A quick note before I jump into the review. In case you haven’t read any other of my Owner Car Reviews, I’m a 14-year-old from Sydney, and I have a passion for cars.
As I’m sure you know, the Holden factory in Elizabeth closed in October of last year. It was a very sad moment, especially for my dad.
My dad has always been a Holden guy, and I’ve experienced my fair share of that growing up. He goes to Bathurst each year for the Supercars race, and has owned four HSVs over the years (VR Clubsport, LS1-powered VT II Clubsport, 307kW VE Clubsport R8 and his current car that I’ll get into). He has owned so many, he’s part of the prestigious HSV Frequent Buyers Club (you must have owned more than three HSVs to be eligible). So, you can imagine what it was like when he took delivery of his MY14 HSV Clubsport R8 in February of 2014.
Well, by delivery I don’t really mean delivery. As soon as the car arrived from HSV’s Clayton facility, it was sent over to a local performance shop to get a Walkinshaw W375 kit added on, which boosts the 6.2-litre naturally aspirated LS3's power from 325kW to 375kW, through ceramic-coated headers, dual active cat-back exhausts, a cold-air intake and ECU calibration.
And my god, those modifications are evident. The exhaust is the best mod of all – the amount of rumble and noise you get is insane. Even when in an underground parking garage, cold starts can be heard from three stories above. Talking to someone in the back seat while doing 130km/h on the freeway? Good luck. It’s a barrel of laughs and giggles.
That’s probably the best way to describe the R8. Want to pull almost 1g through the Victoria Pass? Check. Want to kick the tail out when leaving the car wash? Check. Want to dominate the traffic light grand prix? Check. There isn’t much, performance wise, that the R8 can’t do. Well… apart from 6:47.3 Nürburgring laps that is.
Now, as every Toyota C-HR owner knows, a car isn’t just defined by its performance and go-fast talent – let's move on to comfort and practicality. Let's be real now, unless you're a family of six, you don't need a CX-9, Territory or X5 – a Clubsport R8 is all you need. There's plenty of space when sitting in the very comfortable front bucket seats, and boot volume is a mammoth 496L – however, the back seats are where the R8 (and the VF Commodore in general) really shines. It doesn't matter whether you are six years old or six-foot tall, you'll never have a problem with leg room, head room or shoulder room. Forget about your SUV or sports car – this, with the exception of the manic GTS-R W1, is the best Aussie road trip vehicle ever built.
Looks wise, the 2014 Clubsport R8 is an aggressive vehicle. It has that mean, low stance you expect from a HSV (bar the SportsCat). It has tougher-looking front and rear bumpers (which I actually prefer over the GTS), coupled with wider fenders and lowered suspension. The boot lid is home to the R8’s surprisingly small spoiler, which oddly is considerably smaller than the one on my dad’s old VE Clubsport R8.
Let’s move on to technology and features. For an Australian car that first broke cover in mid-2013, and was in development since 2009 or 2010, the features list is extremely impressive. Forward collision alert, lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring, hill hold, a head up display, rear cross traffic alert, an automatic parking system – the list goes on. However, there are a few modern technologies the R8 misses out on – AEB (cough, cough Stinger 330S), a digital driver’s display and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto.
Speaking of infotainment systems, the R8 uses the 2013 version of Holden’s MyLink system. The system, considering its age, is very good. It has a fully fledged satellite-navigation system with traffic, messaging functions, media apps like Stitcher and Pandora (RIP) and a hell of a lot more. Aesthetics wise, most people would consider MyLink dated (I don’t) – it’s probably comparable to iDrive 2 or MZD Connect in appearance.
The Clubsport R8 isn’t perfect. If HSV had done a Gen-F3 facelift with things like an infotainment overhaul with full phone connectivity, folding rear seats and AEB, this car would be absolutely fantastic.
In short, the 2014 HSV Clubsport R8 is all you could ever want from a car. It’s blisteringly quick. It’s massive inside. It looks more aggressive than most of the cars on the road. It is very well equipped, even by today’s standards.
Next time you’re in the market for a modern, fast family car that won’t break the bank, remember this: before you buy a Stinger, a ZB Commodore or another damn SUV, take a second to check the used market, because there’s a VF Clubsport R8 somewhere out there ready to steal your heart.