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  • Utterly superb ride quality across all surfaces; brilliantly consistent steering; nicely balanced and hugely grippy handling; lots of performance and a great soundtrack; top ESC calibration
  • Interior betrays $84K pricetag, even without tacky added-on dials; still some wind rush at higher speeds; not overly agile and doesn\'t sit as flat as Clubsport

OUR RATING
10 / 10



HSV Gen-F Senator Review
HSV Gen-F Senator Review
HSV Gen-F Senator Review
by Daniel DeGasperi

A trio each of numbers and letters separates the HSV Senator Signature from the regular Gen-F range – 340 and MRC.

The number denotes the kilowatts extracted from the 6.2-litre V8, which rises 15kW and also 20Nm of torque compared with both the old model and the Clubsport R8 thanks to a reworked air intake and engine management changes.

Although the gruntier 6.2-litre can be optioned into R8 via an SV pack, the pricing gap between it and the Senator narrows to $7705 as manuals or $5705 as automatics because, uniquely, an auto is a no-cost option on Senator only. Other than an electric-adjust passenger seat and plenty more chrome, there aren’t many equipment differences between sports R8 and luxury Senator to warrant the extra surchage.

Well, that is, except for one major difference, and it’s down to those three letters. HSV has had Magnetic Ride Control (MRC) on its Senator and GTS models since the E Series launched in 2007, but the Gen-F gets a Generation 3 system claimed to respond more quickly and be more comfortable.

It has absolutely worked. The Gen-F Senator Signature rides superbly even against entry-level luxury cars running chubby rubber. But taking into account the 35-aspect 20-inch wheels, its comfort levels are absolutely astounding. It rides much, much better than the Clubsport, and is better even than the Holden Calais V on 19s, both of which get fixed dampers.

HSV Gen-F Senator Review
HSV Gen-F Senator Review
HSV Gen-F Senator Review
HSV Gen-F Senator Review

The Senator doesn’t fidget on freeways, it ignores small road imperfections, and barely dignifes road joins. Yet it always remains controlled. It truly rivals the air suspension of the Mercedes-Benz E- and CLS-Class, which have long been the benchmark for compliance, and likely beats them both for body control.

Get the luxury-oriented Senator out on the race track, however, and it shrugs off its silver-tinted image and does everything almost as brilliantly as the rest of the range.

Okay, the HSV Electronic Driver Interface (EDI) only has two modes in the Senator instead of the Clubsport R8’s three, dropping the track-focused ‘Perf’ mode but retaining ‘Tour’ and ‘Sport’. One lap in the Tour mode is enough to show why it rides on-road bumps so well (because it is rolly) and even Sport perhaps doesn’t quite sit as flat as the Clubsport R8 on its fixed sports dampers.

But picking the handling difference is a hair-splitting affair, where the difference between their ride quality can be measured in furlongs…

Swapping between manual Clubsport R8 (tested here) and auto Senator on the track also shows that a vast chasm no longer exists between the performance of a HSV self-shifter and auto-shifter.

As with the rest of the automatic-equipped VF Commodore range, and in fact the Cruze, the Senator now banishes the old, long-held saying that GM can’t make a decent automatic.

HSV Gen-F Senator Review
HSV Gen-F Senator Review
HSV Gen-F Senator Review
HSV Gen-F Senator Review

The six-speed in Sport mode is fantastic. Although it’s curious that HSV doesn’t offer steering-wheel-mounted gearshift paddles on any model, at least the tipshift gate is around the correct way (push forward to downshift) and it rev-matches neatly when burrowing back through the gears.

Not once in the Senator was the tipshifter really required, though, despite hard track driving. Get onto the brakes into a corner and the gearbox, in Sport, will quickly and aggressively flick back one or two gears.

Only very occasionally will it go back two, though, when sometimes it needs to – like in the Honda hairpin at Phillip Island, for example. But the 570Nm V8 has plenty torque to pull out strongly in third.

Perhaps ironically, for years the HSV Senator was available as an auto-only proposition, yet the automatics were always disappointing. Now, when a good one arrives, the no-cost manual once demanded seems less required.

Perhaps even more so in the auto than the manual, the 340kW/570Nm 6.2-litre V8 feels fast. Together with the slick auto, and hugely grippy 225mm front/275mm rear 20-inch Continental tyres, it gets its stuff together with potency and poise, not just brute force.

Although the Senator misses the Perf mode of the Clubsport R8, it still gets the bi-modal air intake and exhaust system, the latter of which makes the car instantly louder, whether at idle or full throttle. With the exhaust butterflies closed, and with the refinement-enhancing work inherent in all VF models, the Senator sounds as quiet as a luxury car should.

HSV Gen-F Senator Review
HSV Gen-F Senator Review
HSV Gen-F Senator Review
HSV Gen-F Senator Review

Let them fly open, however, and a note deeper than the burr walnut of a managing director’s desk eminates, along with more than a few ‘Qs’.

Unfortunately, inside, the Senator suffers the same quality issues as the Clubsport R8, and all HSV models, with the Electronic Driver Interface (EDI) system – the graphics are a bit low rent, while the analogue battery voltage and oil pressure gauges below it are woefully tacky.

But the interior basics are done masterfully well, with great seats and lots of adjustment, in addition to the classy new dash design inherited off Holden.

An excellent head-up display, intuitive sat-nav, audio and connectivity controls, and collision-alert and auto parking tech may be available in cheaper Holdens, but they remain an impressive addition at this price point.

In the regular Holden VF Commodore range, it’s the entry-level Evoke that benefits most from the generational overhaul. Yet in the HSV range, at least until the supercharged GTS embargo lifts in late July, it’s the short-wheelbase flagship Senator that feels most improved.

The automatic is a revelation, the ride quality is superb, the 340kW engine is a stormer, and while some of those attributes come together in other HSV Gen-F grades, only the Senator blends them all with superb steering and handling. Add newfound refinement and technology, and for $83,990 the single blemishes on its scorecard are some cheap cabin elements and, perhaps, resale values and fuel economy relative to price-point German opposition.

HSV Gen-F Senator Review
HSV Gen-F Senator Review

But the home-grown HSV Gen-F Senator is absolutely the best VF yet…


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HSV SENATOR BREAKDOWN

HSV Gen-F Senator Review
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HSV Senator Specs

SIGNATURE : E3 MY12.5 : 6.2L MULTI POINT F/INJ - 6 SP AUTO ACTIVE SEQ - PREMIUM UNLEADED PETROL - 4D SEDAN
Car Details
Make
HSV
Model
SENATOR
Variant
SIGNATURE
Series
E3 MY12.5
Year
2013
Body Type
4D SEDAN
Seats
5
Pricing
New Price
N/A
Private Sale
$48,510 - $55,130
Dealer Retail
$46,900 - $55,770
Dealer Trade
$37,300 - $44,100
Engine Specifications
Engine Type
MULTI POINT F/INJ
Engine Size
6.2L
Cylinders
V8
Max. Torque
550Nm @  4600rpm
Max. Power
317kW @  6000rpm
Pwr:Wgt Ratio
176.9W/kg
Bore & Stroke
103.1x91.95mm
Compression Ratio
10.7
Valve Gear
OVERHEAD VALVE
Drivetrain Specifications
Transmission
6 SP AUTO ACTIVE SEQ
Drive Type
REAR WHEEL DRIVE
Final Drive Ratio
3.27
Fuel Specifications
Fuel Type
PREMIUM UNLEADED PETROL
Fuel Tank Capacity
73Litres
Fuel Consumption (Combined)
13.9L / 100km
Weight & Measurement
Kerb Weight
1792
Gross Vehicle Weight
Not Provided
Height
1467mm
Length
4947mm
Width
1899mm
Ground Clearance
102mm
Towing Capacity
Brake:1600  Unbrake:750
Steering & Suspension
Steering Type
RACK & PINION - POWER ASSISTED
Turning Circle
11.4
Front Rim Size
8.5x20
Rear Rim Size
8.5x20
Front Tyres
245/35 R20
Rear Tyres
245/35 R20
Wheel Base
2915
Front Track
1592
Rear Track
1590
Front Brakes
DISC - VENTILATED
Rear Brakes
DISC - VENTILATED
Front Suspension
MacPherson strut, Coil Spring, Gas damper, Anti roll bar
Rear Suspension
Multi-link system, Coil Spring, Gas damper, Anti roll bar
Standard Features
Comfort
Auto Climate Control with Dual Temp Zones, Power front seats, Rear seat enhancement pack
Control & Handling
20 Inch Alloy Wheels, Electronic Brake Force Distribution, Electronic Stability Program, Sports Suspension, Traction Control System
Driver
Cruise Control, Leather Steering Wheel, Multi Function Steering Wheel, Mobile Phone Connectivity, Parking Distance Control, Power Steering, Reversing Camera, Satellite Navigation, Trip Computer
Engine & Transmission
Limited Slip Differential
Entertainment
CD with 6 CD Stacker, Sound System with 12 Speakers, Premium Sound System
Exterior
Body Kit, Fog Lights - Front, Metallic Paint, Power Mirrors, Rear Spoiler
Interior
Leather Upholstery, Power Windows
Safety
Dual Front Airbag Package, Anti-lock Braking, Head Airbags, Seatbelts - Pre-tensioners Front Seats, Side Front Air Bags
Security
Central Locking Remote Control, Engine Immobiliser
Optional Features
Comfort
Power Sunroof
Control & Handling
Performance Brake Package
Other
Service Interval
12 months /  15,000 kms
Warranty
36 months /  100,000 kms
VIN Plate Location
Pass Side Windscreen
Country of Origin
Australia