James takes a ride on the Highway to Hell in the 2016 HSV GTS - and brings AC/DC along for the ride
When it comes to the road-going equivalent of Aussie three-chord pub rock, nothing says AC/DC more than the 2016 HSV GenF-2 GTS.
Every image and thought of the car conjures up a setlist of heavy guitar and screaming vocals, its almost as if AC/DC songs are subconsciously playing in the background the whole time.
I won’t start by Beating Around the Bush, the GTS is a serious Rock-n-Roll Train. A true-blue Live Wire that will make you want for a simpler time of lazier days and cheaper fuel.
It proves that the tried and tested formula of a big engine and rear wheel drive will still keep the Riff Raff happy, despite not being the most technologically radical machine on the block.
That’s not to say HSV haven’t progressed. It’s a Long Way to the Top and in 1990 the iconic VN SS Group A Commodore was built by HSV as a racing homologation special, which produced a then-impressive 215kW.
Twenty-five years on and the 2016 GTS runs exactly twice that number.
Power-wise, the GTS is HSV’s Big Gun and packs a tuned version of the General Motors LSA supercharged, 6.2-litre V8 engine. Make no mistake, She’s Got Balls – there’s 430kW and 740Nm of torque, all driven through the 275mm wide rear tyres.
The price is up $1000 over the GenF-1 GTS to $95,990 (plus on road costs) for the six-speed manual ‘Jungle Green’ test car we have here. Add $2500 for the auto.
Unlike it’s ‘lesser’ Clubsport sibling, the GTS’s output remains unchanged from the 2015 GenF car. The F-2 update is largely cosmetic. The front bar has been revised and, like the Clubsport, the new lower lip integrates into side skirts that extend to the updated rear diffuser – which still houses the quad-tip bimodal exhaust.
There are new 20-inch forged wheel designs (20-inch cast-wheels are standard, forged are a $595 option), new bonnet vents and a new colour option – Slipstream Blue - but that's pretty much it.
The more aggressive body elements suit the shape and size of the donor-Commodore well, but the low seating position and long bonnet of the GTS will no doubt see some repairs made to that front splitter if you make regular nose-in parking manoeuvres.
Supporting the Big Balls under the bonnet are a host of other performance-oriented features including 390mm front and 372mm rear two-piece, cross-drilled brake rotors that are paired with six-piston callipers – painted yellow of course.
There is HSV’s three-stage magnetic ride control system for the suspension, and an intelligent torque-vectoring system to help reduce understeer when punting the 1,841kg GTS through the bends.
You also score the Superflow rear spoiler, LED running lamps and a subtle GTS badge on the front grille, and if you prefer to be Back in Black, you can option a contrasting roof to complete the aggressive look.
Fire up the LSA and the GTS doesn’t quite Shake Your Foundations. At idle there is a distinctive rumble, but given the lack of subtlety about the GTS, and that we firmly believe that Rock-n-Roll ain’t Noise Pollution, so a bit more audible TNT at city speeds wouldn’t go astray.
HSV claim they cannot activate the car’s trick bimodal exhaust outside of a performance environment due to emissions laws. Call us old-fashioned, but that only makes us like the car more.
Get the formula of throttle position, speed and exhaust pressure just right though and Let There Be Rock! The bypass valve in the exhaust opens with an uncivilised ‘clank’ and any excess gas in the system is vented with an audible ‘whoosh’. The LSA’s rumble shifts an octave to a distinctive snarl.
It is a super-addictive process that makes you want to clear the afternoon schedule, grab the fuel card and leave the suburbs behind.
Get out of town then, and Hells Bells this thing can hustle.
Out west of Melbourne, the land is flat and and the roads are empty. This is Mad Max territory and the big HSV feels like it could handle the lawless apocalypse as well as the black Interceptor… despite being bright green.
Find an open stretch of blacktop, Shake a Leg and the big HSV gathers speed like a Heatseeker. The 100km/h sprint is dispatched in under five seconds, and speeds that will necessitate a Jailbreak in your near future piling on soon after.
We know that fuel use isn’t a primary concern of GTS buyers, but we weren’t able to come very close to the already-high claimed combined cycle of 15.3L/100km. Think mid-20s and above.
Gosh it is fun though.
The car has obviously been designed for Australian roads as even in the firmest ‘Track’ suspension setting, there is no feeling that You Shook Me All Night Long. The car is compliant and predictable even on questionable B-Road surfaces. The directness of the sportier suspension tunes doesn’t compromise comfort, and as such the car is softer than any European counterparts.
Straight line speed isn’t the only party trick of the GTS either. The torque-vectoring system and racing heritage of the HSV result in a deceptively nimble car that manages to hook up traction even out of the tightest bends. You feel you can brake late, find the apex then just Shoot to Thrill, and the car has your back.
That’s not to say you can’t incite a bit of wheel-spin and oversteer if you want to… just not on a public road.
Back in town (freshly filled) the GTS somehow feels bigger and more cumbersome than the Commodore on which it is based. Perhaps it’s the lower ride, perhaps it’s the eager V8 – the thing does 20km/h at idle – but it might just be the more basic elements of the Holden DNA questioning your judgement in parting with $100-grand.
Negatives of the GTS? Well If you Want Blood (You’ve got it)…
The HSV-branded elements around the cabin feel a bit naff and common components like air vents and trim pieces do feel a bit like Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap. We found our boot reluctant to open at the best of times, not to mention the inherent Commodore ‘feature’ of having no external release (it has to be opened via the key for or in the cabin).
A nice extra that used to feature on the HSV were a pair of analogue gauges below the climate controls. These have gone in the name of ‘cost saving’ and in our opinion it’s a shame.
The eight-inch touchscreen houses Holden’s MyLink infotainment system and it is good, but not great. Our Bluetooth connection dropped out mid-call a number of times – an outcome by no means limited to the GTS – and the generic ‘genre’ icons when streaming music should have gone in the bin years ago.
Speaking of graphics that look old, the HSV Enhanced Driver Interface app on the screen has some really cool data features – you can watch suspension compression on each corner, or set a lap timer that knows by GPS which racetrack you are at… but it looks like a Ride On Daytona arcade machine that swallowed almost a GTS worth of my $2 coins back in the 1990s…
The thing is, after a few days behind the wheel of the GTS, none of these things matter. It’s not hard to spend six-figures on a car these days, and you have to spend a lot more to find something that even comes close to the High Voltage output of the HSV.
It might be a bit clunky and simple but the GTS encapsulates the spirit of Australian car culture. Big, comfortable, unapologetic with loud, brutal performance that will leave you Thunderstruck.
Everything you need is there, the top-spec Commodores are remarkably well-equipped, and while there may be no adaptive cruise control or autonomous driving assistants… who cares.
It is hard to keep a Stiff Upper Lip knowing that, pending any special editions, the 2016 HSV GenF-2 GTS marks the end of the line for the Australian-built, Commodore-based HSV sports sedan.
No matter who you are, what you drive, or where your opinion rests on which AC/DC song is the best… we challenge you to drive the GTS and not come away smiling. A potential investment, future classic and best-of compilation all rolled into one.
It may not be the most modern, efficient or elegant way to churn fossil fuels into tyre smoke, but when its just you and the Highway to Hell, the HSV GTS is still a Whole Lotta Rosie.
Click on the Photos tab for more images by James Ward and Tom Fraser.
Videography by Igor Solomon.