No longer the brand's halo car, Dave hits the road, and the track, in the last-ever locally-built HSV GTS to find out if the model's still special...
How quickly things change. In August 2013, Barack Obama was President of the United States, Kevin Rudd was Prime Minister of Australia (again), and the 430kW Gen-F HSV GTS launched as the most powerful HSV you could buy.
Three years and seven months on, and Donald Trump is America's Commander in Chief, Malcom Turnbull has the prime ministership (barely), and the GTS has been twice toppled by the 435kW GTSR and 474kW GTSR W1. So, has the now-humble GTS lost some of its significance? Hardly.
Rolling through Sandown Raceway’s main gates is always exciting. It’s even more exciting when you’re behind the wheel of one of the finest supercharged rear-wheel-drive V8-powered cars this country has ever produced.
Knowing this was potentially our last chance to experience the awesome grunt and hustle of the HSV GTS (HSV says they're only building around 90 more GTSs before production switches focus to the GTSR range in mid-April), the track was exactly where we wanted to be.
The Sting red car you see here is the final iteration of the Gen-F2-based GTS, the 2017 HSV GTS 30 Years – celebrating the brand’s 30th year in operation – and it marks the end of the Zeta platform for HSV, along with the rest of the 2017 line-up.
Topping the new 30 Years range, the GTS sits above the Maloo R8 LSA ($79,990), ClubSport R8 LSA ($82,990), automatic-only ClubSport R8 Tourer LSA ($88,990), and Senator Signature ($95,990). But while the rest of the LSA-powered models see their 400kW/671Nm V8 powerplant grow to 410kW and 691Nm (up 10kW and 20Nm), the GTS receives no such boost.
Powered by the already-thunderous supercharged 6.2-litre LSA, the 2017 HSV GTS 30 Years outputs 430kW of power at 6150rpm and 740Nm of torque at 3850rpm. And although the engine may not have been touched for the car’s final year of production, it is sporting some changes.
There are ‘30 Years’-branded front fenders, floor mats, and sill plates, a neat ‘30 Years’ rear window sticker, and a special engine build plate. New front and rear bumpers are also thrown into the mix, as well as new side skirts and bonnet vents, and new matte black accents for the GTS’s 20-inch alloy wheels.
Further, revised suspension joins a pleasingly re-calibrated bi-modal exhaust system, while torque vectoring continues as standard equipment, along with HSV’s Enhanced Driver Interface (EDI) and the GTS’s excellent AP Racing brake package (comprising 390mm discs up front, 372mm discs out back, and bright yellow six-piston calipers all around).
Here’s the first sticking point though. When it launched back in 2013, the Gen-F GTS was priced at $92,990 (before on-road costs), with the optional six-speed automatic commanding another $2500. In late 2014, prices were nudged a little higher to $94,490, with the auto again setting buyers back an additional $2500. Late 2015 saw the launch of the Gen-F2 GTS, and another price creep, with the starting price upped to $95,990.
Prices then held firm, until 2017 pricing and specifications were announced, and HSV revealed GTS pricing was up again, kicking off at $98,990 (before on-road costs).
With the Clayton-based operation maintaining its $2500 cost for automatics, that makes our test car worth $101,490. Add in its $550 paint and $795 optional Red Hot heated leather seats, and you’re looking at a $102,835 proposition (before on-road costs).
Here’s the second sticking point. No matter how hard we tried – and we really did try – the best average fuel consumption number we could muster was 14.4 litres per 100km.
Now, two things are important to note here. One, the GTS claims 15.0L/100km on the combined cycle. And two, that damned re-calibrated bi-modal exhaust system sounds so good, it makes driving the thing conservatively even more challenging than ever before.
Nevertheless, after a week in the CarAdvice Melbourne garage, being ‘enjoyed’ by all and sundry, we averaged 20.2L/100km – and that’s coming down from a peak of 36.7L/100km, recorded after our time at Sandown Raceway.
Speaking of Sandown, we went to the racetrack south-east of Melbourne with two goals in mind: make a short video highlighting the aurally-pleasing bi-modal exhaust system, and see if we could match the GTS’s 4.4-second 0-100km/h claim.
With the fun and silliness of the video out of the way, we got serious, hooked up the VBox, and did some science-ing.
As we discovered in October last year when we drove the 2016 HSV Clubsport R8 Track Edition in torrential rain at Sandown Raceway, the 255mm-wide front/275mm-wide rear 35-aspect Continental ContiSportContact 5P tyres fitted to both the R8 Track Edition and GTS, are sensational, providing more consistent and reliable grip than you might think.
With HSV’s launch control system strictly reserved for manual models, we were left to rely on the six-speed automatic transmission and its associated plastic paddle shifters.
In a bid to net the best result, we decided to use three different methods.
For the first run, we put the GTS’s three-mode driver preference dial into its most extreme ‘Track’ mode – automatically putting the stability control system into a more lenient ‘Competitive’ mood – and left the gear selector in Drive. Getting cleanly off the line with no wheelspin, the GTS hit our target speed in 4.8 seconds.
Leaving the car in Track mode for the second run, we flicked the gear selector across into Sport, and gave it the beans. The result? A shakier start with more wheelspin, but the more aggressive gearbox setting proved a good move, with the GTS reaching triple figures in 4.7 seconds.
For our last run, we went full ‘Beast Mode’, disabling stability control altogether and leaving the gear selector in Sport. Requiring only the slightest hint of off-the-line throttle control, the GTS hooked up well, and thundered to 100km/h in a repeatable 4.5 seconds – just 0.1s off HSV’s claim. Not bad.
Coming standard with HSV’s adjustable Magnetic Ride Control (MRC) suspension, the GTS allows drivers to leave the track and switch things into a more compliant, comfortable, and forgiving ‘Sport’ setting – rather than the firmer setup attached to both ‘Performance’ and ‘Track’.
Switching from Sport to Performance/Track, or vice versa, is instantly noticeable, with exhaust noise and steering weight also significantly altered.
Leave things in Sport, and the HSV GTS really does make for a good long-haul cruiser, feeling remarkably similar to a nicely-specced V8 Holden Commodore – no bad thing. That said, road and tyre noise from the low-profile Continentals is quite high at freeway speeds, and rear vision is somewhat hindered by the GTS’s rear wing.
Regardless of mode though, the GTS’s ride/handling balance is excellent for a circa-1800kg sports sedan with this much genuine track potential. And even in its firmest tune, the GTS never feels what you’d consider to be ‘harsh’.
Impressively, despite all the power and all the torque lurking under that big ventilated bonnet, the GTS never feels sketchy either. It’s not an intimidating car to drive, and it never feels as though it’s going to bite you. It just feels fast. Fast and planted.
It’s true, below 2000rpm, the supercharged LSA doesn’t quite have the delightful response of the naturally aspirated 6.2-litre LS3. However, once north of around 3000rpm, it really does know how to pack on numbers.
The 2017 HSV GTS 30 Years may not be cutting-edge, but overall, the thing drives well, stops well, and gets off the line and up to speed astonishingly well, all while offering space for five adults plus a proper boot.
With tech including a multi-mode head-up display, rear-view camera, front and rear parking sensors, semi-automatic park assist, forward-collision alert, lane-departure warning, and blind-spot monitoring all on board, equipment levels are still good too – even if the model’s age is starting to catch up with it, a la its lack of Apple CarPlay or Android Auto compatibility, adaptive cruise control, and autonomous emergency braking (AEB).
The 2017 HSV GTS 30 Years is a car that can make you smile every day, and keep you smiling whenever you get the opportunity to get it on track. It may no longer be the brand’s ‘halo car’, but it’s most definitely still fast, most definitely still cool, most definitely still entertaining, and most definitely still special. And at the end of the day, isn’t that why you buy one?
Listen to the exhaust of the 2017 HSV GTS 30 Years.
Listen to the Bluetooth quality calling from the 2017 HSV GTS 30 Years.
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