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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

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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

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.

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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  • Poison_Eagle

    Best VF front end, interior looks horrible.

  • Shak

    The Senator always was the best all rounder of the HSV range, now in VF guise it simply gets better. That is until the GTS arrives.

    • Rocket

      Will be interesting to get some actual performance figures on these cars and no doubt the GTS will be the fastest of them all. The Senator suspension sounds like it will appeal to those who like a smooth ride also .

  • timmy201

    225mm front tyres sound really skinny!

    • devil666

      Makes them less susceptible to tram lining and should give better steering feel.

    • Corporal Clegg

      I believe this may be incorrect, they are 255.

    • Shak

      I dont think thats correct. They should be 255′s.

  • save it for the track

    Hard to see how it’s given five stars given the negative comments about the interior etc.

    • Daniel DeGasperi

      Important to recognise that, as with Golf and Cayman, two other very different cars we’ve given full marks to, five stars doesn’t mean it’s a perfect car. A couple of cheaper-looking interior bits are certainly not enough to warrant the reduction of half a star, relative to the performance, steering, ride, handling, space, and auto and ESC calibration. Cheers,

      • save it for the track

        I don’t believe that any car can be given a five star review. Other outlets use a ten star system, and only a few get 9.5, let alone 10. The interior wasn’t the only negative. Wind noise at higher speeds was mentioned, what speeds, and if so, how does it compare to other vehicles that it may be a ‘competitor’ against? Also towards the end of the review was this…”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.” Sounds like at least a half star reduction to me….. All the reviews so far on this site regarding VF seem overly glowing, and leave very little room in ratings for other vehicles of a similar class. There’ll surely be many 4.5 and 5 star reviews coming in the future then.

        • Rocket

          The star ratings are meaningless in my book. This car like any other is not perfect but anyone looking for a large high performance sedan would see value compared to the high priced Mercs and BMWs. I see better value in an XR6 turbo for half the price without all the bling and gizmos.

      • Norm

        Agreed. It’s relative. And…it’s…the vibe your honour. They obviously got out of this car and thought it was fantastic and worthy of the rating. I agree the “not agile” comment seemed contrary though.
        Maybe there’s a more telling story here though – and that is – that Holden’s 5 star effort is a big bruising thirsty performance sedan when what the local industry needs is a 5 star everyman [and woman] car from a local manufacturer.

      • Zaccy16

        i agree, people didn’t stop complaining about the golfs 5 stars when it definitely deserved it like the cayman and now the senator as well, all three have small faults but the huge range of abilities overcome the tiny negatives

  • Exar Kun

    Very nice. I wish they did this as a wagon in addition to the Clubby.

    Are there any decent shots of the HUD in action?

  • Mad Max

    Somebody needs to show Daniel where a corner apex is… An apex is not just a competitor to the Lions Club.

  • Smart US

    that is one lovely family Man car

  • nugsdad

    GTS is Ordered !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • horsie

      Even though you just bagged out the clubsport in your previous post for being a shopping trolley.
      My BS detector is activated.

      • nugsdad

        If you go back and read you will see my comment was related to the Renault not the Holden, it was a comment about hot hatches. No need for B.S. detection, I can assure all true, Black, manual, red trim.

        • horsie

          i stand corrected.
          Good luck with your GTS!! i wish i was getting one

          • nugsdad

            Cheers

    • Shak

      Great choice mate!

    • Rocket

      Expensive taxi

      • Shak

        A bloody capable Taxi you mean!

  • jktyj

    So its big plus is”hugely grippy handling” but it’s big downfall is “not overly agile”…..

    So what happens when you try to make it “overly agile”? It surely loses grip thus not making it “overly agile” and therefore not “hugely grippy”? Or it does grip thus making it very agile?
    Contradiction in the comments there.

    • HerpDerp

      Perhaps the context is in ‘comparison to the R8′, which the author mentioned multiple times. Agility, in that context, would suggest that it can’t change direction quite as good as the R8 (without fixed dampers), whereas the grip is still exceptional mid corner.

      • jktyj

        The “context” in question is from the SUMMARY at the beginning of the article which briefly covers the OVERALL conclusions of the car. The R8 was not mentioned there.

        Why on earth would the OVERALL conclusions of the car merely be a comparison to the R8?

    • Daniel DeGasperi

      Not a contradiction at all, jktyj. Its front end heaviness is more pronounced than in the Clubsport because it rolls more, putting more pressure on its tyres when entering tight bends. Although it initially feels a bit blunt, it hangs on very well through sheer tyre grip before the throttle can be applied and the rear-drive balance felt. Hope this clarifies things for you… Cheers,

    • Zed

      40kg less on the GTS than the last E series, torque vectoring larger brakes will definitely give it a superior handling ability and agility.
      I think you’ll find that the GTS will be very competative with the Euro’s which are twice its price tag except in the field of fuel consumption.
      But who gives a rats regards 5/100km more consumption when you have performance and handling of a 250k Euro super car.

  • JamesB

    You describe it as not so agile but still gave it the full five stars. What has Holden been feeding you with?

  • BP

    Senator looks slick as. Gen-F a step up in styling over E Series 2-3.

  • Cedar

    Nice car! Pity about the price of fuel otherwise it would appeal to a lot more people. When does the EV version get released?

    • Corporal Clegg

      Those of us who buy these things have fuel consumption near the bottom of our list of concerns. It’s not completely irrelevant, but is never the deal-breaker.

      • Sean

        Very well said. I would rather the v8 sound and smooth power from idle to redline for 2 liters per 100 k’s

  • Wile E

    High fuel usage, mediocre quality, and low resale values…they forgot

    Dumb choice.

    • Trevor

      Dumb comment.

      I don’t think fuel usage should even be mentioned in a review for a performance car such as this, I’m not sure how you can judge it as being of ‘mediocre quality’ unless you yourself have driven one, which you haven’t, and low resale values? I find that many of the people who buy these keep them for longer periods than most other cars. It’s also a valid criticism for any German built performance car. I assume you’re one of those types that only drives the most fuel efficient and cheap cars that have zero flair or passion, like a Corolla.

      • Wile E

        How wrong can you be Trev.

        The quality issue was mentioned in the article.Read it.

        “People who buy these cars keep them longer ‘

        Complete and utter rubbish not supported by fact.

        and another one “valid criticism for any German built performance car…

        Ah let’s say Porsche high quality,high resale ,good fuel consumption

        So wrong again Trev

        “I assume…”again wrong Trev

        Not having much luck are you.Probably best to keep your dumb thoughts to yourself

      • Sean

        Correct ! performance cars don’t need to sip petrol. You can buy these hsv’s and drive hard and will never bridge the gap to the cost of a European performance car

  • T-Dawg

    My favorite Clubbys, Senator and Maloos I want them all

  • Zaccy16

    id go as far and say this is the best looking HSV ever built, it is not ugly and over the top like the e series but still has a menacing look

  • ash

    exterior is the best yet, interior is tacky for this price tag. Its a silver taxi with a V8 and leather. You’d have to be a one eyed fan to shell out this sort of money, people with actual brains and sense would still be looking at the more refined BMW and merc’s,

    • Tim

      No, you’d have to be mad to spend up to three times the price of this brilliant five-star car for a badge. You’re a terrible badge snob.

    • Sean

      For this price you only get a 1.8 or 2 litre engine. Great value

  • MAX

    Not much difference to ss-v redline,lost real Senator look,Plus ss-v better resale value and cheaper car.

HSV Senator Specs

SIGNATURE : 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
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
73
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
Standard Features
Comfort
Auto Climate Control with Dual Temp Zones
Control & Handling
20 Inch Alloy Wheels, Electronic Brake Force Distribution, Electronic Stability Program
Driver
Cruise Control, Leather Steering Wheel, Multi Function Steering Wheel, Mobile Phone Connectivity, Parking Distance Control
Engine & Transmission
Limited Slip Differential
Entertainment
CD with 6 CD Stacker
Exterior
Body Kit, Fog Lights - Front, Metallic Paint
Interior
Leather Upholstery
Safety
Dual Airbag Package, Anti-lock Braking, Head Airbags
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
9-H-19
Country of Origin
AUSTRALIA