Dinosaurs still stalk the earth - and they're as awesome as ever. In motoring terms V8s are a legacy system; evolving emission standards and more efficient downsized engines have forced a gradual retreat of the bent eights until they are now the preserve of performance cars.

But when T-Rex roars, sensible smaller creatures get out of the way. Holden Special Vehicles' latest carnivore is the reintroduced standard ClubSport - and it's still something to cower away from.

VALUE

A driveaway price of $64,990 puts the base model HSV way up the pecking order in terms of outlay for acceleration.

The Commodore-based Clubbie gives away a measly 8kW to the higher-spec HSVs and misses out on the enhanced driver interface, which includes the bi-model exhaust that has enough reverb to do structural damage to buildings. It picks up unique “Pentagon” 20-inch alloy rims, “competition mode” ESC, four-piston brakes, satnav and a reversing camera.

TECHNOLOGY

The facelifted HSVs are rumoured to be the last to use the naturally aspirated V8, with a supercharged engine from General Motors' US catalogue tipped to go under the hood when the VF-based cars roll out this time next year.

For now the 6.2-litre V8s' outputs of 317kW/550Nm are still enough to induce oversteer on demand - at least with the stability control loosened up in competition mode. The six-speed manual is also fitted with launch control to “maximise potential” off the line.

DESIGN

Aggressive styling is one of the reasons the Commodore consistently outsells Falcon. HSV takes that to the ninth degree with an in-your-face front end that is impossible to mistake. It's the motoring equivalent of a breast enhancement: there's nothing subtle about it but it turns heads every time. The interior is still blinged-up Commodore but the bolstered seats hang on as tightly as the Bridgestone Potenza tyres.

SAFETY

The VE Commodore is a five-star car in ANCAP's testing and that forms the starting point for the HSV. Upgraded brakes and a revised ABS/stability control set-up increase the safety threshold before the six airbags are required.

DRIVING

Brutality is rarely this forgiving. The ClubSport takes just on five seconds to haul its 1800kg mass to 100km/h, yet it defies that supercar performance by being as tractable as car around town as the driver wants.

It's old-school motoring at its modern best. The brakes resist fade - at least on the road - and there is unadulterated engagement with the steering wheel and rear wheels. The steering is more feedback-oriented than any Commodore and the back end lets you know when you're on the limit of adhesion - then lets you go a little farther before the dashboard lights start to flicker.

The only downside is the fuel consumption. I don't care - if you can afford $65K to put this car on the road, fuel use in the mid-to-high teens is the least of your worries. I'd stake the manual as first choice, but if I was given an auto I'd leave it in sports mode - the near-instant gear-shifts are much cleaner and more responsive than the default mode. Add in the fact it takes five adults without them becoming too close for comfort and you're dealing with a genuine performance all-rounder.

VERDICT

The HSV ClubSport isn't the sharpest tool in the performance shed, but there's not much that's going to argue with it on the road. The few compromises it makes are more than offset by the relative bargain price and the fact that owners are more interested in get-up-and-go grunt and that burbling V8 than they are in the most efficient way to get to 100km/h.

HSV Clubsport

Price: from $64,990 (auto adds $2000)
Warranty: three years/100,000km
Resale: N/A
Service intervals: nine months/15,000km
Safety: six airbags, ABS with BA and EBD, TC and three-stage ESC
Safety rating: N/A (VE Commodore five stars)
Engine: V8, 317kW/550Nm
Transmission: 6-speed manual, 6-speed auto, RWD
Dimensions: 4.99m (L), 1.89m (W), 1.47m (H)
Thirst: 13.5L/100km (95RON), 320g/km CO2
Weight: 1795kg
Spare: full size (front)