Victoria.

Production of the GTO began in January and the first customer deliveries are already happening.

The GTS is just hitting the production line now, with the first deliveries due by the end of February.

HSV has returned the GTS nameplate to limited-build status with the coupe, so only 150 examples will be available initially, but a second batch is a possibility down the road if there is sufficient demand.

But with most of the GTS production run already pre-sold, demand is unlikely to be a problem for the Clayton-based manufacturer's latest V8 machine, even though it costs $94,750.

The flagship GTS model is powered by the now familiar Reeves Callaway-tuned C4B 5.7-litre V8 engine, which develops 300kW of power at 6000rpm and 510Nm of torque at 4800rpm.

A six-speed manual is the only transmission available, while the other key specs are HSV's ultimate performance-level offerings.

They include the new UK-sourced brake package comprising six-piston callipers with 362mm discs up front and four-piston callipers with 343mm discs at the rear - ventilated, grooved and cross-drilled at both ends - as well as the Performance suspension package, Hydra-Trak differential, double-D exhaust outlet, transmission shift light and buzzer, and 19-inch alloy wheels with sticky Pirelli P-Zero tyres.

Inside, the GTS features unique "Bridge of Weir chainmail" black/silver leather upholstery - "race suit Lismore" leather in red, with yellow or tan also available - as well as grey metal-finish dash surround and steering wheel inserts, plus the usual HSV fittings of a fire extinguisher and centre console compartment with HSV-badged accessories.

Rear proximity parking sensors are standard while satellite navigation is a $3800 option. Holden Assist telematics can also be fitted if requested.

DRIVE IMPRESSIONS:

THE Coupe GTS is the finest example yet of the sheer road presence inherent in most HSV designs.

The car loses some of the clean lines of Holden's Monaro, with the addition of a rear wing and angular bumper and side skirt treatments, but at the same time it ends up dripping with the aggressive, macho appearance HSV is famous for.

While Devil Yellow paint in the Monaro certainly attracts attention, it is no longer the latest "look at me" colour.

Almost every manufacturer has something yellow in their line-up - Astina SP20, Honda's S2000 and Volkswagen's New Beetle, to name a few.

But HSV's styling treatment on the GTS sets the colour off perfectly, almost as if you are seeing it for the first time.

The grey accent-toning of the lower front and rear bumper sections and side skirts prevents the heavy colour from taking over the entire car.

And it works just as well on the other colours in the range - Sting Red, Quicksilver, Racing Green and Phantom (black).

With the monster 19-inch shadow-chrome alloy wheels that caused so many tyre problems initially for the VX GTS sedan, the Coupe GTS is one of the meanest looking cars around.

No need to search for any modifications worth making, this baby will cruise with the best of them.

During a brief session around the Lang Lang Proving Ground's ride and handling circuit, the GTS displayed what is probably the best compromise yet for a HSV between ride comfort and handling prowess, as well as exceptional grip levels in damp conditions.

The large diameter wheels and low profile rubber means you will certainly feel most road hazards. But for such a high performance application, the car coped admirably with the circuit's section of successive dips and rises without causing you to lose a filling or your lunch.

The GTS feels softer, in terms of bodyroll, than you would expect but it is not to the detriment of the handling or outright grip on offer.

The level of movement actually helps to raise your confidence levels at a faster rate, so you feel more comfortable to push towards the car's extremely high limits.

But don't kid yourself that you will find them without plenty of practice and time behind the wheel, unless you are turned on by the thought of heading backwards into the scenery in $100,000 worth of heavy, high-powered machinery.

But with the traction control on this is unlikely to happen, as the system cuts in before things get out of hand, yet at the same time allows you the space to feel the car progressing through its handling range.

Turn it off in the dry for sure, but in the wet it is better to err on the side of caution and let technology offer a helping hand.

The top-level premium brake package has never been found wanting in the past, so it was no surprise to find the GTS's new six-piston AP Racing set-up has increased the stopping power and peace-of-mind levels even further.

In the short stint behind the wheel, it was obvious HSV has succeeded in taking Holden's much lauded Monaro to a higher performance plane, which is in the best traditions of its 15-year vehicle-tuning operation.

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