There are few cars that stir emotion like a HSV. We drive the final naturally aspirated V8 HSV ever – the Clubsport R8 SV Black.
When the email came through with an invitation to drive this, the 2016 HSV Clubsport R8 SV Black, my hand shot up so fast that Mike Costello – who sits next to me – almost fell off his chair.
The Clubsport R8 SV Black is important because it's the last time HSV will produce a naturally aspirated, Aussie-built V8 Commodore. It's the last time the LS3 engine will ever be used by HSV and it's the last time we'll be able to kick back and listen to that monster V8 engine sing its silly song.
This special edition model is limited to just 350 units. Only 350 people will get their hands on this car locally and lay claim to owning a piece of automotive history.
Why is HSV winding up the LS3 around a year ahead of local Commodore's official end date? The LS3 engine isn't Euro 5 compliant and HSV won't be able to sell it beyond November 1 as a new model. That's a good enough excuse as any, we think.
Starting from $65,990 (before on-road costs) for the six-speed manual – you'll need to fork out an additional $2500 for the six-speed automatic with steering wheel mounted paddle-shifters (as seen in our tester) – while other options include 20-inch forged alloy wheels ($2095), the Enhanced Driver Interface (EDI) ($1095), a hyperflow performance rear spoiler ($795), tilt and slide sunroof ($1990) and a black roof ($550).
How can you tell the R8 SV Black aside from a regular R8 SV? The range is based on the R8 LSA and in addition to four-piston AP racing brakes, it includes Satin Black 20-inch alloy wheels, black door surrounds and lower door accenting, shadow chrome exhaust tips and black badges.
Black fender vents and mirror scalps, along with a Satin Graphite lo-line spoiler finish the exterior styling. Inside the cabin, SV Black models get leather sports bucket seats, unique sill and ID plates, along with individual numbering.
Importantly, it's the gear under the bonnet that impresses most. Sure, it's not supercharged, but it doesn't need to be – we'll explain why shortly. It's powered by a 6.2-litre naturally aspirated LS3 V8, which produces 340kW of power and 570Nm of torque.
Finished in Nitrate, the car looks certifiably mean with its offset black highlights and black wheels. The exterior otherwise remains unchanged – which is fine by us, given how aggressive the car already looks.
Inside the cabin, the bucket seats hug nicely and the black highlights continue to flow. The cabin offers plenty of leg and headroom up front, with acres on offer in the rear for second row passengers.
A nice touch to the dashboard is a suede-like material on the dashboard that gives the cabin a more premium feel. And, of course, the automatic can be remote started using the key, which is a fun feature.
While our test car didn't have HSV's EDI system fitted, it's a worthwhile investment for punters who plan on hitting the racetrack with their HSV. It offers GPS-based maps, accelerometers and g-meters, along with throttle and brake input meters.
Hit the start button and the menacing burble of the LS3 is immediately on show. In Sport mode, the bi-modal exhaust is in operation and at idle it rumbles away beautifully. New to the R8 SV is the Holden-developed mechanical sound enhancer.
Using a resonating diaphragm and plastic hosing, engine notes are transferred through to the cabin as revs rise. The lack of noise inside the cabin was always a minor complaint of ours with the naturally aspirated HSV range. Now, when you step on the throttle, it sounds V8 Supercar-like in the cabin, which really tops off the experience.
From a standing start, there is plenty of torque available from low in the rev range. The gearbox moves through the gears smoothly and generally responds quickly to kick-down requests. Gears can also be manually selected at any time using the steering wheel mounted paddle-shifters.
Sending torque to the pavement comes courtesy of 275mm wide rear tyres, while the front tyres measure in at 255mm. The 35 profile tyres are mated to 20-inch alloy wheels and enclose the giant four-piston AP Racing rotors.
We mentioned earlier that the Clubsport R8 SV Black represents the perfect power output. That's because you can essentially stand on the loud pedal from still without the rear tyres erupting into tyre smoke.
This is further backed up by the 'Track' mode, which can be selected via a rotary dial. When selected, it limits stability control intervention to a point where you can confidently drop the rear end out sideways without the system intervening. The stability control tune on Holden's range of Commodores is one of the best in the world. This HSV is no exception to that rule.
The electrically assisted steering is a little heavy at low speeds – such as during parking – but lightens up as speed increases. Steering feel is very good too, even about centre where some of these systems can feel a little bit dead.
We lined up a set of bends winding up a mountain road to see just how much fun we could have in the R8 SV Black. With the car in its Sport setting, we left the gearbox in its sport mode and went for it.
Acceleration is very linear and extremely predictable. When in gear, you can tinker with the throttle to get the car to move about mid-corner, with the tyres offering a heap of grip before they give in. When they eventually do give in, there's plenty of lateral movement available from the stability control before it begins getting fussy.
A full throttle blast out of a corner in first or second gear returns an almost erotic exhaust note and cabin induction noise. It's at this point the official average fuel consumption of 12.9L/100km goes out the window – but who cares about fuel anyway, when you've got eight-cylinders of fury underhoof.
The body remains incredibly flat when pitched into a bend and remains unfazed by mid-corner bumps, which can unsettle a rear-wheel driven car. The brakes offer incredible bite, but can feel a bit spongy. They continuously return excellent braking performance, but don't inspire as much as the bigger brakes fitted to the HSV GTS.
Visibility out the cabin is good, but is hampered by the A-pillar, which can make it hard to see around right-hand bends.
It's at this point we should mention the 496-litre boot and the 1708kg mass, but it's all secondary information. The only thing worth noting is just how impressive this car is.
Sure, you'll get more straight line performance thrills out of the LSA range, but LS3-powered HSV products are the best on offer. There's enough leeway for a rank amateur like yours truly to have fun without getting into trouble.
The new mechanical sound enhancer and limited build numbers make this one of the best big performance propositions on the market. If I could convince my wife that the bigger boot and proximity sensing key makes it a more advanced option than her Mazda 2, I'd have one sitting in our driveway.
Until then, I'll jealously watch as you drive by. Bastard.