“Crickey, that thing is so wicked, it ought to be illegal,” the first words uttered by an excited Kiwi V8 Supercar driver Greg Murphy after stepping from his first few minutes in Holden Special Vehicles range topping W427 sports sedan.
Let’s be plain from the beginning, ‘Murph’ has spent more than a few minutes going very, very fast in all manner of cars, not just his regular V8 Supercar ride.
– David Twomey
Whatismore, it was palpably plain from the excitement on his face as he burst into The Chalet at GM Holden’s Proving Ground complex at Lang Lang outside Melbourne that he had had more fun than normally is the case, at least sitting down!
I, and my assembled motoring writer colleagues, stopped eating our very excellent GM provided lunch as Greg repeated his statement and then went on to wax lyrical for several more minutes on just how much fun HSV’s “supercar” W427 was – and all he’d done is a few laps of the so-called “ride and handling track” – a simulation of just about every bad piece of Australian road that GM has been able to put together.
Even better was to come later, certainly for yours truly, but let’s roll back a few hours to an early morning start in Clayton at the industrial complex-hidden headquarters of HSV.
While much of the local motoring media had spent a day at a wet and windy Calder Park Raceway near Melbourne with the HSV W427, CarAdvice was invited along to a road drive program from HSV HQ in Clayton that was to culminate at the super-secret Lang Lang Proving Ground with the opportunity to drive the W427 on some of the test tracks, in company with aforementioned Mr Murphy.
How could we refuse? Of course we didn’t!
In the beginning there were the usual presentations from a string of HSV executives who explained that the W427 will be built to a total of 427 individually constructed vehicles over the next two years and the first 90, governed by the availability of the LS7, 7.0-litre V8 monster that goes under the bonnet, will be built and delivered to owners who, apparently, have happily parted with $155,000 for the most expensive Holden Commodore, and the most expensive HSV, ever built.
The W427 was conceived to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of HSV and the 375kW/640Nm Chevrolet Corvette-engined W427 is the car “HSV has always wanted to build” according to engineering manager Joel Stoddart.
He added that it had been the focus for the organisation over the past two years.
Like most of HSV’s powerplants the LS7 engine is shipped direct from the GM Performance Build Centre in North America, but all the external bits, including the dry-sump system, the exhaust and the cold-air induction system were all developed right here in Australia.
The standard Corvette engine computer and the Electronic Stability Control system were also modified after a year of local development work.
HSV’s Managing Director Phil Harding was keen to tell us that the W427 demonstrated that engineering and design ingenuity was alive and well in the Australian car industry.
He’s also keen to have the W427 identified as a ‘supercar’ and while we doubt its credentials as such, preferring the tag to remain with somewhat more bespoke automotive creations, there is no doubting that this is one of the most competent cars ever built by HSV.
HSV’s design team, led by Julian Quincey, are also keen to ensure that the distinctive mark they have left on the W427 doesn’t go un-noticed.
Quincey told us;” the design brief for the W427 was to create a unique face for this HSV, one that would signal the car’s immense capability, authority and power.”
“The W427 is the flagship of the HSV range and we wanted to emphasise the hand-built qualities of this car, “ he said.
Has this been achieved, we think not entirely as the W427 still looks very much like a regular HSV with a few enhancements, including a very subtle rear spoiler, made in hand-laid carbon-fibre that takes one day to lay up and two days to clear-coat finish to mirror smoothness, very nice but almost too understated for an HSV!
The biggest design statement is probably the wheels, their ‘castellated’ design graphic is repeated in the W427 badging and is the work of a former Wheels Young Designer of the Year, Adam Dean Smith.
They are certainly very distinctive and a definite statement as far as the W427 goes.
So to the business end of the W427, let’s get it on the road and see how it drives.
Our initial route, in a convoy of four cars, led by a yet to be released HSV Tourer, was through the suburbs of Melbourne heading towards some less trafficked outer suburban roads and then onto a series of country roads that would eventually take us to the Lang Lang Proving Ground.
Sitting behind the wheel of the most powerful locally built car ever with Program Manager Graeme Dusting riding shotgun I have to say the initial impressions are of surprising driveability and total lack of temperament.
This could have been a car all full of menace with a ride to rattle your fillings and brakes, steering and clutch to match, but instead this is a car with sophistication, that goes like a race car but has a docile and well-mannered side that means you could live with it every day if that’s what you chose to do.
We suspect, indeed HSV say so, that more than a few owners will simply take delivery of their W427 and park it in the garage in the hope that a decade down the track it will be worth a lot more than the $155,000 they paid out.
Equally we believe a lot of owners will enjoy these cars for what they are, something close to their revered Holden V8 Supercar, and will drive them both on a daily basis and on track-days.
Slipping the lever of the six-speed Tremec TR6060 transmission into first and letting out the surprisingly light clutch, thanks to HSV’s revised actuator system, produces an effect that may not have been expected – ease of operation. This is a car you could actually drive in stop-start traffic, in fact we did just that and didn’t end up with sore leg nor any other discomfort.
Incidentally there is no automatic version, the W427 produces just too much power, but the manual box has two overdrive gears and slots through the cogs with a minimum of fuss.
As the traffic began to clear, and we did need to keep up with the convoy (well that was my excuse) the throttle pedal got a substantial prod and the W427 lept into life with all the urgency of a racecar.
Power delivery is very linear from the mid-range and there is no sudden peak in the torque curve, making it all feel very controllable without the risk of any sudden traction-breaking surge.
At the same time there is the NOISE! Oh yes, the noise, now I’ve driven the new Mercedes-Benz C63 and I have to say nothing sounds more like a V8 race car than that, but this comes damn close.
Much of the noise is due to a very fancy exhaust system, using bi-modal rear mufflers that are computer controlled! These are necessary to meet idle and drive-by noise requirements under the ADRs.
The power of the W427 also makes light work of the car’s considerable weight, at 1847kg it is 45kg heavier than a ClubSport R8.
At the same time there’s enormous grip available from the big tyres and some hard work a little later at the Proving Ground revealed progressive breakaway that is easy to control, while the brakes – HSV’s first ever six-pot front callipers – provide commendable feel and prodigious stopping power that is confidence inspiring.
A real surprise was the ride quality, not usually expected from a car running on 20-inch wheels, 8.0-inch wide at the front and 9.5-inch at the rear with low profile tyres, 35-series front and 30-series rear. It also needs to be remembered that the W427 rides 20mm lower than a GTS and has 30 percent stiffer springs and shock absorbers all round.
Personally never a great fan of HSV’s Magnetic Ride Control(MRC) system we have to say that the revised calibration in the W427 is something of a revelation, providing good manners or all but the harshest of bumps on the “Ride and Handling Track” at Lang Lang, even with the dashboard-mounted control button selected in the “track” setting for ultimate handling performance.
So let’s cut to the chase – a few quick laps around the “ride and handling track” with your CarAdvice editor at the wheel proved that the W427 can really cut it with the quickest of cars and while it may not be as sophisticated as a real “supercar” but it is very controlled, very balanced and very quick.
It felt as compliant as a number of European sports sedans that it would vie with for customers, underscoring its daily driver credentials.
Now the Lang Lang Proving Ground has one feature that’s not usually available to mere mortal motoring journalists and that is a Speed Bowl.
This neutral handling facility has three lanes, the top most being reserved to cars being tested at very high speed and seeing as we are here, with the self-proclaimed fastest locally-made car ever it would be a shame not to put it to the test.
So here we sit, Greg Murphy is strapped into the driver’s seat of a menacingly black HSV W427, your intrepid editor is in the passenger seat and in the back seat is Sarah from HSV’s PR Department.
Greg wheels the W427 out onto the lower lane of the Speed Bowl and we beginning gathering speed.
“You know this thing has a fuel cut out at 270km/h,” he casually drops into our conversation.
“How do I know, well I hit it” he adds.
I suggest to “Murph” that it would be a good idea to check that again and we continue to gather speed relentlessly moving up the lanes of the speed bowl as we rocket around heading closer and closer to the end of the 290km/h speedo.
Now into the uppermost lane of the Bowl we are rock steady, cabin noise is contained we are talking at a normal voice level, but my eyes are riveted to the speedo, now hovering tantalisingly close to the 270km/h mark.
Then we hit it and at the very moment a perceptible cut in power is detected and we immediately start to fall away from the magic number until at 250km/h the fuel kicks back in and we continue to circulate.
Greg winds the speed back and we slowly drop back down the bowl until we are cruising around at a mere 180km/h – and yes it does feel like you could get out and walk faster!
It was fun while it lasted and like all good things it had to come to an end – the ride was one to savour, this is certainly one very fast Commodore and one very well engineered one to boot.
Worth it, we doubt it, but that won’t matter one jot to the potential buyers, who just want the meanest, fastest baddest Commodore ever built.