2015 HSV Clubsport R8 long-term review, part 1

Holden ClubSport R8 Sedan

Time for Damo to (re)connect with his inner Bogan, in his first – and likely last – Australian built long-termer.

A CAR is more than nuts, bolts, plastic, metal and oil. If you’ve ever built your own street machine, you’ll know it’s bucket loads of blood, sweat, tears and emotion (not to mention rolls of cash).

That’s what the Clubsport is to me: a rolling tribute to our motoring history. It has links to my childhood hero, Peter Brock. I have memories of V8 Commodores with my big brother, some of my best mates, and my dad when I was a kid. He reckons I was taken home from the hospital in a VH – unfortunately a VH Valiant, whereas I’d have preferred a VH Commodore but that was only launched four months after I was born.

So it’s with a heavy heart that I drive what will probably be my only Australian-built long-termer. After several years living in England and talking CO2 tax, it’s the ultimate car for repatriation into Australian culture for this lifelong Bathurst tragic.

This HSV Clubsport R8 automatic sedan in Heron White rides on awesome SV Rapier
20-inch wheels. It’s bold and confident, yet not as brash as a Fantale Orange VF, though its ‘GENF’ plates and bassy exhaust note show this is not a car for the timid.

Holden -clubsport -r8

A V8 measuring 6.2 litres isn’t for the meek, either, and while it’s not the flagship supercharged GTS, the 340kW Clubbie R8 is hardly tepid. It’s not carrying a blower under its bonnet – the Gen-F GTS runs a great big supercharger to push it to a somewhat unfathomable 430kW – but the R8 still packs a bigger punch that any previous GTS hero model. Hard to believe that the very first HSV GTS was the 1992 VP with what now seems a pathetic 200kW, and the original HSV Clubsport, based on the VN, had a downright laughable 180kW…

My first weekend with the Clubbie peeled back a layer of its identity because I attended a Bathurst Legends dinner attended by Holden Dealer Team royalty including Colin Bond – who, with Tony Roberts, won Bathurst in 1969 driving an HT Monaro GTS – and blokes like Frank Lowndes and Ian Tate, who built the engine that took Brocky to his first Bathurst crown in ’72.

This car is a remnant of the past. Brock built his HDT Special Vehicles as an escape from the mundaneness of ordinary life. And that’s exactly what the Clubbie does. It represents escapism from the front-drive and all-wheel-drive hatches that dominate the performance scene, while its $79K ask is a long way short of the $155K-plus rear-drive C63 AMG Mercs and BMW M3s we love driving. There’s simply nothing like it for the cash.

It also shows that a car is a social machine created for and by a social animal – the human. Now, over six months, we’ll see if I change into an atypical stereotype or if it can fit into contemporary Melbourne, where it was conceptually born long before lattes, organic food and the snobbery of an even wealthier nation took over.

Dollar dazzler, sunk by the SS

Holden -commodore -ss -v -redlineThe Clubsport R8 looks like great value – unless you line it up with the Commodore SS-V Redline (above).

THE starting price for a Clubsport R8 sedan is $73,290, including Luxury Car Tax but before on-road costs. Our ‘GENF’ is an auto with excellent steering wheel shift paddles, adding $2500, while the Red Hot leather trim costs another $695. Outside, 20-inch SV Rapier alloys cost an extra $1895 while the Hyperflow rear wing adds $985. That brings the bill to almost $80K for a sedan that can hit 100km/h in 4.8sec. Still damn good value, unless you mention Holden Commodore SS-V Redline.

Read part 2 of our HSV Clubsport long-term car review.

Price as tested: $79,365
Part  1: 820km @ 15.4L/100km
Overall: 820km @15.4L/100km
Odometer: 6810km
Date acquired: March 2015

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