The best automotive excuse to be gassy.
The best automotive excuse to be gassy.
It’s with little doubt that you would expect everything from the pinnacle of the HSV range, but until recently it wasn't the case.
The HSV E2 series introduced LED running lights, bi-modal exhausts and a raft of noticeable styling changes. The Grange was left fairly untouched, even missing out on the GTS’s 325kW monster LS3 engine. There were even rumours suggesting the Grange would be dropped, with HSV focusing solely on their Holden Commodore based products.
It wasn’t until HSV revealed its E3 Series of products that the Grange received the much-needed kick in the pants it was yearning for. Not only did the Grange receive styling updates, it received Australian first technology both under the hood and in the cabin.
While the styling changes are subjective (and a bit busy in my opinion around the front end), the technology is very hard to argue with.
Our test vehicle was fitted with HSV’s all new Liquid Propane Injection (LPI) system. LPI is HSV’s advanced LPG running option. Instead of injecting the fuel as a gas into the engine, the LPI system injects a liquid directly into the engine. The end result is a cooler running environment, a higher octane fuel and significant cost and emissions savings.
Although most people cringe at the thought of LPG anywhere near a performance car, some of the fastest drag cars operate on LPG, as it offers a higher octane level (108RON) than regular petrol, allowing the explosion in the chamber to occur in a much more controlled manner. It is also a cleaner burning fuel in comparison with petrol. I’ll discuss its use in the HSV Grange a little later.
Other changes to the E3 Series include an all new multimedia controller that incorporates a touch screen. The unit in the Grange features a hard disk drive for storing ripped CDs; it also supports iPod connectivity, Bluetooth audio streaming and satellite navigation.
One of the best features of the new system is HSV’s Electronic Driver Interface (EDI). The EDI is activated using a button on the steering wheel. Once active, the advanced system displays a host of data that can be logged to a USB drive for later use.
EDI features lap timers for some of Australia’s most famous tracks. The system uses the onboard GPS to mark the start/stop line and can then keep track of your lap times. G-force meters, wheel slip indicators, over/understeer meters, suspension monitors and even information about vehicles in the blind spot can be displayed on the screen.
It’s a massive leap forward for HSV and displays features that can’t even be optioned on some of the world’s fastest cars.
As you would expect, the Grange is luxuriously appointed throughout the cabin. The build quality is much better than the E1 Grange that I drove a few years ago, as is the ride quality. The Magnetic Ride Control (MRC) uses metal filaments that fill the dampers to vary suspension firmness. The filaments react to an electric pulse up to 100 times a second to vary the firmness of the ride. The ride can be adjusted between Luxury and Performance using a switch on the centre console.
Front and rear leg room is quite simply staggering. It outclasses anything from the Germans or the Japanese in terms of leg and head room. Rear seat passengers also benefit from in-seat DVD screens with wireless headphones.
Although the boot is normally extremely cavernous, it loses around half its capacity due to the LPG tank. With that said, there is still a commendable amount of boot capacity on offer.
One of the main highlights of the E3 Series update for the Grange is the addition of HSV’s 6.2-litre LS3 V8. Producing 325kW and 550Nm of torque, the vehicle consumes 13.9L/100km on the combined cycle running on petrol.
When you turn over the Grange, you know it means business. HSV has fitted a bi-modal exhaust that sits at wide-open during idle. The meaty exhaust note is deep and gives the Grange added oomph that the V8 Holden Caprice simply can’t match.
Despite its 1850kg mass, the 325kW LS3 does a marvellous job of propelling the Grange. The experience is further enhanced at around 4000rpm, when the bi-modal exhaust baffles open once more to emit a belting soundtrack that can be enjoyed both inside and outside the cabin.
The only let-down in the drivetrain is the gearbox, which feels far too slow and dull for the top-spec HSV. If you pound the throttle on the exit of a corner, the irritatingly slow down-change is only exacerbated by the sudden torrent of torque. It doesn’t feel as smooth or controlled as it could, or as smooth or controlled as it does in FPV’s automatic range of supercharged V8s.
The Grange’s saving grace is its behaviour through corners. With the MRC set to Performance, the body sits flat through bends, even under braking. The only problem that seems to hamper the system is bumps mid-corner, which can jolt the car unexpectedly.
Massive 365mm, four-piston ventilated and slotted rotors take care of braking at the front, while 350mm four-piston ventilated and slotted rotors take care of business at the rear. They offer excellent feedback and are very resistant to fade, even during torturous braking sessions.
It’s almost impossible to pick performance differences between LPG and petrol modes. The system is so well fitted and thought out that even the most switched on driver would never be able to tell when the car was being fed LPG or petrol.
This presents an excellent opportunity for HSV buyers who are looking at taking on that V8 rumble without necessarily having to fork out big dollars each time they refuel.
During testing, the most I could achieve on around 60L of LPG was 450km, which consisted of mainly highway driving. This equates to around 13.3L/100km, which is excellent for LPG use. At an average pump price of $0.65/L, that’s $39 for 450km. Compare that to around 11.5L/100km on petrol during highway driving, which was an average $1.42/L. That equates to around $73.50 for the same distance, a saving of just under 50% on LPG.
I spent almost 1500km behind the wheel of the Grange and the comfort levels, in addition to the amount of gizmos and gadgets, wouldn't leave me doubting the purchase price.
While I’ll be shot for even suggesting a German vehicle in this review, I challenge you to offer justification for the massive price difference.
HSV has really turned on an engineering show with the E3 Series and we should hold our heads high, as this vehicle offers tremendous value for money in a class of peers that would otherwise scoff at the thought of competition from the land down under.
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