HSV GTSR W1 v BMW M3 Competition v Mercedes-AMG C63 S v Alfa Romeo Giulia QV
Australia. It's the country where there's always an insect, animal or sea creature trying to kill you. It's also the country that once housed a thriving car industry.
But, instead of crying over spilt milk, we're showing the world one last time why the constant fear of death has inspired our local engineers to build a car that's itching at the chance to chew you up and spit you out.
The manic HSV GTSR W1 (a title that's yelled at you in text) represents the fastest and most powerful Australian production car ever built. With only 300 making their way to customer's hands, it's unlikely you'll ever see one on the road.
It uses a stupendous 6.2-litre supercharged V8 LS9 engine, last seen on one of Corvette's fastest ever built vehicles. It makes 474kW of power and a crazy 815Nm of torque, pushing that torque through an old fashioned six-speed manual gearbox.
We're so proud of our Aussie creation that we wanted to put it to the ultimate test. A drag race against the fastest rear-wheel drive performance sedans on the market.
We found an air strip just north of nowhere and had a brief slot during the morning that we could run and film the entire race sequence.
Starting at 4:30AM, we had to wait until fog lifted before we could start racing. We also had a strict cut off time, with a large charter plane landing on the runway we would be barreling down at over 200km/h.
Sticking with the theme of our last drag race (Tesla Model S P85D v Supercheap Auto V8 Supercar), we wanted to punt an Australian supercar against some of the world's best sports cars.
One of the best known cars in this segment is the mighty BMW M3 Competition. Offering more power, the Competition sharpens the already impressive offering from BMW.
Under the bonnet of the M3 Competition is a 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged inline six-cylinder engine that cranks out 331kW of power and 550Nm of torque.
The engine is mated to a lightning fast seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission that also features a launch control function for optimum race starts.
The loudest of the three European cars is the gruff Mercedes-AMG C63 S, which leads the Euro pack with a 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 engine that pushes out 375kW of power and 700Nm of torque.
It sends that torque through a multi-clutch seven-speed automatic gearbox that includes an easy to use launch control function.
The all-new Alfa Romeo Giulia QV recently entered the market with a scarily quick Nurburgring lap time and debuts an all-new platform for the Italian manufacturer.
Powered by a 2.9-litre twin-turbocharged V6 engine producing 375kW of power, the Giulia QV is the car equivalent of running with the bulls. Race mode disengages all driver aids and when this tempered engine comes on boost, it's on for young and old.
Instead of using a fancy dual-clutch gearbox, Alfa Romeo stuck with a slick ZF Sachs eight-speed automatic that provides quick gear shifts and a smooth low-speed driving experience, but it misses out on launch control.
The challenge is simple – which of these four sports sedans is quickest from a standing start over around 400m?
We originally intended to run the cars three wide, but given how snappy the Alfa Romeo and BMW were with their driver aids switched off (a requirement for getting maximum traction), we decided to run each drag race with the cars two abreast.
The runway is around 1500m long, which allowed us enough room to hit the 400m mark at around 200km/h with enough room to brake. The surface at the start of the runway was a little gravelly, which presented some unique challenges.
The Mercedes-AMG, BMW and HSV all have a launch control function. While the Mercedes-AMG continuously hooked up from a standing start, the BMW only allowed around half of its torque delivery in first gear with launch control, before snapping sideways in second and third (because all driver aids need to be switched off for launch control to function).
HSV's Aussie bruiser was much the same – the launch control function isn't anywhere near as advanced as the one in the Mercedes-AMG or BMW and given it's a manual transmission, we decided to do the shifting ourselves with the driver aids switched off. It presented the quickest way to get off the line with optimum traction.
Before we go any further, here's a breakdown of the vehicle specifications.
|BMW M3 Competition||Mercedes-AMG C63 S||Alfa Romeo Giulia QV||HSV GTSR W1|
|3.0TT I6 7DCT||4.0TT V8 7MCT||2.9TT V6 8AT||6.2SC V8 6MT|
|331kW (444Hp) / 550Nm||375kW (503Hp) / 700Nm||375kW (503Hp) / 600Nm||474kW (636Hp) / 815Nm|
|0-100km/h: 4.0s (3.8s to 60mph)||0-100km/h: 4.0s (3.9s to 60mph)||0-100km/h: 3.9s (3.8s to 60mph)||0-100km/h: 4.1s|
|1522kg (3355lb)||1783kg (3931lb)||1585kg (3494lb)||1850kg (4079lb)|
First up it was the BMW M3 Competition against the Mercedes-AMG C63 S.
With Dave Zalstein behind the wheel of the M3 Competition, he found the best way to launch was with the vehicle in MDM mode and no launch control. Launch control caused the computers to cut torque (even with driver aids off) and then it started to get hairy in second and third when it delivered a full hit of torque causing the car to get squirmy.
In the C63 S, I simply engaged launch control by pulling the paddles simultaneously in Race mode with my foot on the brake, selecting the Plus paddle to engage, holding the throttle in and then releasing the brake pedal.
The Benz was incredible – it hooked up perfectly off the line and squirmed for traction as it grabbed second, but from there it just kept pulling.
Once both cars had traction, the BMW started catching the Mercedes-AMG, but it wasn't enough. It was pipped at the finish line by at least a car length.
Given the figures, we think the BMW would likely win if the launch control functioned correctly, but it wasn't meant to be.
Next cab off the rank was the Alfa Romeo Giulia QV against the Mercedes-AMG C63 S.
I stayed in the C63 S and Dave swapped into the Giulia. Given it doesn't have launch control, Dave engaged Race mode (which switches off all driver aids) and found the optimum launch rpm to get it off the line with minimal wheel spin.
Even when finding the sweet spot, he found that it would try and squirm sideways when changing to second, but was well and truly hooked up by third.
The results really surprised us – at the halfway mark when the Giulia finally found traction it started pulling ahead. Incredibly, by the finish line it won by a little more than a full car length.
At this point, both Dave and I, along with the rest of the crew were amazed with the noise coming out of these cars. Especially the AMG – they sound ridiculous at full throttle as they barrel down the runway.
Finally, it was time for the Euro victor, the Alfa Romeo Giulia QV to go head-to-head with the thunder from down under – the car, not the Aussie male strippers – the HSV GTSR W1.
This was going to be tricky – the W1 uses a manual gearbox and the launch control fitted to the car wasn't crash hot. It caused the car to bog down and took away control from the driver.
After practising the launch a few times, I landed on an optimum launch rpm – around 2600rpm. Coupled with a slight clutch slip, it ended up being the best way to get it off the line.
We lined up and prepared for a drag race that would define Australia's position in the sports car market.
As the countdown commenced, we both prepared the cars, increased revs and took off!
The start in the HSV was nearly perfect with a slight sideways snap into second before it hooked up and began pulling like a freight train.
At the point I changed from second to third we were almost neck and neck. It's at the point of grabbing third that the GTSR W1 started to make a move on the Giulia QV.
It's at this point that Dave started laughing – not because he was losing, but because the noise coming from the rear of the Aussie muscle car was so insanely good.
Around three quarters of the way down the 400m run I grabbed fourth gear at which point the HSV started pushing well ahead of the Alfa Romeo. We ended up crossing the finish line at over 200km/h with the HSV around two to three car lengths ahead of the Alfa Romeo.
Without a word of a lie, we literally had 10 minutes to wrap up the last runs with the HSV and Alfa Romeo (including photos and video) before a charter flight needed to land on our runway.
We finished this set of drag races grinning ear to ear. As car nuts, both Dave and I were incredibly chuffed to be able to bring you this story and even more chuffed that the HSV took victory.
It's a platform that's around 10 years old and the LS9 retrofit to the GTS body is a car lover's wet dream. To be able to take on and dispatch three of the fastest European rear-wheel drive four-door sedans on the market makes us both proud and excited to be part of it.
What do you think about the W1's performance? Were you surprised with the results? What else would you like to see drag raced?
Listen to the CarAdvice team discuss this drag race below, and catch more like this at caradvice.com/podcast.