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HSV on countdown to LPG

Go gas: HSV is close to launching its LPG-powered V8 for is new E2 range, including the ClubSport R8.

Gas a goer as HSV engineers validate LPG V8 for launch in new E2 Series

10 Sep 2009

IT’S coming – that is the message from Holden Special Vehicle (HSV) to performance car fans looking to cut their fuel bills with a new car that runs on cheaper liquid petroleum gas (LPG) but without sacrificing HSV's full-bore V8 power.

HSV managing director Phil Harding yesterday confirmed that a long-mooted LPG version of its high-power HSV V8 range is undergoing engineering validation testing in the countdown to launch, which he hinted might be announced at the media drive day for HSV’s new updated E2 Series later this month.

He also hinted he would have news at the same event about another major potential addition to HSV’s range – the Opel-built turbo V6 Vauxhall Insignia VXR (or OPC, as it is called in Opel guise).

The AWD Insignia – packing 242kW of power from its Holden-built 2.8-litre turbo V6 for a 0-100km/h sprint time of less than six seconds – has been on HSV’s wishlist since it was launched earlier this year to rave reviews in Europe, with UK’s Top Gear describing it as “an Audi S4 on the cheap”.

Asked about its potential for the HSV range yesterday, Mr Harding said: “I will talk all about that on the media drive day.”

However, Mr Harding conceded that there would be a market for a high-performance six in HSV’s range.

“We used to make a six-cylinder car a while ago,” he said. “I think there is always probably a market for that. From HSV you would expect a performance car, and we haven’t found a solution for that yet.”

A potential stumbling block in the way of HSV getting its hands on the mid-size Vectra replacement’s VXR performance flagship is the on-going wrangling over the sale of Opel by GM. The negotiations have been dragging on for months, clouding the future of Opel-Vauxhall operations.

There are no such issues with HSV’s LPG program, which uses the latest liquid injection systems for maximum performance from minimum fuel.

Asked about the LPG program, Mr Harding said: “We have made no secret of the fact that we are developing that.

“We are not ready yet – we are doing validation testing. We will talk more about that on the (E2) media drive day. It’s coming. We will announce it when we are ready to announce it.”

An LPG-powered entrant would give HSV an advantage over rival Ford Performance Vehicles (FPV) which told media recently that it had no immediate plans to introduce a gas-powered version of either its turbo-charged inline six-cylinder models or Boss V8 range.

An HSV Insignia would also give HSV a weapon against FPV’s thumping turbo sixes.

HSV dismissed suggestions that it might be able to add a version of Holden's new Commodore SIDI direct-injection V6 to its range as an answer to the six-cylinder gap.

Mr Harding suggested there would be no gain in fuel economy, saying he had yet to find a V6 that could match the combination of fuel economy and perfrmance as HSV's 6.3-litre LS3 V8.

HSV has been selling dwindling numbers of another Euro performance unit, the Astra VXR. That model is likely to be replaced by an HSV-enhanced version of Holden’s locally-made Cruze hatch which goes into production in standard form in the third quarter of next year.

An HSV version, almost certainly packing a force-fed direct-injection four-cylinder engine most likely plucked from the European Astra VRX, would be introduced later, maybe even in 2012.

In the meantime, HSV will be pressing on with the updated V8 Commodore-based E2 Series range, which seems to have struck immediate resonance with the buying public.

According to HSV sales director Darren Bowler, the phone started ringing in some HSV dealerships soon after news of the new model broke on motoring websites, including GoAuto, on Tuesday morning.

He said at least three dealers had taken calls from would-be customers offering their credit card details over the phone to place a deposit on the new GTS, which not only gets a power boost to 325kW and more aggressive look but also at a host of hi-tech enhancements.

A special sneak-peek for valued customers before launch also paid dividends, with at least two E2 Senators ordered up front.

Mr Bowler said he expected all 61 HSV dealers to put up their hands for a GTS demonstrator, complete with the optional ‘SV Enhanced’ six-piston front brake callipers.

He said he expected the GTS – with its new-found power advantage over the remainder of the range – to enjoy a major lift in popularity, as it had when the current model was introduced.

However, he said he believed the entry-level ClubSport R8 would retain its crown as the top-selling HSV model.

While HSV sales are expected to surge through the remainder of 2009, the company is reluctant to predict a quick return to HSV’s halcyon sales days immediately after the launch of the VE-based E Series in 2006, when the company worked flat out to meet demand.

Said Mr Harding: “If they want them, we can build them.”

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