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HSV Clubsport 2013 review

It’s the automotive equivalent of the sibling rivalry between Mark and Steve Waugh. Both are cricket legends in their own right, but the spotlight tended to fall on one player over the other.

So you can imagine how the new HSV Clubsport might be feeling at the moment, if its heart weren’t a high-performance V8 engine. Its bigger and brasher brother, the supercharged HSV GTS, has stolen the limelight lately because it is the fastest and most powerful car Australia has ever produced.

But given that the hyper-Holden is still at least two months away from showrooms, it’s time for the rest of the range to shine.

Value

The cut-price Clubsport is the hidden gem in the new HSV range. Starting at $60,990 it is $4000 less than the previous model and the same price a Clubsport was 10 years ago.

It bridges the price gap between the Holden Commodore SSV Redline, at about $51,000, and the flagship GTS which is close to $100,000 by the time on-road costs are added.

Technology

The 6.2-litre LS3 V8 gets the same power as before -- 317kW -- but the car is 68kg lighter, the biggest weight reduction in the entire VF Commodore line-up. For those who want a little more, the Clubsport R8 steps up to $71,000 and gets the 325kW output of the previous GTS.

The Clubsport R8 also comes with a Bose stereo, heads-up display, machined alloy wheels, bi-modal exhaust and HSV’s EDI system, that allows you to tune the car for the road or the track at the touch of a button. Or, in this case, a touch screen.

Optional performance pack 

For those who want even more, there is an optional SV Performance Pack. That includes lightweight wheels, black accenting on the bodywork, and an engine upgrade to 340kW and 570Nm, thanks to a clever bi-modal air intake (the same air box as the GTS, it sucks in more oxygen at certain revs) and a specially-tuned exhaust.

As a package deal it lists for $4995 but the by the time GST and Luxury Car Tax are calculated the option adds at least $6000 to the drive-away price of the car.

That might sound a bit steep but it’s money well spent. The Clubsport R8 with the SV Performance Pack was going to become the HSV GTS, just in case the supercharged engine didn’t get over the line. It explains why HSV now has an embarrassment of riches.

Driving

The power ugrade may sound subtle but unlike those on HSVs before it you can feel and hear the difference. It’s as if HSV engineers have been listening to high performance Mercedes-Benz AMG soundtracks in their spare time.

As before, the power from the LS3 V8 is smooth and linear, but it has more of a growl and then a bark. It’s at complete odds with the refinement of the rest of the car.

Faux-suede, real leather and an extremely convincing chrome finish on the plastic highlights on the interior give the Clubsport an upmarket appearance it’s never had before.

Which is why, despite all the Clubsport R8’s finesse, I’m torn between it and its $10,000 cheaper sibling, the basic Clubsport. Sure the entrée to the HSV range misses out on some of the electronic gadgetry such as a heads-up display and electric seat adjustment. And it also only comes with Holden Commodore SS seats (with HSV head-rests).

But the cooking-model Clubsport -- the single burner BBQ in a world of 18-burners -- feels lighter and more responsive than the R8 and lacks nothing in the way of agility, grip and grunt.

The Clubsport was a car I was expecting to clamber over in the scrum for the keys to the tastier models on the test drive at Phillip Island race track this week. But you know what? I think I like it more than the others. Add the price cut into the bargain and it’s a no-brainer.

The only option worth considering on the base model Clubsport is the lightweight 20-inch wheels from the 25th-anniversary GTS released last year. They’re a $1500 stand-alone option. I’m struggling to think of $1500 better spent anywhere else in the car industry.

The Clubsport is usually a price-leader for HSV, what the 30-cent ice cream cone is to McDonald’s. As the cheapest ticket into the HSV brand it typically spends its life in shopping centres as the raffle prize for local charities.

But it deserves to be set free from a world of sticky fingers and having raffle tickets tucked humiliatingly under its windscreen wipers. If the Clubsport is the starting point, I can only imagine how good the GTS is going to be. Meantime, I’m off to buy a raffle ticket.

Pricing Guides

$47,888
Based on 67 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$35,966
Highest Price
$59,996

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
(base) 6.2L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $42,990 – 53,800 2013 HSV Clubsport 2013 (base) Pricing and Specs
(Dual Fuel) 6.2L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $29,480 – 35,530 2013 HSV Clubsport 2013 (Dual Fuel) Pricing and Specs
R8 6.2L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $39,999 – 59,996 2013 HSV Clubsport 2013 R8 Pricing and Specs
R8 (Dual Fuel) 6.2L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $31,130 – 37,510 2013 HSV Clubsport 2013 R8 (Dual Fuel) Pricing and Specs
Pricing Guide

$39,999

Lowest price, based on 20 car listings in the last 6 months

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