The HSV GTS has become an instant classic. The fastest car designed, engineered and built in Australia has a waiting list that stretches three months and beyond. If it turns out that this Commodore truly is the last (as is sadly but increasingly likely) then the HSV GTS will be a fitting exclamation point.

We've already tested the six-speed manual version of the HSV GTS, which has so far been the enthusiasts' favourite, lining it up against the world's fastest sports sedan, the 'bahn-storming Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG. But after sampling the six-speed automatic version of the HSV GTS, we've discovered a whole new car.

Explore the 2014 HSV GTS Range

Value

Automatic transmission adds $2500 to the HSV GTS's $92,990 price tag, which means it's a snip over $100,000 by the time you're in the traffic. It's money well spent. As we discovered to our surprise (manual fans, look away now) the automatic is not only smoother, it accelerates faster than the manual version.

Technology

On your $100,000 Holden, you get the lot: all available safety and technology features from the top-line Holden Calais-V and HSV Senator, plus a thumping supercharged 6.2-litre V8, race-style brakes and suspension technology shared with Ferrari. Tiny magnetically controlled particles in the shock absorbers adjust the suspension response to road conditions. The driver also has a choice of three modes, from comfort to sport.

There are built in "track trace" maps, which record the performance of the car (and your lap times) at every motor racing circuit in Australia. HSV has adapted "torque vectoring" technology, similar to that used by Porsche. Translated, it means it will keep the car tidy in corners by subtly applying the brakes as required.

Design

The gaping air inlet in the front bumper feeds plenty of cool air to the V8. It's almost double the size of that in the previous GTS.

Driving

HSV claims a 0-100km/h time of 4.4 seconds for the new GTS. The best we could get out of a manual was a 4.7 seconds and that wasn't sparing the horses. Then a colleague took an automatic GTS to a drag strip and clocked 4.3. Granted, the sticky surface of the drag strip start line would have helped, but even on the road the automatic version of the GTS just feels much more toey than the manual.

The other pleasant surprise is the calibration of the automatic shift. It's as smooth as a luxury car even though it's trying to tame a wild beast. The only thing to improve it would be paddle-shifters on the steering wheel. Its refinement perhaps shouldn't come as much of a surprise given that this engine and gearbox were also developed for a high-performance Cadillac in the US.

Meanwhile, cornering grip and the ride over bumps are superb, despite running on massive 20-inch wheels. But the on-centre feeling of the electric power steering is still a little vague at freeway and suburban speeds. Overall this is class act and it will be a shame that Australian designers, engineers and factory workers are unlikely to be able to take the credit for such a magic piece of machinery in future. Instead, they'll be fitting badges to foreign products.

With that in prospect, no wonder enthusiasts and collectors are snapping up the HSV GTS, while it still exists.

Verdict

The HSV GTS automatic is not just an alternative to the manual transmission, it's a completely different car.